Ingrid Heÿdenrÿch

What came first: Universities that do not care about students’ opinions, or students who do not care whether universities listen to their opinions? It appears that students on campus have a lot to say about what is happening around them and the decisions that are made on their behalf.

The problem is that they aren’t talking to the people that really matter. Conversations between friends on the Rooiplein, mumbling during huisvergaderings and anonymous posts on Facebook pages seem to be the most popular ways for students on campus to express their opinions. There is nothing wrong with talking about what is important to people who are in the same boat as you; on the contrary, it is one of the most important ways that conversations are facilitated.

However, when it comes to implementing change, conversations about things that are bothering you only go as far as identifying people who feel the same way as you. So you’ve been complaining
and people around you have been complaining about the same things. Now what? Don’t stop talking, but start talking to the right people.

The “right people” are the people who you are complaining about. If people don’t know that you are unhappy about what they are doing, they won’t be able to do anything to change it.

An argument that I see being made again and again is that the people in higher posisitions only listen to the people whose voices are the loudest. But is this not the most obvious thing to do? Why should the people in higher positions not listen to those whose voices are the loudest? We live in a society that values the opinion of the majority. If your opinion is the loudest it will seem as if you are the majority, even if you are not.

It is thus up to you to make sure that your opinion is on the same playing field as all the others out there, in order for it to be taken seriously. You can do this by communicating directly with the people who have the power to change what you want to have changed. Write letters, make appointments, have meetings.

The power of the media should also not be underestimated. By voicing your opinion on an official platform, support can be gained and community can be found. Reading about what other people
are feeling and their take on certain issues will also ensure that you don’t go blindly through life. Talk to your friends, talk in your communities, but also remember that they can do nothing but complain with you.

It is up to you to inform the right people (in the right ways) about the things that you feel need to be changed.