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It is the new reality for all of us: giving and receiving online education. Students and lecturers hardly meet at the REC anymore, and exams no longer take place at physical locations. In an interview serie, faculty staff members gave you a look behind the scenes. This time we have a special edition in which we speak with student Rogier Simons, who is a board member of the Faculty Student Council. He talks about the ins and outs of the FSR, and what exactly you can turn to them for.

Rogier Simons
Rogier Simons, member of the Faculty Student Council

First of all, we ask Rogier what he would like to share about the Faculty Student Council with other students. 'We notice that it is sometimes difficult for students to find the right person to share their problems with. However, they can come to us with all their questions and problems which are study related. Sometimes we refer students if it's about something very specific, but if it's a question about things like the internship policy during corona, surveillance during exams or the quality of education via Zoom then the Student Council gets to work on it.

'We recently spoke to a student who wanted to investigate the option of digital “coffee breaks”. She suggested that students and their lecturer talk for 5 minutes during each working group about how everyone is doing, in order to safeguard the mental health of students. We can, of course, quickly get in touch with the board to discuss these kinds of initiatives'.

Surprise in the mailbox

As for everyone else, 2020 was an exceptional year for the FSR. 'Every day it was a surprise what we would receive in our mailbox. It has happened several times that the FSR was suddenly approached because an immediate action was needed: think of the physical exams after the summer, which suddenly had to be held digitally by tightening up the measures'.

Rogier also says that at the beginning of the crisis, the FSR received many emails from students with emotional and personal stories: 'Although we cannot always offer solutions, these kinds of stories are necessary to achieve certain goals. We advise students to email the FSR if they have the slightest doubt, that's what we're here for. These can be ideas, tips, questions or remarks, nothing is too crazy and you always get an answer'.

Digital Bachelor's degree ceremony

What were the highlights of the FSR this year? ‘We are extremely pleased that the FSR – after the regular Bachelor's degree ceremony was cancelled twice – ensured that the ceremony was organised after all. Our plan and unsolicited advice to the faculty board regarding the course of events surrounding the Bachelor's degree ceremony has been adopted. That is why we organised a completely virtual, but no less fun, graduation ceremony on Friday 18 December. With more than a hundred students, parents, friends and family, we were still able to toast to the diplomas we had obtained!'

He is also proud of the cooperation with the faculty: 'The UvA, and in particular the Faculty Board, is very transparent and accessible in its communication to both students and the FSR. In these turbulent times, it is very important that the lines of communication between student and lecturer board are short, so that we can all receive the best possible education. We are proud of the way in which cooperation takes place with the Faculty Board, especially in these times effective and regular communication is the key to success. In addition, it helps the FSR to better explain the course of events at the faculty to students'.

The members of the Faculty Student Council
The members of the Faculty Student Council

Important topics besides corona

‘Of course, it is not just corona that sets the tone for the FSR. We have a fairly fixed agenda every year. For example, we are involved in determining the (new) teaching and examination regulations (OER) for the Bachelor's programmes, Master's programmes and PPLE. We also have to approve the budget,' says Rogier.

‘In addition, of course, we ourselves have certain objectives or proposed agenda items which we make known at our first meeting each year. This year these are: quality of digital education, more study places, promoting student welfare by offering student associations as much space as possible, and focusing on hybrid education; education at the faculty where possible, education online when necessary. We bring these points to the attention of the Faculty Board with concrete proposals on how they can be realised'.

Home study tips and where to go

Just like every other student at our faculty, the members of the FSR study at home. 'During the breaks of our meetings, or after our meetings, we often discuss how we are studying. We share stories and try to meet digitally from time to time. For example, some of us make use of the digital learning environment with UB image and sound,' says Rogier.

Does he have any tips for fellow students about studying at home? 'We strongly advise students to continue to invest in social contacts: make digital contact with your fellow students in this day and age, make sure you also speak to each other outside the Zoom working groups and try to study digitally together.' 

To conclude, we ask Rogier what he wants to say to students about the current situation. Rogier: 'It's not strange if you have a lot of questions about education, studying and other faculty matters during this time. Although not all questions are easy to answer, it is important to know that you can always approach the FSR. This can be done via email, Instagram and Facebook! You can also contact all councillors personally by sending an email to [first name]'.

And there is also something else he needs to get off his chest: 'I would like to draw everyone's attention to the faculty council elections next year. Do you want to influence the faculty's policy and promote the interests of students? Then don't hesitate to contact the FSR for more information!'