It all started in 1981, when students from Leiden University discussed the possibility of founding an association for Political Science students. At this time, Political Science was not an independent bachelor course, but a specialization within the Law Faculty. This was to change, and the first step in this change would occur during a meeting at café ‘De Uyl van Hoogland’. During this meeting, attendees agreed upon the name for this new Political Science association, “Gapende Hoogten” in homage to Aleksander Zinovjev’s book of the same name. The name was formally registered at the local Chambers of Commerce and with this action, Gapende Hoogten was officially founded.
Despite the fact that Political Science was a rather minor part of the Law Faculty, Gapende Hoogten’s political activities received consistently large turnouts. The first of many events was a movie night in which the political thriller 'All the President’s men' was screened. The activities proved very successful, to the extent that the association organised an international trip to Bonn, Germany, just two years after its founding. In addition to this, readings by guest speakers from a variety of backgrounds were regularly organised. These thought-provoking features from leading figures proved wildly popular with the impressionable students in attendance. And, as a signature token of gratitude, each guest speaker received a copy of Zinovjev's book “Gapende Hoogten”. In the following years, Leiden University would announce that there would be a separate course for Political Science. As a result of this, in 1983, two other Political Science associations were founded, The international Leidse Political Science Association (LePSA), and Debat, which would release a magazine of the same name.
Merger into the SPIL
Now that there were three Political Science associations, the chairman of department of Poltical Science, Hans Daalder, felt that there was an excess of similarly-orientated groups. To quell this potential surplus of associations, the three would be merged into one single association, the SPIL. Since 1988 the activities that before were individually provided by Gapende Hoogten, LePSA, and Debat were now solely provided by the SPIL.
Each association and its specific functions were integrated into this new organisation. The SPIL was comprised of the committee of foreign activities from LePSA, from Gapende Hoogten came the committee of internal activities, and from Debat came the self-titled magazine. In order to finance Debat magazine, the SPIL collaborated with the book shop, Kooyker. This entitled member of the association to special discounts on study-related books.
The events organised by the SPIL were well-received, and so the range of activities it provided would expand exponentially. This was most notable in 1995/1996 when the SPIL was tasked with handling the job opportunity seminar “Political scientists in Perspective” (PiP). This seminar still continues to take place annually with help from the political science associations of the Free University (EOS), the University of Amsterdam (Machiavelli) and the University of Nijmegen (ismus).
The successful collaborations between the SPIL and other Political Science associations would not be bound purely to the Netherlands. In 1996, during an excursion to Rome, the SPIL came into contact with its Italian Political Science association counterpart. This interaction brought about the concept of an international student association for Political Science. The idea behind it would be to strengthen international relations and partnership between the Political Science associations of the two countries.
This connection, and the mutual benefits that it conferred, drew wide-spread attention from similar groups around Europe. And in 1998, following a seminar in Leiden, this international enthusiasm culminated in the founding of the International Association of Political Science Students (IAPSS).From humble beginnings as an idea in a café amongst students of a minor course, to an accomplished association within the realm Political Science; Since its inception, the SPIL has made tremendous progress for, and with the help of, its many devoted members. And will continue to do so for years to come.