In Candidate Highlight, we give students an overview of each Student Council candidate in a series of short interviews.
Jules Declérieux is a second-year Humanities major currently running for a position on the upcoming 2020-2021 AUC Student Council. Their* primary goal is to protect and represent their fellow students, which stems from their previous experience as chair of an LGBTQIA+ advocacy group as well as their experience as a representative of their coworkers at a local cinema. Their main focus is mental health at AUC and life after AUC, as they believe these two topics shape and inform the rest of their policy plan. These are also the subjects they wanted the interview to focus on, and we have thus discussed this in priority.
*The candidate has asked to be addressed by pronouns “they/them”.
Q: Hello Jules. For a start, why don’t you just walk me through the reasons that made you apply to student council?
A: To be honest, the reason why I think I would be a good student council member and why I want to do it rests on two things: Previous experiences that I’ve had in representing student bodies and my experience at AUC in the first semester. I struggled a bit in the first semester because I felt like the facilities for mental health at AUC didn’t really reach me when I needed it the most. That got me thinking critically about that issue at first and then about the other issues. At some point in January, it clicked that I would have time in my third year and I thought I would be a good candidate because of the things I was already doing. “I thought I could do great things for my community”.
Q: How did you choose the student council? Some people don’t really know what student council does, so what gave you the idea to run for elections?
A: One of my best friends at AUC is currently co-chairing, so I got a lot of what the daily life of being in the student council was like. The real trigger for me was to see the student council poster that said: “Sign up!” I had decided a few weeks prior to not go abroad and this sounded amazing.
Also, about the visibility of the student council, I try to work on that. Even with the campaign, I try to be as approachable as possible, with every post I make I try to add something to it, like giving out study tips or promoting peer support and stuff like that. It’s very important that communication goes well.
Q: A lot of the issues you talk about have been already discussed and tackled by previous student councils and you seem to want to further them. How important is continuity for you?
A: Continuity means I don’t want to change that much, so I’d rather say that I’m pushing for policies that have already been pushed. The reason I do this is because I feel a lot can be done now. The situation we’re in sucks, but it is also an opportunity. With the absence policy for example, we got to experience what it was like without it and this is something we can bring to the table and solve once and for all. I don’t think the student council’s ever been in as strong of a negotiating position as it is now.
Another way we can think about the continuity issue is that I’d like to leverage on the things we already have. That’s why I’m not pushing for extremely radical propositions, because the people the student council works with are not necessarily their friends and they will defend their interest. The student council warned us about that and I think it’s important to think about what the other party wants. I want to be able to follow up on my statements and my promises and to get the policies done.
Q: Even though you say you don’t want to do anything radical…
A: I would if I could. If the opportunity arises, I would seize it and implement those changes. We have to wait for the opportunity.
Q: I still feel like some of your propositions are quite novel and interesting to consider. The idea of having an on-campus mental health specialist, for example, how did that come to mind?
A: The UvA psychologist programme does not allow you to get help if you have a preexisting condition and you can only go to five meetings. It’s very hard to find psychologists in Amsterdam, the whole field is kinda flooded, and, for international students, you need an English-speaking one. The reason I brought this up is that it would allow many people who are struggling to get help quite easily. It will become a lot easier for AUC student to find help. Also, this problem is so central because it affects all the other ones. If you have a depressive episode and you miss one more class and that makes you fail, it will not be good for you. If you have 15 deadlines in one week, it’s not going to be good for you. Because AUC is stalling so much with structural changes like the absence policy or the tutoring system, the least AUC could do it help us combat the symptoms of the system we live in.
Q: This also ties into the life after AUC part of the policy plan, because you also propose to have a specialist advise students and help students about these matters. Where does this idea of an external specialist come from?
A: If we’re talking about the curriculum part, it has already been tested for a short period of time 2 years ago and a lot of students said they benefited from it. I want to bring it back because, while there are good things about the tutor system, we often do not have a tutor that is in our specific field. My tutor does Film while I’m a history major, and they were not able to give me a lot of advice about masters and future studies, so I had to go to my teachers. This defeats the purpose, because teachers are already very busy. A career coach would be able to give direction to a lot of people and would help us prepare on how to sign up to a master.
Q: About feasibility, how much of your policy plan do you think you’ll be able to implement in the policy plan that you’ll have to draft with the other elected people?
A: When a policy is very feasible and the other members do not object, I think we should propose it and if the management doesn’t disagree, we shouldn’t scrap the proposition. I am willing to compromise and get rid of some of my propositions if there are other suggestions that are more feasible and achieve the same goal, but I still think it is important that all my points or goals are represented in some way.
Q: How comfortable are you with negotiating in the face of strong opposition?
A: One of my main strategies is to speak to someone’s responsibility. I feel like if I can push my arguments within their frame, within their job, then we can get something done. If there’s strong opposition, it’s unlikely you’ll get everything you want. However, in my experience, if I put pressure on what their responsibilities are, they become more willing to negotiate. In the worst case, I am absolutely ready to write to the community and explain what’s going on.
Q: How do you envision making student council more transparent and closer to students beyond simply advertising it better?
A: I think one of the ways student council can become approachable is continuing to do these events but also to do joint events with groups that people feel associated to. For example, if Peer support is having a big discussion about mental health it could be useful to have the student council there. For people, seeing that the student council is there would make them more inclined to approach them. Right now, I feel like the student council looks like this fancy organisation where you basically go to sue AUC and I kinda want to try to make it more down to earth.
For additional information about the candidates, consult: https://www.aucstudentcouncilelections.nl/