You might not always see them around, but during their studies quite a few students take on an important commitment - that of student representative. They have a voice on a variety of Ghent University councils and commissions, where they look after their fellow students’ interests. Meet four of these vital student reps.
“We are doing well as a university, but there are things that could always be better"
Saïd Mabrouk: "I represent the students on the Board of Governors, in the social affairs council, the human rights commission, the inclusion and diversity council, the governance committee and the catering office committee, and I am a member of the Students’ union of Ghent University and the study programme committee for my own study programme. Yeah, that's quite a list (laughs). Until I was elected as a student representative on the Board of Governors, I didn't have a good picture of how Ghent University worked. My election was based on a few campaign promises, and unless you’re on a few councils and committees you can't really carry them out."
"We are doing well as a university, but there are things that could always be better. Good student representation is enormously valuable, and we make sure that the students’ voice is heard. As a student you really can turn to any of the student representatives. What am I proud of? I am proud of several things, and I thought that last year's Durf Delen campaign was really successful. Thanks to the students, the student reps and the input of quite a few sections of staff, we agreed a range of points, one being that it is not a punishable offence to share examination questions.”
“Being a student rep keeps you busy every day”
Aynur Kabak, master's in clinical psychology: “I’m on several councils: the social affairs council, my faculty students’ union and the anti-discrimination committee. The social affairs council meets once a month, but being a student rep keeps you busy every day. I saw a notice on Facebook two years ago: “Would you like to make your voice heard?”, and it appealed to me directly. Students are affected by all kinds of decisions by so many bodies, and I wanted to make a difference. It sounds like a cliché when you say it like this, but we actually do represent our own voice and that of our fellow students. If you've got a problem, an issue to deal with, you can always turn to your faculty's student reps. That's not to say that we’ll have the answers to your question, but we’ll know who to refer you to for help."
"What I am most proud of? The open letter "Decolonize Ghent University" on which I collaborated in the previous academic year (in cooperation with the student associations Umoja, Engage, Flux and the Ghent Student Council). It is and remains a current theme and I think it is really important that we continue to communicate about it. I'm also proud about the silent room at the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences. That room is really appreciated by the students and the staff of the faculty. They like to go there to rest, to pray, to read... I hope that this will be extended to other faculties!"
“We are actually a sort of community"
Marybeth Defrance, master’s in computer science engineering: ““I sit on my own study programme committee, the faculty policy committee and the ICT committee, and I chair the faculty council. Compared to previous years, it's the lite version (laughs). As a student rep it is my responsibility to represent the voice of the student in the councils and committees. Not my own opinions, but what I see as the students’ concerns. I am also a point of contact for students to turn to when they feel they have a problem. For example, we now have a set submission time for assignments in the faculty, whereas it used to be different for every subject. It's extremely simple - one set time across the study programme. To the teaching staff it makes no difference, but for the students it removes any confusion. Being a student rep really isn't just about going to meetings and handling a lot of routine administration. We are actually a sort of community. We take a lot on, but we also enjoy ourselves and we can always rely on each other.”
“I try to do something positive and constructive with my frustrations"
Sven Lippens, master’s in mechanical construction (Faculty of Engineering and Architecture): “I’m the chair of the FRIS, or the Faculty Council of Engineering Students, I represent students on the faculty council and I sit on the study programme committee for my own study programme. I saw an FRIS event on Facebook in 2019, about free croque monsieurs. While there, I got talking to a student rep about my frustrations over the reform of the bachelor’s dissertation. A week later I was sitting on the study programme commission, and the ball was rolling. The chair? The chair makes sure that everything runs as it should and stays in contact with the dean, the faculty and the students’ union of Ghent University. I try to do something positive and constructive with my frustrations. Simply staying frustrated doesn't help. I get a lot of satisfaction from helping students find their way. We welcome every student. There are no obligations. And if you have feedback, pass it on!”
Do you have questions or suggestions for your student representative? Check here to see your study programme representative. Click the link to search for your 'representative'.
Does student representation boost your career?
Ghent University is organizing internal elections at the end of April to appoint student representatives. Internal elections may not sound particularly exciting, but it is important for students to have representatives on the highest governing and advisory bodies. Why? That's what Professor Stijn Baert, politician Thijs Verbeurgt and student Ruxandra Bighiu tell us.
Student representatives: an indispensable part of Ghent University
They know what is going on among students, keep their finger on the pulse and participate in different councils and boards. Five representatives tell us more about their role.