UvA Affected by Government’s Budget Cuts

In the second semester of the 2017-2018 academic year, students and faculty members protested the budget cuts for the faculties of Social and Behavioural Sciences and Humanities. After the government announced cutbacks of 183 million euros on higher education, the University of Amsterdam and especially the Humanities and Social Behavioural Sciences faculties were the first ones to suffer the consequences. During the busy protest period, the Amsterdammer reported on an email sent to the both of these faculties that stated a decrease in tutorial hours and in number of lectures for the next academic year was guaranteed.


The Consequences

Primarily, by reducing the scope of programmes and courses due to limited resources, the cuts have endangered the quality of education and jeopardised the university’s ability to meet students’ needs. For that reason, during the so-called “Week of Action” from May 22 to 25 and the “March of Education,” held on June 8, protesters asked for democracy in funding decisions, a fair funding structure, diversity, and for the budget to not affect the quality of education. According to Nuria Zantman, chair of the Student Council of the Faculty of Humanities, the protests in May and June did not affect the government’s education funding priorities, with the planned UvA cuts going ahead despite student uproar. Now, these cutbacks have started to become noticeable: The Corporate Communication course and different tracks of the Media Studies programme have classes for only two hours per week. Furthermore, the UvA Factbook shows that in the last academic year (2017-2018), the Faculty of Humanities received more international students, many of whom pay significantly higher fees. Zantman adds that “the funding per student decreased by 25% in 2016 and it has not increased since then. Less money per student means less teachers per student; this results in more massive and less personal education. This directly affects the quality of education. The changes are made so the UvA can function with less staff. These changes include for example the sharing of courses within a study with other studies, the merging of small masters and the growing emphasis on minors instead of program-specific electives.”

UvA president Geert ten Dam has stated differently in an interview published by Folia earlier this year. According to her, the budget cuts will not affect the quality of education: You sometimes have to take radical measures, and certainly when in transition, but you must always put education first.”

According to the UvA’s 2018-2021 budget plan, the actual budget for the academic year 2018-2019 was adapted to compensate for a deficit of 9.6 million euros through adjustments in staff costs, tuition fees and a rise in government grants. Nuria Zantman has stated that “these changes are made so the UvA can function with less staff. These changes include for example the sharing of courses within a study with other studies, the merging of small Master’s [programs] and the growing emphasis on minors instead of program-specific electives.” However, Zantman insists that the Student Council will remain vigilant and committed to ensuring that “no significant damage will occur to the quality and diversity of our education.I personally hope we can come together with loads of student councils across the Netherlands, central and faculty councils alike, to work together in order to keep sending a message to the government.”


The Ongoing Battle

According to Alba van Vliet, who is the head of the ASVA student union, the budget cuts and the protests against them are still ongoing at the UvA as well as on national level. While the aim of the protests last year was primarily to raise students’ awareness about the budget cuts and stimulate their engagement in all aspects of their education, van Vliet says that “this year we’re actively going to advocate for more money to education in the Netherlands and a better quality of education.” She states as a main goal to make sure that these budget cuts do not happen and that enough money is invested in education.

WOinactie, a student organization campaigning to reduce workload and pressure at Dutch universities, is planning an ‘actionweek’ starting on the September 24th. This week aims to inform those in and around the UvA about the budget cuts and changes to the education system. Alba van Vliet told the Amsterdammer that “in this week, different groups of teachers and students will organise actions about the budget cuts and other problems currently facing higher education. The ASVA Student Union will also take part in this week. We want to make sure that the voice and concerns of students about the current state of the University and higher education is clearly heard.” Furthermore, according to Nuria Zantmann, the UvA is also taking part in supporting the WOinactie actionweek; “The CvB of the UvA wrote a letter to the minister and the dean of the Faculty of Humanities has spoken out in the media for more money as well. These are very important steps, but whether they are enough is still a topic of debate.”

The consequences of the budget cuts have already started to take their toll on university staffing, breadth of courses and university resources. The full extent of the damage caused by the cuts and UvA’s subsequent budget plan for 2018-2021 is yet to be seen and further ramifications are expected.

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Amsterdam Debates New Methodologies of the European Nomadic Biennial – Manifesta

Last Tuesday, dozens gathered at Pakhuis de Zwijger in Amsterdam for the book launch of “Manifesta 12 Palermo Atlas,” where attendees debated new methodologies for the Nomadic Biennial. Manifesta is the European Nomadic Biennial, held in a different host city every two years. This year, the 12th edition was held at Palermo, in southern Italy. Originally a Dutch initiative, this event attracts visitors from all over the world.

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On Tuesday, over one hundred people participate at Manifesta 12 Palermo Atlas event at Pakhuis de Zwijger, Amsterdam. Manifesta is the European nomadic biennial, which is held in a different host city every two years, in 2018 being hosted by Palermo, Italy. Valeria Mongelli/ Staff

The debate

Zef Hemel, Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at University of Amsterdam, moderated the event. Hemel introduced the Palermo Atlas, an urbanistic research commissioned by Manifesta to the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA). The result is an interdisciplinary investigation of the city, covering architecture, archaeology, anthropology, archival research, personal history and media. Research for the atlas was conducted before defining Manifesta’s creative program, and intended to ensure that Manifesta achieves a real long-term impact for Palermo citizens. “The atlas is a scan of contemporary Palermo and defines mediation between Palermo and the rest of the world,” explained architect and Manifesta’s creative mediator Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli, who led the study. The long-term goal of this experiment is to leave a tangible legacy to cities that host major international art events – Manifesta is the 4th most influential biennial in the world. From that perspective, Palermo was a laboratory. “We chose Palermo as a blueprint for the global, an incubator of different world conditions,” said Hedwig Fijen, founding director of Manifesta. “In Palermo, Manifesta investigates the international conflicts and transformations of our times.”

Dutch art plays a special role in this edition of the biennial, highlighted Fijen. For the first time in its history, Manifesta included a specific Dutch component, the Dutch trail, supported by the Dutch Embassy in Rome and the center for international cultural cooperation DutchCulture. Dutch artists, thinkers, designers, architects, galleries, institutions and universities are taking part in a series of programs parallel to the biennial. One of these artworks is The Soul of Salt by Patricia Kaersenhout, literally a mountain of salt standing out in one of the beautiful rooms of Palazzo Forcella De Seta. It celebrates a slave legend from the Caribbean tradition, according to which enslaved people refrained from eating salt because they thought they would become lighter and could fly back to Africa. According to Manifesta’s website, “the Dutch trail encourages to discover the creative energy flowing from the Netherlands into Palermo, engaging with Europe and the world at large in a symbiotic coexistence.”

Global mobility, in terms of both creativity and human flows, was also the focus of the speech of Leoluca Orlando, mayor of Palermo, who closed the debate. In the past months, Orlando heavily criticized the closing-borders policy held by Italian, right wing Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who closed Italian ports to boats saving migrants in the Mediterranean. “The future of humanity is mobility,” said Orlando. “We say thanks to migrants, because they guarantee human connections. In Palermo, migrants are not 100, 1.000 or 10.000. Migrants are all inhabitants of Palermo.”

Palermo: From mafia battlefield to outpost of cultural investors

The 71-year-old Mayor Orlando has maintained his mayorship of Palermo for 18 (not consecutive) years. The city’s recent history, occasionally described as a path of resurrection from mafia battlefield to cultural capital, is inevitably linked to his name. “There is no city in the world that in the last 40 years saw such a cultural change as Palermo,” said Orlando. “I thank the mafia. Because they killed too much, and obliged us to change our minds.” One of the deepest points of this murderous escalation (and of the whole history of the Italian republic) was July 19, 1992, when a car bomb killed Paolo Borsellino, one of the magistrates investigating the godfathers of Sicilian mafia. “Palermo is flourishing as a cultural city on the basis of its past as a city of mafia. It is a city that experienced mafia’s fundamentalism, and therefore now promotes hospitality.” What does Manifesta leave to Palermo citizens? “The pride of being a mosaic of different cultures, the historical and artistic dignity of contamination.” And, on a more concrete note, “the attention of foreigner investors.”

The threat of gentrification

Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli, 38 years old co-curator of Manifesta’s 12th edition, worked in the Dutch headquarters of OMA for 13 years and recently moved back to Italy. He was the head of the team (including over 100 people) conducting the research that led to Palermo Atlas. Manifesta, and biennials in general, aim at permanently transforming the cities that host them, leaving a tangible legacy to their citizens. When carrying out this kind of operations, where does the risk of gentrification start? “We are aware that Manifesta happens in a city that is changing,” said Pestellini Laparelli. “We tried to operate in different areas of the city, even in the outskirts, without altering the nature of each neighborhood. In the most problematic areas, we worked with the inhabitants, trying not to impose things from above. We occupied beautiful and abandoned places in the historical center, showing that it is possible to intervene and change an urban context without transforming whole historical areas in shopping malls.” What is the tangible legacy that Manifesta leaves to Palermo citizens? “Manifesta created a network of people, from university professors to migrants, who worked together on the same project. First, we leave Palermitans this network. We also tried to change the typical biennial audience, bringing Manifesta to a public that is usually not exposed to this kind of events. From that perspective, we hope to leave them an artistic awareness. We leave small urban interventions, both in the city center and in peripheral areas. The atlas is also a tangible legacy, an alternative guide to Palermo of nowadays.”

The 12th edition of the Manifesta exhibition is planned to be continued until Nov. 4, 2018. The next edition is expected to be held in Marseille, France, in 2020.

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From left: Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli, 38 years old, architect and Manifesta’s creative mediator, debates with Zef Hemel, 61, Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Amsterdam and moderator of the event. “Manifesta created a network of people, from university professors to migrants, who worked together on the same project,” Laparelli suggests. Valeria Mongelli/ Staff

Metro Reporter, Fall 2018

7th Amsterdam City Swim Cancelled Due to Insufficient Water Quality

Every year, the Amsterdam City Swim brings thousands of people to the capital city. It surely is a strange sight –one day a year, the city’s rather placid canals are invaded by swimmers from all over the country and turned into a two-kilometer race route. Leading along some of the city’s most beautiful canals, the whole event is set up as a fundraiser to collect donations for the ALS foundation.

This year’s Amsterdam City Swim cancelled due to contaminated water

This year, however, the City Swim had to be cancelled due to concerns regarding the water quality. Last Saturday one day before the event, the organization announced that this year’s race wouldn’t be able to take place. According to the board of the Amsterdam City Swim, the sudden change of weather conditions had caused a critical level of contamination of the canal water. Due to the combination of extreme drought and the large amounts of rain that Amsterdam had seen this past week, the sewers of the city overflowed and large amounts of contaminated water ended up in the canals. The level of e-coli bacteria exceeded the water regulations by far, posing too high of a risk to the health of the participants for the event to take place as planned.

A general look on the water quality of Amsterdam’s canals

With exception of the yearly city swim, swimming in the canals is not permitted and highly discouraged as health risks upon exposure to the water cannot be ruled out. Despite ongoing struggles, the water quality has improved significantly in the past decade – largely due to the connection of over 3000 houseboats to the sewage system. In 2007, in fact, a majority of the city’s houseboats were not connected to the canalization system, so that all waste would be disposed of directly into the canals’ water. Since then, Waternet, the city’s water authority, has been closely monitoring the water quality. Their goal is to, someday in the future, make the canal water clean enough for people to swim in.

“The City Swim is cancelled, but the fight for ALS continues!” – Amsterdam City Swim

Despite the sudden cancellation of the event, the board of the Amsterdam City Swim swiftly came up with an alternative solution: instead of swimming the predetermined route, they took the race to land and announced that this years city swim would be a city walk. Though many participants were disappointed, having had travelled from all corners of the Netherlands, the event still turned out as a success. All together, the participants and sponsors reached a sum of almost 1.5 million euros, which was handed over to the ALS foundation at the closing event at the Keizersgracht.

Amsterdam celebrates love and diversity: LGBTQ+ Pride 2018

 

Metro Reporter, Fall 2018

Friends and family remember the life of UvA student

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“If I could only chose one word to describe him, it would be altruistic,” said Cristina Moya Altamirano. “It doesn’t matter if it was a small action, […] he always looked for perfection in everything he took charge.”

Moya and Kevin Alejandro Paredes met at the OnCampus introduction week. After noticing his latin physical appearance, she was surprised to learn he, too, was from Ecuador. Since that day, the two became close friends. “Alejandro was a very generous person, responsible, committed to any idea that got into his head, sometimes even in a stubborn way,” Moya admits.

Kevin Alejandro Paredes Yepez was a son, a brother and a friend to many. On Monday July 16, at the age of 24, Paredes lost his life after an unfortunate accident.

Cynthia Sofía Rivera, 22, third-year business and economics student at UvA, remembers with much joy when Paredes told her he would move to Amsterdam to study the same major in 2016. The two students had met in 2014 back in Ecuador. Both attended a course that prepared them to pass the exam to access public universities. Fortunately, they were part of the few who benefit from the SENESCYT scholarship, which is provided by the Ecuadorian government to allow students to study abroad. The Netherlands is the country that receives the less quantity of students from Ecuador.

Paredes dreamed to bring his knowledge to his country to help to its development. “He had great ideals for the development that Latin America needs,” said Rivera. “He had faith in his country, in the Latin American ground that saw him grow,” added Alejandro Martinez, a 19 year-old upcoming PPLE student at UvA who is another beneficiary of the scholarship.

“Alejandro was an exemplary, noble, very giving person, and a dreamer” remembers  Rivera. According to his father, Paredes’ dream was to graduate and go to Ecuador to teach in a University.

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Paredes stood out as an exceptional leader who believed in the strength of working as a team. He loved music and culture, but had a special interest in Latin-American culture.

While at UvA, Paredes founded the UvA Ecuadorian Society, in which he found long-lasting friendships. In October 2017, he especially made a difference in the Ecuadorian Consulate in The Hague, when he highlighted the opening of the consulate to respond to the needs of students.

For Alejandro Martinez, the association was a place to meet friends from his native country. “I didn’t really interact with [Paredes] until I started going out with the Ecuadorian students from elder generations,” he said.  The last Ecuadorian students who moved to Amsterdam, or the “new generation” as they called them, gathered in front of the J-K building to play ukulele and sing with the “older” generations. Even thought the two were not as close to each other back then, Martinez admits he had never felt as close to him as today. “The legacy that he left behind was what really got me closer to whom Alejandro was,” he said, “[…] he was a dreamer.”

For Cristina Moya Altamirano, Alejo, as she called him, was the kind of person that “one would want to have close to us until we get old.” “He used to say that us Ecuadorians have to stick together, that we have to take care of each other,” she said, “but at the end of the day, it was him who united us under any pretext.”

Kevin Alejandro Paredes was known for his ambition and heart-giving personality. “He had always been very kind, very cheerful” remembers his brother.

“He has left a mark on everyone who knew him,” said Martinez, “even on those, like myself, that got closer to [him later], […] [that got] inspired by the ideals he once had, and now live forever in our hearts.”

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On July 18, a solemn act was held at Casa Migrante in Van Ostedestraat, and on July 20, a Mass was held at the Sint-Nicolaaskerk in his honour.

As the life insurance only covers the repatriation expenses, Paredes’ friends created a GoFundMe in order to help the financing of his parents’ airfare tickets to go to Amsterdam and bring him back to Ecuador.

Founder and Editor-in-Chief

Isabel Bonnet is a 21-year-old second-year student in communication science at UvA. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Amsterdammer. Before its creation, she worked as a photo editor at the Independent Florida Alligator and did an internship at Le Monde.