By Pola Folwarczny
In recent years, there have not been enough candidates for AUC to hold elections for its Student Council, a participatory governing body of the university. This year, however, six determined and enthusiastic candidates are running to become the new representatives of the student body in the 2023-2024 academic year. Students will be able to vote starting this Monday, April 17, until Thursday, April 20. The Herring has spoken to each of the candidates to hear about their plans for the future of AUC, hoping to help the student body make informed choices during the rapidly upcoming elections.
Ema Torcato, a first-year Social Science major, says: “The most important thing is to actually be able to make students’ voices be heard,” elaborating, “I feel like I’m a person that can listen to everyone, see what the issue is and how we can find a solution.” In her policy plan, she stresses the importance of paying more attention to issues that are currently overlooked, such as the overpriced food selection at the cafeteria or the student websites that are not up to date with the courses offered and required by AUC. “It’s important to make sure that these things work, because some students plan all their years at AUC on these websites,” she explains.
At the same time, Torcato is eager to continue projects that the current Student Council has started, like the menstrual products dispensers in the AB or the revision of the attendance policy. By combining the existing initiatives with her new ideas, Torcato is hoping to make the Student Council a transparent and effective entity that encourages students to voice their concerns. In that, she is excited to work with the other candidates and see how their ideas intertwine.
The strength of the Student Council lies in the direct communication with students, according to Emma Ricci, a second-year candidate majoring in Social Sciences. If she gets elected, she hopes to do her best to increase the transparency and accessibility of the Student Council. “There should be more open spaces where students feel like they can share their experiences, concerns and needs,” she says, expressing her willingness to continue initiatives such as the Voices of AUC.
One of Ricci’s main objectives is to increase the visibility of the Student Council so that students are aware of how they can bring up issues that are bothering them. “One of the things that I’d like to work on is definitely making it more humane, the way in which students are dealt with at AUC,” Ricci explains, having in mind the complicated procedures that students have to go through to obtain accommodations or exemptions.
In forming her policies, she would be happy to cooperate with the various committees run by the students of AUC. “Every committee is specialized in their own thing, so I feel like they would be better experts than I am on certain topics,” she says, expressing her interest in getting their input “as students themselves and as people who interact with fellow students a lot.”
“The student voice is the most important thing,” says Cathelijn Gelderloos, a second-year Social Science major, explaining the pillars of their policy plan, which are the students and staff community, diversity and inclusion, and mental health. “I think it’s very important for us to know what is happening in the school that we are at, especially because it’s a school that values community engagement so much,” they clarify.
In her ideas, Gelderloos vouches for transparency, engagement and accessibility, but also mutual understanding between the student body and the AUC Management. “I can create a good relationship with the Management for the students,” Gelderloos asserts, planning to act as the guiding body between the students and the staff to facilitate the communication between them.
One of the ideas Gelderloos proposes is organising information sessions or office hours aimed at bridging the existing gap and showing the students that the members of the Management are also people, and not just a bureaucratic structure. “It is a university, first and foremost, but as an institution, it values community,” Gelderloos says, addressing one of the pillars of her policies, mental health, “and with community, there’s also taking care of that community.”
For Wanjiru Kabanga, a first-year majoring in Sciences, the main focus is increasing the diversity and inclusivity of the AUC community. “My main ideas are based on student life,” Kabanga says, explaining that what inspired them to run for Student Council was the number of complaints they discussed with their fellow students since the start of the academic year in September.
Many of Kabanga’s ideas come from their personal experience as a non-European student, but also from observing the needs of others. These ideas include offering more help to the incoming students, increasing the role of the Student Life Officers, working towards greater diversity in course manuals, and providing easier ways of obtaining accommodations by students with disabilities.
“I feel like I connect with people,” Kabanga says, focusing on the importance of improving the communication between students and the Management. Their goal as a member of the Student Council would be to find a way to decrease the amount of bureaucracy that impedes many students from obtaining the assistance they need. The overarching aim of Kabanga’s policies is to make everyone feel comfortable and taken care of at AUC.
What inspired Michaela Luzzatto, a second-year Humanities major, to run for Student Council was their new-found passion – the idea of “a group coming together with a joint will and with the fight inside of them, to work together to create something, and to make a change.”
The main focus of their policy plan is the interdisciplinarity that AUC promotes, but in the end does not fully provide. “Lots of people come here with the idea that they’re here to explore. And then I feel like you get here, and feel much more limited than you expected,” Luzzatto explains. She expresses her willingness to start a discussion regarding the Academic Core, graduation requirements and the prerequisites for some courses, with the aim of providing students with greater flexibility regarding their studies.
Luzzatto also shows her interest in addressing the attendance policy as she feels the students’ complaints are not being taken seriously, taking a toll on their mental and physical health. “I think AUC is a beautiful place and it has such great potential, and that’s also why I care about working for this potential,” they say, showing their excitement to cooperate with other students in the joint effort to make AUC a better place for everyone.
Interested in the potential for change within AUC is Maya Ozbayoglu, a first-year candidate majoring in Sciences. She sees change – the overarching theme of her policies – as a flow of ideas, aiming to start a conversation on change to gather the students’ thoughts before actually implementing it.
Some of her own ideas centred around change include rethinking who AUC wants to collaborate with as an institution when it comes to finance, revising the tutor system to “make the planning of the academic journey less chaotic” and showing the students how they can make change on their own by providing them with an Activism Guide. “Because I love the philosophy behind AUC – of combining different fields, especially in a world where we’re dealing with more and more complex problems – I want to make AUC a better place and make students aware of the progressive academics that it is offering,” Ozbayoglu says, expressing her attentiveness towards what is happening outside of the university. Her intention is to enrich the environment of AUC with ideas coming from outside the bubble and to make sure that “education isn’t just treated as something that you have to do, but as something that is useful for you in life in general and bring that life to AUC.”
The unanimous message among all the candidates is to remind students of their right to vote. “It’s important to have people that you want to represent you actually representing you,” says Kabanga, encouraging everyone to take part in the elections starting this Monday, April 17. To find out more about the voting procedure, visit the Instagram page of the Student Council.