Open letter to rector Caroline Pauwels
Artikel gepubliceerd op 24 november 2018 om 18:00
The logo of 'Blijf van onze blok – No to the cyclo'    
© Blijf van onze blok – No to the cyclo

Since when do students have to make way for a publicity stunt?
(Lees de Nederlandstalige versie hier)

Dear rector Pauwels,

On Sunday, January 6 the campuses of the VUB and ULB will become the setting of a cyclocross, organised by the company Golazo Sports. The event is called ‘Brussels Universities Cyclocross’, and forms part of the DVV Insurance Trophy. The fact that the cyclocross takes place exactly during the exam period will upset numerous students. What are the consequences for the students studying for their exams?

1. The main part of the campus will be closed off during the weekend of January 5 and 6. Specifically the esplanade, the grass staircase, the restaurant and buildings B, C, D, E, F and G will be off-limits. This means that almost all collective study rooms will be closed. Though, even when opened, these spaces already offer less room than needed.

2. The construction and deconstruction of the event will be carried out during the period between Christmas and January 9 or 10. It will also be the cause of at least some (noise) nuisance. On the day of the event, which takes place during one of the most important academic periods of the year, students will not be able to make normal use of the campus at all.

3. During this period all parking spots on campus will be reserved for the event host. Students who are planning to bring their study material to the campus by car, or who are generally dependent on their car, will need to find an alternative.

4. The grass staircase and other parts of the campus will be damaged by the great number of visitors and the bike tracks of the cyclers.

The VUB itself presents the event in an entirely positive way. In the student council, the cyclocross was framed as a joyful and memorable event. An earlier published article by VUBToday doesn’t mention any of the negative implications of the event. In other words, the cyclocross is presented as a big present full of ‘good news’, with the publicity of the VUB at the core. Some critical objections:

During the meeting of the student council, several critical remarks about the event were dismissed by the argument that the university is “more than the students”. But the university’s main task is to make it possible for students to develop their knowledge and skills, which they can use later for the needs of society. When the university is faced with a choice between education and publicity, its social duty demands that it chooses the former. In this case it means that the university should provide enough study space and prioritise the study-related needs of its students. Allowing this cyclocross on the campus goes directly against this principle.

“Marketing isn’t a disease”, says ‘idea maker’ Jos Verschueren in an interview with de Moeial. Perhaps it’s not a disease, but it is a symptom of the forced savings on education. A university has two choices in this case: it can accept the savings on education, and allow for events just as these. Or it can choose to demand, together with its students, for investment in education.

In the first place, international students and students without an ideal home situation will be the victim of this event. You should try to take a plane to your home country during the exam period, or study at home while you have to share a room with your little brother or sister. These students really need the free mass-study rooms. Intended or not, this cyclocross means extra problems for those who are having difficulties in getting good grades during the exams. Instead of providing extra help and care for these students, the VUB turns their back on them.

Given these objections it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this decision was made in a completely undemocratic way. Neither the students, nor the student council could give their opinion about this event before it was decided that it would take place. General administrator Nic Van Craen had to admit in de Moeial’s article that there hasn’t been any official survey concerning the opinion of the students. There was also little communication about the consequences for cramming students. This event can be seen as a painful slap in the face for the student community, and it needs to be answered with the necessary means: we demand that the VUB cancels this cyclo-cross, and that in the future all subjects which concern the students will be communicated in a clear and democratic way.

Signed,

Student associations

Antverpia
WUK
BEST
Comac
SWAMP
EGEA
Hesbania
GK
KEPS
BierKultuur
LWK
JongSocialisten

Academics

Kristel Beyens (Criminology)
Jana Robberechts (Criminology)

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Each author writes in their own name or in that of their institution. They are themselves wholly responsible for the content of their writing.