EPFL Assembly Elections: Make a difference in your community!

The EPFL Assembly 2021 © DR

The EPFL Assembly 2021 © DR

The EPFL Assembly (AE), along with the Councils of EPFL’s different schools and colleges, will launch the process for electing members on 6 April 2022. The Assembly is the central body that allows for consultations between representatives of the entire EPFL community. These consultations result in the new laws and directives that will govern EPFL.

The election of EPFL Assembly presents an opportunity for new students, faculty and technical, administrative and scientific staff to play a key role in shaping the future of EPFL while working side by side with prominent school figures. By becoming a member of the Assembly, you will be able to participate in key discussions that lead to decisions that affect everyday life at EPFL, and above all, determine its future. The Assembly represents the whole of the EPFL community and invites that community to public hearings where members present and discuss issues that affect the community, such as tuition fees, the directive concerning doctoral studies, or, during this past year for example, the finalization of EPFL’s Gender Strategy 2021-2024 and discussions about diversity as an all-encompassing concept that must be lifted up by an organizational culture that the EPFL community must purposefully and persistently create.

At its monthly meetings, the Assembly brings together EPFL’s president, vice presidents, deans, senior management and department heads with the wider EPFL community. EPFL’s president, Martin Vetterli has underscored “the importance of having an Assembly that can discuss the key issues at EPFL and share with me the viewpoints of students as well as of each category of EPFL staff. And it’s essential that professors in particular get involved in the Assembly so that they can be represented and take part in campus life and, more generally, interact with the ETH Board (Federal Technical School Board).”

The current Office of the EPFL Assembly, made up of the president, vice president and two members of the Assembly (one representative of each staff body – scientific and administrative & technical), reviews highly confidential subjects communicated by the ETH Board and discusses them with their counterparts at ETH Zurich and the joint ETH Board delegate, which is currently a scientist at EPFL. The Office members also have an opportunity to speak directly with the ETH Board at annual ‘Dialog’ days.

On 6 April 2022, the EPFL Assembly will launch its election process, which takes place every year for students and every two years for EPFL staff representatives (see election schedule below). Four representatives will be elected from the student body and for each category of EPFL staff – teachers (professors and lecturers), scientific staff (PhD students, postdocs and scientists), and administrative and technical staff, which accounts for the Assembly’s 16 members.

At the same time, with the same model, the elections for the EPFL School and College Councils will be held, with a variable number of representatives. It is possible to run in both elections, or to candidate just for a School Council or just for the EPFL Assembly.

You can announce your intention to run as well as voting for the four people you would like to represent you in the Assembly. If you would like to run, you are encouraged to post a brief explanation of why you want to become an Assembly member on your EPFL bio page at people.epfl.ch.

Four information sessions will be held over Zoom, one for each group represented in the Assembly, where current members will be available to answer any questions you may have. Please see the schedule below as well as testimonials from these representatives about their experiences as members of the EPFL Assembly.

EPFL Assembly election information sessions

Scientific staff: 12 April - 11:45-12:45, moderated by Fabio Zuliani (President of the AE)

Zoom: https://epfl.zoom.us/j/61495341401

Teaching staff: 12 April - 12:15-13:15, moderated by Prof. Aleksandra Radenovic (Vice-President of the AE)

Zoom: https://epfl.zoom.us/j/69614314604

Administrative and technical staff: 13 April 10:00-11:00, moderated by Consuelo Antille

Zoom: https://epfl.zoom.us/j/69002427036

Student body: 13 April - 12:15-13:15, moderated by Jeanne Estienne

Zoom: https://epfl.zoom.us/j/66648515171

EPFL Assembly – 2022 Election Schedule

Wednesday - 06.04.2022 - Period begins for announcing your intention to run

Tuesday - 12.04.2022 - Information sessions for teaching and scientific staff

Wednesday - 13.04.2022 - Information sessions for students and administrative and technical staff

Friday - 06.05.2022 - Deadline for announcing your intention to run

Wednesday - 11.05.2022 - List of candidates announced

Wednesday - 18.05.2022 - Election period begins

Friday - 03.06.2022 - Election period ends

Thursday - 09.06.2022 - Election results published

Thursday - 01.09.2022 - Elected members’ term of office begins

For more information, visit ae.epfl.ch/elections

Testimonials of current EPFL Assembly members

Jeanne Estienne

Jeanne Estienne, student body representative, Master's student in environmental science and engineering, Co-President of AGEPoly (General Student's Association of EPFL)

The EPFL Assembly (AE) plays a very important role in representing the different groups that make up the EPFL community, as it must guarantee their participation in consultations. This is why I wanted to get involved in the EA. I had participated in student representation at EPFL for several years at different levels – class representative, School Council, AGEPoly team member representative, AGEPoly steering committee – and I wanted to do more. By becoming a member of the AE, I was able to discover another aspect of advocacy, more focused on the community at large.

From my experience in the AE I gained greater knowledge of EPFL and how it functions. I learned how to have a discussion with the express purpose of finding common ground. I also honed more personal skills such as speaking in both English and French and having the courage to speak up and realise that our voices as students are as important as those of any group in the EPFL community.

The AE also allows me to talk to new people from different backgrounds, which I find very enriching. Thanks to the AE, I was able to bring AGEPoly closer to the VSETH in Zurich, the ETHZ Students' Association. This created fertile ground to stay in touch and enabled us to coordinate our actions.

Aleksandra Radenovic

Aleksandra Radenovic, teaching staff representative, Professor, Laboratory of Nanoscale Biology, Vice-President of the EPFL Assembly (AE)

I joined EPFL 14 years ago and witnessed the incredible transformation of the institution into a modern university with an excellent reputation in teaching and research. EPFL is home to a fantastic community of outstanding students, brilliant scientists, gifted teachers, and professional technical and administrative staff. At the outset of EPFL’s transformation, governance practices leaned toward top-down decision-making, thereby eroding the participation rights and duties set forth in the ETH founding principles. I believe that in the current phase of consolidation, reaffirming participation rights and duties together with democratising structures and processes will be essential to strengthening EPFL’s position as a top education and research institution.

The benefits of bottom-up decision-making are manifold: EPFL management can directly tap into community expertise with its diverse ideas, while the example of governance that the AE provides helps students understand the principles behind democratic governance, the rule of law as well as fostering inclusiveness. In this way, students learn to be part of a community that is accountable and responsible. I joined the EPFL Assembly to learn about existing democratic procedures and to provide active contributions to the school's policies as well as advocating for change to improve those policies.

I learned about the decision-making process and had the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues from all representative bodies across the EPFL community. In addition, I appreciated the meetings with our colleagues from the ETH Zurich Assembly and the thematic dialogue meeting with the ETH Board. At a 2021 dialogue meeting, one of the discussion topics was diversity. On behalf of the EPFL Assembly, we presented our views on diversity as an all-encompassing concept that must be enforced by a culture that academic organizations have to continuously create. We argued that people do their best work when they have a strong sense of belonging and representation, as these two aspects help build the trust that is required for people to share their best thinking and put their craziest — and perhaps unpopular — ideas forward. Lack of belonging and representation renders people silent and makes them apathetic about associations and school governance. Being able to express our opinion on the topic of diversity and engage in discussion with ETH Board members was a very constructive experience.

I am pleased with the improvements to the final version of the Gender Strategy 2021-2024 that resulted from AE consultations. The final document took into account most of the changes proposed in the position statements from the EPFL and ETH communities as well as that of the Women Professors Forum. Another example of progress made thanks to the work of the AE dates back to the partial revision of the Directive concerning doctoral studies at EPFL. In this case, strong opposition from the whole EPFL community led management to abandon the idea of increasing the number of ECTS teaching credits for doctoral students from 12 to 25.

Consuelo Antille

Consuelo Antille, administrative and technical staff representative, School Administrator, Deanship ENAC

Before running for the EPFL Assembly (AE), I started with the School Council (FC), which gave me the desire to become more broadly involved in governance at EPFL. After all, they are the same bodies at different levels, but equally important. Once you start, you get caught up in interesting discussions and you realise that by getting involved you can make change happen, which is what I’ve been doing for 12 years now. The driving force behind my motivation is to give voice to my fellow administrative and technical colleagues (CAT), so that their concerns are heard as much as the other groups that make up the EPFL community. CAT is the backbone of EPFL, representing a wide range of professions and working to ensure that the institution runs smoothly, often in the shadows. The School Councils and the Assembly are rare places where CAT can make itself heard, and maintaining this representation is essential. The role and power of the EPFL Assembly is unique and it is enshrined in the ETH founding principles. It is up to us to make good use of it!

Among the progress I have seen over the last four years thanks to the AE, I would highlight the presentation of consultations. Under the auspices of the AE, each consultation is presented by the person in charge during a public hearing where everyone is allowed to ask questions. This was introduced by the AE and has become standard practice in the organisation of consultations. Secondly, I would mention feedback from management on the consultations. The AE insisted that there should be responses to the positions taken. This is an important aspect as people who take the trouble to put their views forward need responses. It has now become an integral part of the consultation process.

From my experience with the AE so far, I remember above all the satisfaction I got out of my exchanges with representatives from other groups, understanding their problems, sharing their concerns and the common search for solutions with a certain solidarity. Being a member of the FC or the AE allows for a better overview of how the institution functions, the context of the ETH sector, and an understanding of the many and diverse points of view.

Thanks to my constructive experience with the AE, I remain motivated and will certainly run again. I strongly encourage the highest number possible of my colleagues to run, so that there is a real election and new people take over. The more candidates who run, the higher the legitimacy of those elected. This is important in order for the AE to be recognised as an essential body that represents the entire EPFL community.

Fabio Zuliani

Fabio Zuliani, scientific staff representative, President of the EPFL Assembly

The EPFL Assembly and the School Councils are a great way to get involved in EPFL, in service of the community, with the aim of helping EPFL evolve and improve in a wide variety of fields. Ever since I was a little boy I dreamed of coming to study at this school. Now I've studied here and I will soon complete my PhD. Participating more broadly in the life of the school community, whether it be at the associative level or representing my colleagues at the EPFL Assembly, allows me to benefit even more deeply from this experience and to get involved in helping management become aware of the problems facing different groups in our community. Being part of such an international, open and rich community of knowledge and experience is a unique opportunity and getting involved with the participation of this diverse group of people allows for many fantastic meetings, exchanges and discoveries!

On a personal level, the debates, the exchange of ideas and the people you meet are undoubtedly the greatest reward. That said, the main motivation for being part of the EPFL Assembly should be to serve your community by representing it. Finally, understanding how the institution functions and frequent meetings with the decision-makers of the School really makes you feel that you are an integral part of the running of our School, which probably gives one the most pride and certainly a broader understanding of the issues and what's really at stake.

One of the key issues we work on with management is communication with the EPFL community. Informing a broad spectrum of people on an ongoing basis in a community of this size with such a variety of interests and knowledge is a very complex endeavour. The Covid crisis pointed to some shortcomings in this respect. Nonetheless, we persist in our communications work and I dare say it is constantly evolving and improving.

The second aspect related to the first is the community's participation in institutional issues. The functioning of the various bodies such as the EPFL Assembly, the School and College Councils as well as the associations that represent various bodies of the community require a critical mass of people who give their time and energy as volunteers to serve the community. Much work is being done to improve recognition of these volunteer roles and how both the community and the management perceive these commitments, as they are essential to the proper functioning of a school of this size.

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The EPFL Assembly 2021 © DR
The EPFL Assembly 2021 © DR

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