Column: Student mayor
1 May 2018. Even though we don’t know each other, there is one thing we have in common: we chose Eindhoven. A city with 24,000 students, with over 200 nightlife and cultural venues, 3 major student associations, 50+ active sports associations and one university for engineering. Sounds like a real student city. Right? I’m going to enroll on this day in May.
16 October 2020. Let’s go forward in time. You and I have more in common: we are both thinking about the things we can improve – our life, our past or our future place of residence. As long as you take a broad enough view, the interfaces will automatically become apparent. On this autumn day, I realized that student city Eindhoven still has some room to grow. Finding interfaces between the city and its residents? Opening the doors to a broad array of unheard opinions of students? It sounds like the golden rule in this search.
9 march 2022. A student city has a number of features. Think of a hospitality industry that focuses on catering to students, a wide variety of housing accommodations and a bustling student community made up of many different student organizations and societies. Student fraction DAS Eindhoven, innovation agency Six Fingers and StEHVen conducted a study into Eindhoven’s chances of developing into a student city. StEHVen is a collaboration between TU/e, Fontys and the municipality of Eindhoven that supports student life in Eindhoven, for example by sharing a network and knowledge, and by funding events aimed at and organized by students. Students were invited for group meetings and asked to fill in a survey. The topics under discussion during that meeting included student housing, a connection with the city, and more participation in the decision-making process.On that day in March, DAS and StEHVen went to the municipal council to present and explain the results of their study. According to the study, students felt no real connection with Eindhoven, which is why they are all too keen to pack their bags and move to the Randstad region as soon as they graduate. The study also highlighted another familiar problem: the shortage of housing accommodations that meet the requirements of students. By presenting the municipality with these insights, DAS and StEHVen hoped to prove that students deserve a place in Eindhoven. They have been heard.
21 April 2022. A presentation alone isn’t enough. According to the University Council, the results of the study need to serve as the basis for a continuation of the talks with the municipality and for making the plans concrete for improvement. But we certainly haven’t gotten to that point yet. In Eindhoven, there is little contact between students and the municipality, student participation is practically nonexistent, and – not matter how appreciative we are of it – our campus is isolated. How do we ensure long-term student participation in Eindhoven? How do we make sure that students will know from now on where to turn to with their problems or ideas? The following suggestion was brought forward during the discussion between students and the council on 9 March: the appointment of a student mayor. Someone who has close contact with the student population and municipality representatives. Someone with a position from which to draw attention to the things that truly matter to student city Eindhoven.
16 March 2023. Unafraid to ask questions, critical, difficult for those with a conservative mindset, but always in a constructive manner. Exactly how a student mayor should operate! It took some time, but student co-determination in the municipal council is as useful as we want it to be. And if we take a broad approach here too, the interfaces will surface automatically.