The Bridge – January 2021

The Bridge is a platform created and administered by our student party to connect with the students of UM and form a spirit of community and contribution. Each month, contributors write a text to tell you about their opinion, an event they have found interesting, … It is pretty free! If you too would like to share your texts, contact us 😉
All views expressed in these articles are the writers’ own and do not represent NovUM’s official or unofficial position.

Trump vs Twitter

Wednesday 6th January 2020 will go down in history for the attack on Capitol Hill by Trump’s supporters and Trump’s ban from Twitter. The former president, since 2016 has reached 88.5 million followers on Twitter alone, with his Tweets making headlines numerous times. His tweets have often been controversial, and even caused diplomatic tension. His status as President placed him above social networks’ guidelines for the most part. However, January 6th was the last straw for Evan Williams, Twitter’s CEO, since he decided to first suspend and later permanently ban Trump’s account. Other platforms followed this example.

The action sparked debate as several world leaders disagreed with the ban, especially in the EU. For instance, French Finance Minister Le Maire, whilst he condemned Trump’s words, declared that “the regulation of the digital world cannot be done by the digital oligarchy”. The situation raises two dilemmas.

First is the question of whether politicians should be allowed to use social media. On the one hand, social networks facilitated the rise of newcomers such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Indeed, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez was not in the financial position to afford tv or newspapers ads. However, social media have become so salient that she only needed an account and some sponsorship for her campaign. Hence, social media helps make politics more accessible and level the playing field. However, they have also flooded the world with fake news, which is absorbed by less educated voters and can be difficult to distinguish from facts.

The second problem is whether companies like Twitter have the right to take decisions which impact world politics? In Trump’s case, it is worth considering that this has not been the first time that Trump used hate speech or incited violence online. Moreover, he is not the only politician to have broken guidelines -see, for example, Spain’s Santiago Abascal or Italy’s Matteo Salvini- yet none of these others have ever been banned.

There is also the question of the boundaries of freedom of speech. One may say that everybody should have freedom of speech, no matter what they say. Or perhaps it is safer to keep such an influential figure within a controlled environment like Twitter or Facebook, where his rhetoric counterbalanced with other opinions, instead of segregating his ideas to other platforms like Parler, a far-right social network which acts as an echo chamber for its users. It is also interesting to note that Parler was deleted from Amazon, Google and Apple right after Twitter’s ban -another example of big tech setting the boundaries of freedom of expression.

Hence, the EU leaders are not wrong, the tech industry is becoming perhaps dangerously politically influential. These events open new conversations, and although I believe most of us do not agree with Trump’s actions, is removing him from the online debate entirely the right thing to do?

Lucia Temperini

Reflections on Brexit: delays and veganism

June 2016 marked the first time in history a Member State wished to exit the European Union. The referendum held in the United Kingdom on the 23rd of June resulted in a 51.89% majority in favour of leaving the Union. [1] People cited as their motivation the perceived loss of sovereignty to the EU combined with immigration from Eastern member states and an inadequate response to an ongoing refugee crisis. Fortunately, this crucial decision was substantiated by facts, at least for one part of the voters; other groups were still looking up the definition of the European Union on Google. [2]

After many twists and turns, the UK finalized its departure, on January 1st, 2021. Thus, the time is now ripe to observe the immediate economic, social, and educational consequences for British citizens studying in the Netherlands. 

Thinking about having your cake and eating it too?  Not anymore, at least for students returning from the UK to the Netherlands, who will not be allowed to bring local dairy and meat products back into the EU, due to food safety regulations to prevent the spread of several degenerative or viral infections, like the ‘mad-cow’ or the ‘foot and mouth’ diseases. Prior to the 1st of January, such measures would have represented anti-competitive practices and restrictions on the free movement of goods, but leaving the Single Market meant leaving all this behind.

After enforcing rather ‘vegan’ methods of compliance and banning all UK flights until the 1st of January [3], new rules for travelling have been agreed upon.  British students arriving in the Netherlands from the UK must rely on a “legally permitted reason” to justify the necessity of their trip as well as providing a negative Covid-19 test before boarding and upon return, starting with the 18th of January. [4]

On a more positive note, students who started their higher education before the 1st of January 2021 have not experienced any increase in their tuition fees.  Fellow British students from Maastricht University have voiced their opinions on the impact of Brexits on their lives. Considering they commenced their higher education programs before the 1st of January 2021, they were able to relocate without a visa and receive all the subsidies and loans available to nationals.

They also expressed the wish to remain in the EU after graduation. When asked about the availability of post-Brexit employment opportunities, they believed that they have been put at a disadvantage, as employers would prefer EU nationals. In some instances, some prospects disappeared completely, such as the possibility to work for EU institutions. However, they were hopeful for a future partnership between the UK and EU and the provision of efficient long-term solutions for British nationals: “I am hopeful that things will change – I think there is a valid place for Euroscepticism. The institutions are not perfect, however, it is important to have valid criticism of the EU, and to acknowledge what good they also put out. It is about changing the EU to be more sustainable from within” said one British student.

Ioana Petrescu

Failure is not allowed for non-EU students

Maastricht University has a reputation for being one of the most international institutions in Europe. Each year many non-EU students arrive in Maastricht excited for a high-quality education. However, the path to Maastricht is not always smooth and even more difficult is the path to graduation. In this article I describe my experience as a non-EU student coming to study in Maastricht. My opinion is that non-EU students face unfair and unnecessary hurdles which cause additional stress and anxiety.

I hope that by sharing my own experience the reader will get a better understanding of my claim and, although my experience is not universal, the regulations I mention apply to all non-EU students. Firstly, the process of applying for a residence permit in the Netherlands was not easy.  I had to figure out which procedure and which exemptions applied to me, as the holder of a long-term EU residence permit. After browsing the University’s website at length, I discovered that I was eligible to pay the regular statutory fees. The only catch was that I had to prove I had sufficient financial means by transferring €10,000 as proof. This put a significant financial strain on my family and caused additional anxiety. I then started my application by sending copies of my documents to the Visa office. Although this sounds straightforward, there were many challenges, such as having to fill in the documents in a particular colour ink, write in a specific font and convince them that my residence permit was not expired. In retrospect these difficulties might sound trivial, but I remember how stressful it was because I was anxious that making a mistake would ruin the application.

After enrollment I thought that was the end of it, however, throughout my Bachelor I slowly encountered more obstacles. The two most difficult challenges I encountered were being required to request a work permit in order to apply for a job and having to meet a credit goal each year or else risk that losing my residence permit. This last hurdle was particularly anxiety-inducing. It meant that I was could not afford to make mistakes in the way that my European peers could, or else my right to an education would be revoked. This is clearly discriminatory; many students have difficulties and fail classes, but if I did so I would not be permitted to continue my studies, while a European could simply remedy the mistake and continue studying.

These issues are not to be directly blamed on the University- they are rules imposed by the Dutch government and the EU. However, I think these issues should be acknowledged as an appreciable struggle and the necessary help should be offered.

Xhoi Laze

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