Alumni in the spotlight: Carmen Mazijn

“Why is the sky blue?”

Carmen Mazijn, alumnus VUB
What is a just price for a leisurely swim

“Why does a kitten purr?”

“Why is my brother in your belly?”

Children can’t get enough of all these why-questions. It may drive many an adult to desperation, but these why-questions are extremely important at university. They are responsible for the numerous citations to existing research in scientific publications. It might not improve the legibility of a text, with all the names and dates, but it clearly shows that we are building on that which has already been established and proven. So that later on, we can formulate new, more complex, and even more audacious why- questions.

Not only about the bottom line

Being a part of a policy group such as the Student Council also helps to sharpen your ability to think critically. In order to create good policy we need to take into account the consequences of policy acts – e.g. the price of admission for the new swimming pool – for all parties involved. It doesn’t suffice to only factor in a student’s bottom line. We need to take a look at the entire financial picture: staff and energy costs, price indexations, maintenance fees… So it becomes very important to zoom out and think in terms of the greater good of the university and not just the party with which you identify the most. That is also why it is essential that advisory bodies have a diverse representation.

Appointment of confidential counselors

As Student Council we find it important that critical thinking is stimulated enough in students. For instance, it is not because student associations have honoured certain traditions for generations, that at some point in time they in turn shouldn’t be questioned. When over the past year a few students raised the issue of sexist practices within student organisations in the student periodical De Moeial, a broad debate was organised by Studiekring Vrij Onderzoek at which the student organisations tackled the problem head on and looked for solutions. The only measures the Student Council has taken – together with BSG, the umbrella organisation of the student associations – is the compulsory appointment of a confidential counselor within every organisation. What we didn’t do was actually ban any activities.