BLFS and VSP oppose existing parties Vuur and PvdUS

Two new student parties in this year's UU Council elections

Universiteitsraad 2023-2024, foto UU
The elections for the University Council will happen soon. These are the current members of the council. Photo: UU

Free-thinking Student Party (Dutch acronym: VSP) targets students who identify themselves as "right-wing or conservative," according to its website. The party is already active at Vrije Universiteit, in Amsterdam, and hopes to be present in every Dutch university. Utrecht University is, therefore, the second institution where VSP has joined the elections. Better Living For Students (BLFS), on the other hand, is completely new. They too focus on students who do not feel represented by current parties Vuur and PvdUS, which, according to the newcomers, appeal to left-leaning students.

VSP has twelve candidates on the list, while BLFS has three. Vuur is participating with 27 candidates and PvdUS with thirty. 
The Central Electoral Committee is currently verifying whether all candidates meet the criteria to be allowed to run for one of the twelve seats assigned to students in the University Council. On April 23, the final list of candidates will be announced at a public meeting. The elections will be held from May 13-15. This year, there will only be elections for student representatives (both in the University Council and the faculty councils), not employees. That's because students serve a one-year term and employees serve for two years. 

VSP's website has a long list of points the party alleges to be committed to (the list is only available in Dutch, Ed.). For example, the party strives for academic excellence and believes that the university and its teachers should adopt a neutral position on "social, political and ecological issues". In addition, they aim to get rid of "cancel culture", saying that “dissenting views are often unfairly labelled as faulty or wrong, and quickly pushed aside through demonisation and ridicule. As a result, mutual tolerance, the most important pillar of democracy, is lost. Our party wants a pluralistic and liberal debate culture.”

VSP would also like to limit the influx of international students and safeguard the Dutch language and culture. The party writes that it is proud of Dutch history and believes that it should not feel guilty or apologise for past events. Furthermore, the party wants the university to proactively ensure the wellbeing of its students. In their view, in addition to academic skills, students should also learn "life skills" so that they are prepared for life after graduation.

Better Living For Students
The party does not have a website with an election programme yet. Party leader Redon Ismailaga, a UU student from Montenegro, says that BLFS aims to increase the quality of student life. We want to provide students with a forum where they can, via anonymous posts, express their criticism or delight for certain things in the University. These posts can be upvoted or downvoted. Through this forum, we will ultimately decide what bills to present to the council." Among other things, the party focuses on amenities they do not consider good enough, such as "subpar coffee machines and the food in university canines, which is less than filling."

According to Ismailaga, BLFS was founded because its initiators don't think students are represented enough by the parties currently occupying the seats, which, in their view, also explains the low turnout at the elections. "We want to give students a voice." BLFS emphasises that it is happy that the university is pursuing Sustainable Development Goals, but that this pursuit should not affect students' comfort. 

Once again, Lijst Vuur is participating in the elections. The party has existed since 2006 and is represented in several faculty councils. It has been committed to educational quality, diversity, student wellbeing and sustainability. They also believe that all facilities should be accessible to everyone and that all students should feel at home at the university. Moreover, Vuur defends that students should still be seen and treated as individuals, even though the number of students has been growing consistently. In recent years, the party has profiled itself as a defender of sustainability, having worked hard to make plant-based milk available in the coffee machines and for trees to be planted on campus for each class that graduates. Increasing biodiversity is a goal close to Vuur's heart as well. 

The Party for the Utrecht Student is another veteran in the University Council. The party has been around for 17 years and aims to represent students who are active in organisations and associations, namely "those who find it important to develop in other areas aside from their studies”, as stated on its website. Therefore, maintaining and supporting student associations is one of the most important points of the PvdUS programme. In addition, the party is committed to reducing the pressure to perform which burdens many students in Utrecht: they are great supporters of flexible studying schemes that enable students to combine different activities.