It was a very nice moment to hear that you are making a change
Could you please introduce yourself?
I am Hamzah, I am 22 years old, I am a third year Computing Science bachelor student, and will be graduating soon. I can mainly describe myself as someone who not only likes a lot of different things, I also always want to dive deep into them, I always want to make the things that I like and change things that I can improve. This is also the reason why I study computing science and got into student participation. I have always been into computers and games and I was like “I want to make this stuff” and work with it. Also, I have always been into music production and singing.
How did you end up as a member of the Faculty Student Council?
The specific way I got introduced to the FSC and ended up becoming a candidate is that I joined every group chat from my study; for my year and all the younger years as they came. I was very very active in those group chats and every time that someone mentioned something about a course I voiced my agreement or disagreement very… expressively. I always discussed things with people and at some point everyone knew my name because of these discussions. At some point, the previous chair of the FSC, Isolde, messaged me and said: “Hey, you seem like you have a lot of opinions” and asked if I would be interested in joining the FSC. And I was like: “hell yeah”.
Isolde asked you to join the Faculty Student Council, because you have a lot of opinions. Do you have the feeling that in the fsc you can also voice these opinions and that they are also being heard?
Oh yeah, absolutely. I mean, about the first question, yes you can always voice your opinions, the answer to the second question, whether they are being heard, is a more complicated one and it depends on how you interpret the question. Our opinions are always heard, we are lucky that we have a very understanding faculty board. They always hear things out and they are very reasonable. But something I learned from my experience this year is that students sometimes can be very ambitious and can have really unrealistic ambitions. So it may seem that sometimes you are not being heard, because you are suggesting to flip things around and then the “grown ups” are like “no this is impossible”. But in the long term and on the smaller scale, I definitely feel heard and feel that my opinions were taken seriously. Things that I wanted to get done have been done, if they were possible.
Do you have a concrete example of your favorite project or greatest achievement this year?
There are so many… The main thing is the Bring your own Device (BYOD) stuff, because it really was something we got a lot of feedback on. BYOD is a new policy by the university which is being implemented in our faculty. According to it, it should be favored that students use their own devices for their study as opposed to using infrastructure provided by the university. Part of this development was phasing out the computer rooms in the faculty. Many students were opposed to this and the moment students heard about the news that computer rooms are supposed to be phased out there was sort of an uproar. The gave a lot of feedback to us and made clear that they really are not ready for this sort of change. I am most proud of representing these concerns, because in the end it really resulted in the faculty board reversing their attitude towards phasing out the computer rooms. I guess it is one of my favorite projects, because of all this feedback. It really felt like we were representing something and were not just coming up with ideas on our own. Another thing is obviously the pilot for free coffee that has just started. Students can now get free coffee and hopefully after the pilot it will be evaluated that it is feasible to do this in the long term. It's obvious why this is one of my favorites, it is very tangible, it is something that students can really see and taste (laughs). It is very easy to go to my friends and say: “you are welcome, we did this”. Also, we did similar things together with the Giga-Bite restaurant. They introduced more food options. This is one of my favorite projects, because of the feedback we got from our contact at Giga-Bite. She quite literally told us that they introduced more food options because of us. That sort of was a very nice moment to really hear that you are making a change.
Moving on to a different topic, you are an international student and you are also part of the first Faculty Student Council having international members. Can you please describe what kind of challenges you faced in the beginning of the academic year, how you approached and solved them?
The international experience was definitely not something I looked forward to because I did not expect it in the first place. I just expected that it is an obvious fact that if there are international students that everything will be in english. This turned out to be more nuanced and some people in the other participation bodies are really way more comfortable with the Dutch language. Initially there was some confusion, where we went back and forth with starting to do everything in English then nothing in English then half in English… So it was kind of a stressful experience. But later on things started stabilizing and I think at some point we started realizing that this is not something that we should fight about. It is more about raising awareness and just trying to work things out little by little. The challenges we faced are mainly concerned around the language being spoken in some meetings or the language of documents, the language of some communication etc. But I think we are also doing good work on improving these things. We already have projects that try to improve every aspect of this. Iit was definitely tough and hopefully will keep on improving. It is definitely worth the difficulty to finally improve it.
It is definitely better if student participation is open to all students! The Faculty Student Council is often perceived as an organ of which people do not know what it is doing exactly. Can you please explain a bit how it was like for you, when you started getting a grip on how everything is going in the Student Council?
Like I said, it was Isolde, who introduced me to the whole thing. I literally didn’t even know about the FSC before. She just asked me to join it, and when she started talking to me about it, I asked this exact same question: “What is the FSC even and what are their tasks?” Back then, she didn't even tell me, she was just like: “You will figure it out, it's kind of hard to explain”. I felt like this represents the whole confusion. If even someone who was part of the FSC didn't really describe it to me, that's sort of strange. Of course, I am not blaming Isolde. It is really tough to describe the tasks of the FSC. We always say officially something like “the Faculty Student Council ensures the best experience of the students”. Then, we try to capture the billion things we can actually do into one sentence. I understand that this might lead to confusion, but I also think that this is exactly what we are doing. We are really a student body that is there to make sure that students are represented in front of the people in the faculty that make decisions and execute policies. So I would say we are just a bunch of students, who have contact with the people responsible for running things around here and we shout at them if they forget about the students’ best interest.
Do you have anything else to add?
Yes, I would like to speak about the amount of personal development you can achieve during a year in the FSC. This is honestly so much more than I expected. I am really happy that I participated for this reason. It is, of course, always great to achieve something for the students, but the personal gain is immense. I never really did anything similar to this before. I have always been in student circles and just been talking to students. There, I expressed my opinions to my peers instead of actually doing something with them. Thus, it was very enlightening to actually sit on the same table with people who run things. Initially, it may seem like you are not experienced enough to be sitting at that table and everything you might say is unqualified and these people know everything and you are just a random student, who doesn't know shit. But you really get the immense amount of confidence required to erase all of that very very quickly, when you try out something like the FSC. Initially, I was feeling this way, but about three meetings later I immediately started seeing myself as completely equal with these people and started taking my ideas and myself more seriously; Just as seriously as the others in the Faculty Board and the representative council. So, I really think that the personal gains from doing something like this should be emphasized, and I would recommend this to everyone just for that reason alone.
That's a nice message to conclude! Thank you for your time and answers.