Sels and Tytgat; election manifestos unpacked

Leuven Life

26 april 2021
Article
The 'Rector' elections have officially begun as candidates Sels and Tytgat both published their election manifestos last week. International students may also want to know what both plan to achieve.

More 'core-funding', no drastic calendar changes and a much deserved rest period after the pandemic: the two candidates seem to agree on several major issues, however as always, the devil is in the details. Additionally, the leadership styles of the candidates clash noticeably. 

These are the conclusions of Veto after going through both manifestos which were made public on last Monday morning. One immediate observation made was the difference in length. Sels' manifesto is rich in details, reaching just shy of two hundred pages. The aptly named ''Do and Dream 2025'' manifesto outlines 20 achievements while in office followed by 25 ''wishes'' for re-election. 

Despite Tytgat's more modest 72 page document, its content manages to hold its own. He too outlines several election positions with among other things a clear plan for the aforementioned core-funding. His document is divided by voter group.

Core-funding

The main topic of debate for this election is, unexpectedly, the matter of the core-funding. The core-funding is essentially akin to universal basic income but for research funding; all professors would receive a set amount from the university, additional funds would then come from external parties. Most professors seem to favour such a system over the current competitive funding system, and professors account for seventy percent of votes in the Rector elections.

As far as international policy goes, the toxicologist states that the university should be more ambitious.

Tytgat's campaign wants to achieve this by cutting the budgets of the existing funding categories and distributing the funds so that each professor receives somewhere between forty thousand and fifty thousand euros. Sels argues for a less direct approach but suggests to delay the discussion to 2024 when a reform at the Flemish level is scheduled to take place.

Educational policy

Sels suggests that consistency is needed after much has changed in recent years. To that end, he suggests tabling the restructuring of the academic year for a while and making smaller changes where needed till then. Tytgat on the other hand argues that we need to listen to the students when restructuring the calendar.

Sels is confident in the three milestones program and is looking forward to seeing its effectiveness. Tytgat disagrees, arguing for an 'extensive, evidence based and concrete discussion into the value of milestones.' Tytgat's models lean more conservative than his opponent. 

The toxicologist favors the traditional lecture and testing system, calling for no assessments outside of the exam weeks and has his reservations about the value of orientation days for first years. Tytgat adds that the university should listen to the student council more when working on new initiatives.

Sels admits that certain aspects of the mental health facilities are understaffed

Sels on the other hand holds that mixed education is the way forward. In his opinion, education validation relies 'too much on what's on the paper and not enough on trust.' To achieve this, he argues the simplification of the administration is imperative. Professors who engage their students must receive extra support for their efforts.

Free culture card and 'Alma 2.0'

When it comes to student life at the university, Tytgat feels that the university could listen more. He promises to invest in cultural programs as a 'cure' for the post-covid period. This would also mean that the culture card would be free for all students next year. 

Sels admits that certain aspects of the mental health facilities are understaffed and promises to make raising their capacity one of his priorities if re-elected. The candidate also dreams of an Alma 2.0; 'an attractive study and social hub with healthy, affordable and sustainable food.'

The university needs to be greener, note both candidates. Sels wants to achieve this through novel approaches, faculty binding policies and new educational tools for students. The university should also be carbon free by 2050. Tytgat doesn't give a date, saying that ''sooner is better'' and wants to invest primarily in solar energy and sustainable transport options for staff members.

Both candidates are proponents of the fourteen euro minimum wage.

As far as international policy goes, the toxicologist states that the university should be more ambitious. If elected, he wants to increase both partnerships and capacity for international students in order to remain relevant at the international stage. Sels only discusses the importance of international partnerships, advocating for more diversity among domestic students. 

Broad appeal

It's clear that both candidates understand the importance of appealing to all voting groups. With professors making up seventy percent of the vote and assistants, staff members and students making up the remaining thirty percent, every vote counts. As such both candidates are proponents of the fourteen euro minimum wage, however Tytgat goes the extra mile promising additional travel and teleworking reimbursements in his manifesto. 

The remarkable length of Sels' document has not gone unnoticed, especially considering the additional energy and time needed to manage a university during the pandemic. Sels states that he indeed 'wrote the entire document himself with the exception of a few paragraphs.' Tytgat also admitted that he has been working on his document independently since October. 

What follows now is three weeks of campaigning during which candidates (albeit online) try to convince potential voters. A few noteworthy dates to keep in mind: on the 26th of April is the public rector debate for students, moderated by Wim De Vilder. The debate for the student council members will take place on the 30th of April and for academic staff on the 7th of May. 

Sprinkled in between those students will have the option to attend a Q&A with the candidates individually. At midnight on the 7th of May the 'election silence' takes effect until the first round of elections conclude on the 11th of May. Eligible voters will receive their voting codes in the coming weeks.

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