Two Terms, One Man: A Profile of Bart Knibbe

By Jet de Vries

– “For the Student Council of Amsterdam University College, with the high attendance rate of 28,89%, the chosen candidates are Valerie Heinz, Jael Kortekaas, Annemijn Ooms, Bart Knibbe, and Bluma Brecher,” announced the head of the Student Council elections committee of the Vrije Universiteit (VU) on Thursday, April 11. While the audience that had gathered in the ‘StudentenD0k’, the headquarters of the University Student Council of the VU, was cheering, the happiness and relief on Bart Knibbe’s face was unmistakable.

Knibbe, by his friends called King Knibba or Imperator in reference to his stately posture and his grand, majestic use of language, received the good news for the second time. He is thereby the first student to serve two consecutive terms in the AUC Student Council (SC).

“There’s still so much to be done,” Knibbe says when asked why he wants to do another year of SC. “I feel responsible for the office, for representing the interests of AUC students in this institution.”

“It must be part of his genes,” says Knibbe’s father, Eric Knibbe, who himself is a city councilmember in Landsmeer—a small village situated north of Amsterdam—and works for the national ministry of defence.“I stem from a long line of Knibbes who have been involved in local politics,” says Eric Knibbe, whose father, grandfather, and uncle have all represented the CDA in the council of Landsmeer.

“[Last year] the elections were less blown-up,” says Knibbe on the Wednesday of the voting period that took place between Monday and Thursday last week. He sits cross-legged on a chair in the AB, dressed in a neat buttoned up shirt, which he has taken great care to iron. He says that last time, instead of going to the VU, he cycled the usual 15 kilometres from AUC to Landsmeer for his weekly dinner with his parents and sister. “I knew that while I was biking home, the results would be in my email inbox, so I got home, sat down with my mother on the couch, opened the email and saw that I got elected and we celebrated together,” he says.

41570501_269401200349075_8287804602166804480_o-2.jpg
The 2018-2019 Student Council of AUC, from left to right: Juanita García Gutiérrez, Viktoria Kaffanke, Bart Knibbe, Sarah Salaymah, Paula García

“Bart is really a true family man,” says his girlfriend of two years, Lisa Ruijsenberg, who studies Psychology at the University of Amsterdam. “He just really enjoys being with them.” Knibbe’s family has become larger and more diverse in the past years, since his grandparents opened their home to a young Dominican woman a few years ago, and then an Iranian refugee couple a while later. The young woman now lives in Amstelveen with her husband and two children, and the couple are searching for their own place in Landsmeer. Knibbe says “they’re all really part of the family.”

Knibbe’s father, who is not only a politician but also the lead singer of the cover band Eleven20one, says that the family likes to joke around and ‘hold up a mirror’ for each other (Dutch saying). “When Bart was younger, in primary and even for a while in secondary school, he would, almost with his ruler, organise and archive his books in neat stacks on his desk,” he says while trying to contain his laughter. Then just before Knibbe and his sister would go to bed, Gera Knibbe, mother, thought it was funny to give a stack a soft knock. “At a certain point in the evening, we could hear him climb down from his bunk bed, straighten out the stacks, and then climb up again so he could go to sleep,” his father says.

Knibbe is a second-year Humanities major, focusing on Philosophy, Film, History and Political Science. According to his father it was at his high school, Het 4e Gymnasium, that he really got the chance to develop himself more horizontally, by joining ‘The Senate’the party-committee of his high school equivalent to AUC’s Solaceand taking electives like Philosophy, Greek and Film. Knibbe worked hard to get straight A’s, in his high school, as well as at AUC. “Bart has always set the bar very high,” his father says.

Ruijsenberg explained that in the beginning of Knibbe’s first SC-year, his high ambitions resulted in stress and disappointment. “He felt like there were not enough hours in a day,” she said.  Even though Knibbe was putting in 20 hours of work a week on average for the SC, he sometimes still had the feeling that he was doing too little to represent the AUC students.

Though it took him some time, Knibbe eventually found a balance between the workload of the SC and his desire to perform well in class. He says, “I finally found something that I feel is more important than good grades.”

The new members of the SC board are happy with Knibbe’s re-election: Bluma Brecher says that “it takes a certain kind of commitment to work for the SC,” and that “it is great that Bart is so passionate about their work”, while Jaël Kortekaas says she is looking forward to working with someone who has the background and the know-how.  

During the debate which kicked off the voting period last week, Knibbe said that his experience of last year only brightened his outlook for the SC. He said, “I can assure you that even though I’m currently suffering from a minor eye infection my vision has not been impaired.”

Featured photo by Nina Klaff

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