Students debate: Are we active enough in and for the city of Maastricht?

You take two different views on the following topic:

“Maastricht students should be more involved in the city of Maastricht”.

One side filled with ‘important’ people of Maastricht, the other filled with representatives for all sides of student life.

The goal: to come up with solutions to make student life and local life become closer.

Because the debate panel was filled with key players around this topic, you could expect some good solutions and directions to work with for the near future. I got my hopes up too much.

The first part of the debate was meant to focus on whether there is a problem and how to improve the situation if that was the case. Overall the conclusion was that there was a gap between the two sides (yes captain obvious was in the room). Students were seen as ‘by-passers’ that are here for 4 years, before quickly evading Maastricht after they get their degree. Although that might be the case, in my opinion that is no reason to not be involved in city you will live in a substantial part of your life. It’s not exactly a 2 week holiday in Turkey.

Student life in Maastricht is pretty active, which leaves room for chances to close the gap as well as constraints on the relationship between the locals and the students.

  • Locals work 40 hours per week, sleep at ‘normal’ times and get crunk in the weekends.
  •  Students have irregular sleeping patterns, go loco whenever there is a possibility and go home or stay in during the weekend.

You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that this will cause frustration between the two groups. I personally don’t agree with the frustration, because this is life in all major (student)-cities. Stop thinking you live in a quiet country village, because there will be noise on the streets. That does not mean people should behave like jackasses in the streets, but don’t get your panties in a wad if people are happy that they still enjoy life and show it whilst going to the Alla or Feesfabrik.

Luckily the city is doing a marvelous job by actively keeping student associations out of the city; a missed chance to say the least. Wim Smeets, head of the ‘Muziekgieterij’ and participant on the ‘Maastricht’ side of the debate, agreed with this. Why do all major events in the city center (INKOM is the exception) revolve around grey and balding 40+ inhabitants of our lovely city?  Try to be innovative and incorporate youngsters to set something up and actually give them the permits for it. Or you might want to bling up activities like ‘preuvenemint’ to make it more interesting to young people in general, not just students.

There is more than enough willingness to make this happen (from both sides). Look for instance at RAGweek, where most student organizations work together to raise money for charity. Student life in Maastricht entails more than just drinking and causing mayhem with your buddies in a Dutch traditional organization. It’s time for everybody to step out of the comfort zone of your own bubble and stop ignoring everything that is not traditional. Too bad the 40% international students (a still groing percentage) were bypassed completely, because the debate was being done in Dutch; a major flaw of this evening. If you want to get a proper discussion about the participation of students in the city, you can’t leave out such a big group.

A lot of starting points to go look for possibilities to improve the social coherence between the two groups. After the break the two parties were expected to utter solutions to improve this problem. Did this actually happen? Not really. The two groups passed the ball to another. The solution was the same as the solutions politicians offer you in every political rally since the dawn of time: we should stop talking and start doing. Plain genious.

The city of Maastricht set up a policy plan in 2002 or something to work on this issue, but forgot to act upon it. So much for doing instead of talking. Somer small scale initiatives were uttered that were a success, but the lack of structure behind the ideas caused them to die a painful death.

My advice:

Get the Observant (the organizers of the debate) to send the contactdetails of the people in the room that can actually make a difference (some of the participants were redundant to say the least). Incorporate the:

  • police
  • the municipality
  • the board of directors of the university
  • one of the traditional organizations (and not more!)
  • a member of the board for the independent frats/soririties
  • a member of an international student organization
  • the Muziekgieterij
  • member of the representatives of the inner city

They were almost all there and they can start working on renewing the policy that the city of Maastricht made in 2002. Get new focus points and start thinking of events you can do. This panel can than contact the other organizations they have close ties with, to set up events that are interesting for their target groups. This can vary from parties, to sports events, to social community work. You name it. Get a clear structure and start acting upon it. Organize more of these debates, because they are of added value (chapeaux to the Observant for taking the initiative). Just make sure that the ego’s in the room stop talking about how cool they are and start thinking on how to improve the actual matter. Stop talking, start doing.

Oh wait, now I start to sound like them..




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