Student Party DSP The Hague has a seat on the University Council. Viktor Blichfeldt (International Studies) from Norway occupies that seat but does not speak Dutch. However, the university uses Dutch to formulate and discuss its policies. Problems arose earlier, when Blichfeldt clashed with the Rector on the use of English in the Council.
DSP represents an ever-growing group of students and staff who do not speak Dutch and the party believes they should be able to be part of the decision-making process. The Executive Board has raised the University Council’s budget by two thousand Euros and Blichfeldt has been appointed a language buddy to help him follow the meetings. But the DSP claims that there is a better solution for non-Dutch speakers and has written a policy paper in which the party asks the Executive Board to implement a number of measures to facilitate access to participation.
One of the proposals is to set up a paid traineeship to the translation work for the various councils. The traineeship would be specifically linked to the specialist master’s degree courses “English Language and Linguistics” and “Translation”. The Council is to investigate the feasibility of the proposal.
Another major issue is the translation of the policy documents that are discussed by the Council, which are currently only available in Dutch. That must change. The University Council agrees and would like English summaries of proposals on which the participation bodies advise. The full text of any proposal requiring the Council’s approval should be translated into English. The accompanying notes to the proposals should be submitted in English too.
The Council wants to refine the general language policy. According to the current policy, the policy language is Dutch, unless there are good reasons to change it. The Council claim that it is not clear what constitutes a good reason and have asked the Board to elucidate.
“And what happens when there are good reasons”, Blichfeldt asked the Council. “Will the entire meeting be conducted in English? That’s not clear either, and I think it might not be practical. After all, not everyone speaks English very well.”
The translation of the documents is also causing problems. “Sometimes, the papers we must approve are quite long”, Bart van der Steen of FNV Overheid, the staff party, explained. “Sometimes, there are thirty or forty pages that don’t actually contain much you actually need to know - summaries of degree programmes and so on. I don’t know whether it adds anything to translate the whole thing.”
Blichfeldt admitted that it was a good point: “I think it would be sensible to look for compromises and to check which papers could suffice with a summary.” University Council Chair Charlotte de Roon explained that the idea was to see which papers should be translated in full per “meeting cycle”