The UvA has reserved houses for 96 international students on the Spinoza campus and in the Daalwijk flat in Amsterdam Zuidoost for the next academic year. Folia has previously reported on the safety concerns expressed by some of the students living in the neighbourhood of the Daalwijk flat, but housing provider Duwo says, ‘most students seem satisfied’.
According to the university, the reserved housing comprises ‘a small part of the total number of student houses’ at the Spinoza campus of which there are 1,100 housing units in total. In ‘almost all cases’ students should be able to choose their own room. Earlier this year the university told Folia that no decision had been made about the placement of international students on either these campuses.
Over the last year, international students have complained about security issues on campus — and frequently. A bullet flew through the window of one student’s house, another was robbed at gunpoint, a 35-year-old woman died after being stabbed in the neighbourhood and a female student was attacked near the laundry room. Students have reported broken apartment doors, ‘weird people’ and ‘a shitload of drug dealing’. Duwo has since hired a security company and the municipality has arranged for extra police surveillance.
A UvA spokesperson says the university understands the important of taking its students’ feelings into account, and is in the process of implementing new safety measures and adding facilities on and around campus to create more ‘liveliness’. It is also important to adequately inform international students ‘about life in a city like Amsterdam, and to point out some precautions’.
On the Spinoza campus Facebook page, the residents’ committee (in an effort commissioned by Duwo) is calling on students to share their experiences, hoping to create a more nuanced picture. ‘The media has created a negative image about the campus. Duwo is looking for people to add nuance to this. Duwo will take your opinion into account when in consultation with involved organisations such as the municipality.’
Duwo spokesperson Marja Weverling rejects the committee statement about the media. ‘We wonder what’s going on. Overall students seem satisfied, but apparently we’re not doing things right. There have been some issues, but many students told us that they feel fine.’
Feeling safe and actually being safe are different things, Weverling believes. ‘We have a changing group of residents with different experiences. This consultation is an ongoing process.’ She says Duwo has been advocating for cameras on campus for years, but the municipality and police only allow them in ‘extremely unsafe situations’. In fact, Duwo isn’t even responsible for the students’ safety in public areas, says Weverling. ‘We can’t do anything about someone in the Venserpolder who decides to test out a Kalashnikov. But we know that our residents are vulnerable. We have set up a Whatsapp group where students can contact security guards and ask for help if they feel scared.’
Duwo’s policy is to speak to students individually after a complaint has been made. ‘After the shooting incident, the common call was for extra security. But even an army isn’t going to prevent a bullet from flying through a window. And don’t forget students must also leave campus to go to work or university… We can’t arrange a personal safety guard for everyone.’
Is there a solution? ‘Let me know if you find one. I can’t do much about someone not feeling safe. And we can’t withdraw those 1,100 houses from the market. There is no space left in Amsterdam.’