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Foto: Sara Kerklaan
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Liberal Roza Wagenaer navigates between radicals in CSR: “I have often thought of quitting”

Wessel Wierda,
12 juni 2024 - 11:27

She received the most votes for the Central Student Council (CSR). But the list leader of The Free Student, Roza Wagenaer (20), sees the radical-left Activist Party on course again for the relative majority in the CSR. How does she explain that party's rise? “Our voters often remain silent.”

It’s tough going for CSR member Roza Wagenaer. Her liberal party The Free Student (DVS) was still the largest at the UvA two years ago, but since last year, the DVS has been a clear minority in the Central Student Council. The radical-left Activist Party, which was closely involved in the recent occupations, now calls the shots, and Wagenaer is often alone in her views. The DVS has no allies in the council.

 

This year is expected to be no different. Although Wagenaer recently won the most votes (729) in the direct elections to the SRC - enough to rejoin the council herself - in terms of seats, she must once again beat the Activists. That party won three of the seven direct seats, while DVS won only two. The Activist Party could also easily win a relative majority in the council when the faculty delegates are announced later. After all, the Activists won many seats in the faculty-student councils: FGw (8), SS (4), FNWI (3), and PPLE (1).

 

For Wagenaer, that means another year of trying with all her might not to let liberal ideas get snowed under in the council. How will she hold her own among the radical-leftist students? Folia spoke to her shortly after the direct elections to the Central Student Council.

 

Did you expect to get the most votes?

“No, not really. Of course, I got publicity right before the CSR elections because I had the voting period extended at the State Council, but I expected someone from the Activist Party to get the most votes.”

Foto: Sara Kerklaan
Roza Wagenaer (20)

That didn’t happen, but they did get the most seats, just like last year. What do you think of their advance?

“Well, it does say something about how students feel and how angry and outraged they are, because the Activist Party is very radical and outspoken. But at the same time, many other students keep quiet. They don’t respond to harsh criticism of police actions or the Executive Board in a group chat, and sometimes even leave the chat. They just want a nuanced balance again. And that is simply lacking with some radical activists. They are so angry, but situations are often less black and white than they are shown to be.”

 

So the Free Student will not go to the barricades so soon?

“No, we are very much in favor of dialogue and a pragmatic approach, of getting things done through diplomatic means. Demonstrating is important and good. But there is a difference between a peaceful protest and an occupation where the police have to intervene because unsafe situations arise.”

 

Discontent among protesters has come up because of the university’s ties with Israeli educational institutions. Should the UvA break them?

“I think it is especially important for Dutch universities, now and in the future, to have a single, clear policy regarding the termination of academic cooperation. If such criteria are laid down in advance, it strengthens the trust between university boards and activist student groups.”

 

That trust now seems far off. Indeed, the CSR announced that it had withdrawn its trust in the Executive Board. How do you view that, as a CSR member?

“It is understandable given the situation, but it is a harsh measure. Personally, I don't support it. On the contrary, I try to keep good and constructive ties with the Executive Board.”

 

Seems like a tough position to be in then, within this CSR.

“Yes, I found it very challenging last year and had moments when I doubted whether I should continue. There have been quite a few statements and actions by the SRC that I don’t support. But I think it’s important to keep working to bring back a little bit of nuance, even if it’s super frustrating at times. Maybe that’s precisely why I got so many votes.”

 

There are also few parties within the UvA that resemble The Free Student.

“We do lack centrist parties in the council. Other major parties, such as UvASocial and the Activist Party, are all left-wing. I had hoped that after the occupations there would be a moment when people thought: Guys, what are we actually doing? What kind of unsafe atmosphere are we creating? But that shift hasn’t happened yet.”