‘Stip: interest in students’
The ‘Students of Technology In Politics’ (Stip) party is a main player in local Delft politics. Mariëlle van Kooten and Ferrie Förster, two Stip party members, discuss the local political scene and what their party can offer the TU’s international students.
Stip – or ‘Studenten Techniek In Politiek’ in Dutch - is a local Delft political party that currently holds three seats on the 37-member Delft City Council. Stip moreover is entirely run by students, most of them TU Delft students. During the 2010 municipal elections, Stip got more than 3000 votes from Delft voters. The party is currently lead by Mariëlle van Kooten, 24, an aerospace engineering student who has also lived in the US and Germany for several years. She and her fellow Stip City Council member, Ferrie Förster, 23, a systems engineering, policy analysis and management student, sat down with Delta to talk about issues of concern to the university’s international students.
Who founded Stip and why? Stip was founded in 1993 due to the persistently malicious relationship between TU Delft’s Executive Board and the Executive Board of Delft municipality. For instance, the city had prevented the building of the new university library, and, most importantly, there was a large shortage in student housing. In an attempt to solve these problems, a group of students audaciously founded Stip and ran in their first election in 1994. Stip’s founders believed, and the party continues to believe, that greatness can be achieved if the university and city bond and work together.”
Can internationals students become Stip members and stand in elections?Förster: “According to Dutch law, it’s possible for international students from within the EU to vote and to be elected. Currently, a Belgian, Willem-Jozef Van Goethem, holds one of Stip’s three City Council seats.”
International ambitions and glossy information about the university lure students to universities abroad. We get a really good education at TU Delft, but it comes with a high price tag. Can Stip help facilitate post-education opportunities for TU graduates? Van Kooten: “Delft has enormous international ambitions and is currently working on a Masterplan TIC- Delft (Technological Innovation Campus Delft). DSM Delft and its Bioprocess facility - which also requires lots of expertise from expats and international students, plays a major part in TIC Delft.”
What goals has Stip achieved in the past with respect to international students?Förster: “Stip has been involved in creating an internationally friendly environment. In the past, we’ve approached the local government and TU Delft and took steps regarding housing. Consequently, Duwo and other developers are building enough student housing for both Dutch and international students.”
But this has turned out to be a problem, with exorbitant house rents from Duwo, which has a monopoly in the student housing segment. Van Kooten: “Our goal was to provide enough student-housing to house Dutch and international students. Duwo is an organisation which builds for both groups is allowed to ask the price needed to keep the company financially healthy. “
When you started your party, your focus was on students. But as you grew, you wanted to focus on the whole society. Are students still your focus?Van Kooten: “If you want to be taken seriously by the other parties in the council and actually realise the aims you’ve been elected to achieve, you’ll have to broaden your view and have opinions on issues other than the points your party focuses on.” Förster: “Stip tends to take special interest in students, the knowledge-economy, technological innovation and cultural activities and will continue to do so in future.”
Do non-students also vote for Stip? For example, a 70-year-old Delft grandma or plumber? Van Kooten: “Although Stip is a party run by students, it’s definitely not a one-issue party. Stip is a party for Delft residents and maintains the slogan: ‘a young view at an old city’. There are no exit-polls regarding local elections, but Stip assumes its voters are all Delft citizens who think young and are in for innovation and want to contribute to their city on a wide variety of issues, like the knowledge-economy, culture and sustainability.”
Would I be wrong in saying that Stip’s focus on ‘international’ students is not high on the priority list? Van Kooten: “We’re actually one of the few parties in the city council that focuses on students - including internationals – and their voice in having something to say about the city. We’re the only party which raises questions in the City Council regarding international students. We also ask the university questions about its international student policies.” Förster: “The relationship between Dutch and international students isn’t always totally awesome. As a party in the City Council, Stip realises that TU Delft is an international university. We therefore care about international students, as they’re part of the knowledge economy: if expats have a good experience here, they can give positive feedback about Delft in their home countries. A positive settling-environment attracts international companies that create jobs in Delft.”
Can international students vote in local elections? “International students from within the EU who live in Delft are allowed to vote in local elections. International students from outside the EU who have lived in Delft for over five years are also allowed to vote in these elections.”
You have regular meetings with Diss, Oras, et al. Did you plan to meet international students directly, instead of getting messages conveyed through third parties?Förster: “The whole international students thing is quite new and it’s difficult to see the international students as one group with exactly the same issues. The German international has different needs than the international from India. It’s therefore complicated to be certain of what those students need. Dutch students care about a lot of things in Delft, like considerably easy ways of transportation and a few good parties now and then. But international students don’t care as much as they’re likely to be somewhere else at the end of the term. However, we’re always eager to talk to students and find out what they want in terms of housing and other general problems like language barriers.”
How much do you think knowledge of the Holland’s political scene is important for students? Förster: “Knowledge of national politics is probably less important compared to the local scenario. The national level acts slower than the local level. International students deal with local problems in their everyday lives. They need to have better knowledge of the local scenarios in order to deal with them.”
Any suggestions how international students can gain this ‘knowledge of local scenarios’?“Drink lots of coffee with your fellow Dutch or international students and join in activities hosted by, for instance, your study associations. Visit the wide variety of cultural activities Delft has to offer, that often do not need an English approach or are especially created for expats and international students. Contact Stip for specific problems that concern the City of Delft. If you need help, please don’t hesitate to contact us.”
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