What’s it like so start a one-woman student party? Last year, UvA-student Marlou Sprinkhuizen started the Marlou Sprinkhuizen List at the Faculty of Science. Now, she’s a member of the Faculty Student Council. ‘I think people liked my courage.’
This year, another student wanted to participate in the elections with her party name, says UvA student Malou Sprinkhuizen. She settles down in the blue Ikea sofa in the office of the Faculty Student Council at Science Park 904. ‘It’s a funny idea. Participating students often try to make the elections fun, to get the votes from other students who aren’t interested in stories about education regulations and examination committees.’
Malou (21, Biomedical Sciences) is now a member of the Faculty Student Council (FSR) and representative of the Central Student Council (CSR). Last year, she started a one-woman party: the Malou Sprinkhuizen List. She got 140 votes. ‘I had to get about 120 votes for one seat. I was afraid I wouldn’t succeed, but it turned out to be worth the risk.’
I. Be confident. Malou: ‘You have to know what you want. If you’re too insecure, it’s not fun. But when I was elected, it boosted my self-confidence.’ Still in doubt? Join another party first to get experience and find sparring partners.
II. Ask for help. There are always people who support you for starting a party on your own. Malou: ‘Some will offer their help, to build a website or create promotion material. Accept it and make the most of it.’
III. Talk to other candidates. It will feel less lonely, especially during the campaign week. Malou: ‘It’s good to know the other people you might end up with in student council.’
Why did you decide to start a one-woman party?
‘In 2017, I met someone at a drinks party who wanted to start Slaafs (another student party, SvdH.). I found that interesting, and decided to learn about the student council and UvA policy. I began to hang around the FSR office. When there were student council elections, the parties didn’t really fit me. They weren’t super horrible, but I rather did my own thing. By then, I convinced myself I had enough knowledge to start a reasonable campaign.’
Why didn’t you like the other parties?
‘Slaafs says: we don’t have central statements, but we’re in favor of beer. A funny idea – and I like beer – but I don’t know what individual candidates want to change about the UvA. The views of Lief, another party, seemed quite vague to me, like “sustainability”. The Lief candidates also had different opinions, which makes it difficult to know what the party wants. I did have strong opinions and I wanted to propagate them to let students know what I wanted to do in student council. I think it’s easier on your own. I always agree with myself.’
The other parties are quite big and receive lots of support. Why did you think you had a chance on your own?
‘At Lief, there were eight candidates who wanted to be elected, so they had to collect more votes. I just needed one seat, for which I needed 120 votes. And indeed, Lief and Slaafs had lots of supporters, but I campaigned non-stop throughout the election week and knew more or less how many people voted for me. I also knew quite a lot of people through student association Congo and I got votes from students who thought I did something courageous.’
What was it like to campaign on your own?
‘I found it most effective to address students myself, so I didn’t start any creative promotions. I did order posters with my face to hang on a stand and a friend build my website. In the evening, I went to drink parties from study associations to talk to people about my ideas. In the central hall of Science Park 904, they sometimes just ignored me during the campaign week, haha. I also spoke to candidates from other parties to get to know future council members. If you’re on your own in the student council, and you don’t know anyone, it’s hard to get anything done.’
Were you ever afraid of failure?
‘In the beginning, it was quite difficult. I wrote the election program on my own, and I wanted to focus on things like sustainability, accessibility of university buildings and diversity. I constantly had to think about my opinions and how to express and defend them well. When people criticized the party, they would in fact criticize me and my opinions. I worried: if I didn’t make it, it would have been better to just join Lief and get my votes that way. I had to be really confident and sell myself – “see how good I am” – which didn’t come easy for me. But in the end, people really supported my one-woman party. You need guts to do it, it hasn’t been done for years. I think they liked my courage.’
Why don’t you participate in the elections this year?
‘It’s been enough. Because of my role in the CSR, the job is full time now. I want to continue my study next year. Although I will still be involved in some ways, for example in a diversity focus group.’
You’ve been a council member for one year now. Why do you think student council is important for students?
‘It’s a form of participation, which means that students have direct control on the board. The student council has many official rights and has a critical attitude. If you can’t express your opinion on behalf of students, students won’t be heard in discussions about the future of the university. That’s weird, since students are a big part of that university.’
What did you achieve in student council yourself?
‘That’s a hard one. Things are moving slowly at the UvA, but the council puts ideas on the agenda. We also implement changes to education and examination regulations or student statutes. In particular, I have had many discussions about the introduction of specialist honors programs and about a holiday week in the 8-8-4 system, which makes all courses look the same. That holiday week is being discussed right now.’
For which party will you vote?
‘I don’t know yet. Slaafs doesn’t really have a clear election program, so there’s Lief, for example. But I will have to talk to candidates to examine their ideas before I’m going to vote.’