75 years of battle for your interests

This month was a special one for the student union of Amsterdam: they’ve existed for 75 years. Since May 1945 ASVA has been fighting for good education and affordable student housing.

Judith (left) and current board member Amy

In May of this year, ASVA is 75 years old. This was supposed to be celebrated with a bunch of very exciting events, but because of the Coronavirus these have been postponed to May of 2021. Through the years the ASVA Student Union has engaged in improving student life, by making a case for student housing, good public transport but also by organising protests. Judith Crabbendam was a board member of ASVA in 2017|2018 and is one of the organisers of the jubileum. She’s very dissappointed the jubileum can’t be celebrated now. ‘It would have been a beautiful moment to remember everything ASVA does and has done. The importance of students coming together to do something for one another and fighting for that cause, is something I found quite special to see.’

Bram Harkema was secretary of the board of ASVA in the board year 2014|2015, for him the importance of a Student Union is still cristal clear. ‘For 75 years already, ASVA has been standing up for the right of existence of students. There are black-and-white videos in which ASVA is protesting for more student housing, already in the 60’s. ASVA is the only organisation lobbying for more student housing in Amsterdam. And it is still a bare necessity. The fact that students aren’t in an easy situation is once again made clear by the current Corona crisis.’

The two former board members both have happy memories from their time at ASVA. Crabbendam: ‘To thank all the employees, volunteers and the board we always have a dinner at the end of the summer, with speeches, songs, wine and good food. Those were the best nights.’ Harkema has another special memory that stayed with him: ‘In 2015 the Bungehuis was being occupied by students who were upset with the reorganisation plans in the Faculty of Humanities and the economical way of thinking in the university. The occupation ended suddenly when the UvA decided to send the riot police after their own students. ASVA set up a big demonstration against the police violence within 24 hours together with a large group of students and activists. I had the honorary task of keeping contact with the police, which mainly meant I got a call every 5 minutes with the question if we really needed to go to the Maagdenhuis: “You’re welcome to go to Dam Square, we will redirect the trams.” The demonstration unfolded perfectly, the atmosphere was good and there were really a lot of people. The demonstration was ended with speeches in front of Maagdenhuis, and while we from ASVA went to a cafe to have an after-talk, the doors were smashed in and what we now know as the Maagdenhuis occupation started.’

Bram Harkema

Activism, standing up for the interests of students, a strong community; they’re aspects that match the ASVA Student union. ASVA will keep working for the interests of students in the coming 75 years. In all the years ASVA has existed, a lot has changed and undoubtedly the years to come will bring new changes. That is exactly why a strong student union is important. Harkema: ‘I wish ASVA a future in which the right to exist is not under discussion. It should be outright logical that ASVA does what it does and that it is important.’

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