This academic year has been unlike any other, education was transferred online and university life took an unexpected turn. Despite the intrinsic difficulties that the COVID-19 pandemic has imposed on students and faculty members, the student council continued their arduous efforts working toward a better UvA. In this article, Medium dives into the FSR-FMG’s penultimate meeting with the dean before welcoming the next academic year’s student council. The first international FSR-FMG representatives lay an undeniable focus on student engagement, language accessibility, social safety, and preventive action on sexual harassment.
Teaching and Examination Regulations (TER) or also referred to as the ‘Onderwijs- en Examenregeling’ (OER) may seem familiar to you either from reading these at the beginning of your program (because we all read those) or from the article on the FSR-FMG’s progress we published in March. Jokes aside, these regulations are of crucial importance given that these outline all admission, teaching, and examination guidelines. TERs/OERs are updated annually and the student council proposes additions and updates to its articles to ensure these are accessible for both students and faculty members.
TERs/OERs consist of two parts, A and B. Part A outlines the regulations applicable to the entire Faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences and Part B is specific for each department. In total, there are 29 OERs at our faculty. Throughout this academic year, the student council focused on social safety and pushed through two changes that have been implemented in Part A. These changes include requiring the presence of two tutors at an oral examination, in which a student may request a sound recording if desired. Conversely, sound recordings from oral examinations administered by one tutor are compulsory.
Preventive Action on Sexual Harassment and Social Safety
This year, the student council prioritized the file on sexual harassment and social safety. As the first point of action, information was gathered in collaboration with research conducted by ASVA. As the research on this matter at the university level is minimal, and non-existent before this at our faculty, this marked the introduction of concrete action to establish guidelines for protecting students.
Likewise, the FSR-FMG established a collaboration with Our Bodies Our Voice (OBOV). This collaboration led to organizing a Day of Representatives in which student representatives, especially boards of study associations, voted in favour of implementing workshops for their boards on sexual harassment prevention. Such action was taken given the many cases of undesired sexual advances take place during events hosted by student associations. Therefore, it is of utmost importance for board members to be better informed and equipped to aid students who may experience an unpleasant situation. Two of these workshops will be imparted by OBOV annually, in an effort to promote respect and consent in the university by addressing consent culture, active communication and listening, reporting structures, inclusion and belonging, and bystander attitudes.
In terms of policy change, the FSR-FMG’s efforts resulted in the addition of an article to TERs/OERs that outline actions students may take if they experience any form of aggression, discrimination, or harassment. These include consulting a confidential counsellor, the complaints desk or a study advisor. This addition was made to Part B of the department’s TERs/OERs as the first article in TER to mention social safety. The intention behind this is to place more emphasis on the importance of social safety at the university as initiatives of this kind are not very well-known to the student population.
As the first international student council, the language policy file received great attention in 2019-2020 as the FSR-FMG strived to make council positions more accessible to international students. Before this, the majority of communication between the council and the faculty’s administrative and executive was in Dutch, which posed an issue for international students to participate in policy-making decisions. As a result of this, most meetings were held in English and these will be accessible to future council members to prevent international students from being dissuaded from running for a council position.
No ‘Back to Normal’
As the Coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we study and experience university life, new guidelines have been introduced to support and defend the interests of students. The FSR-FMG has highlighted the most notable updates to know about these changes. Firstly, the social sciences department has deliberated not to use proctoring software as of September, given the privacy concerns surrounding Proctorio. However, the Communication Science, Psychology, and Child Development colleges are still considering proctoring to evaluate students.
Following advice from the national health agency, the occupancy of UvA’s buildings can only be at a maximum of 30% capacity. For this reason, it has been decided at the Social and Behavioural Sciences faculty that all programs will be available online for the first semester of the upcoming academic year. The faculty is looking into making arrangements for some courses to be offered offline; however, an online version to these courses will also be made available. This means all exams, lectures, and tutorials can be followed remotely.
Remote education and endless Zoom conferences may pose some difficulties for students who struggle with connectivity issues or financially. Because of this, the Amsterdam University Fund has set up crowdfunding for students who are struggling financially because of the Corona crisis. The FSR-FMG has donated to this fund, which has raised over 30,000 euros and intends to donate more to this initiative toward the end of the council year. Students may apply for aid from this fund through this link. If you would like to donate, you can do so here!
In support of students who may have missed out on some credits before obtaining their undergraduate degree, the ‘zachte knip’ has been implemented. This means that any third-year bachelor student with the intention of pursuing a Masters may do so with a minimum of 165 credits. Yet, to receive their bachelor diploma the rest of the credits from their bachelor must be obtained during the academic year.
If you’d like to know about what the student council of the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences has been up to during the 2019-2020 academic year, check the rest of the FSR-FMGxMEDIUM collaboration!