According to the saying, one should never look a gift horse in the mouth, but apparently not everyone agrees. Deans Philip Hans Franses (ESE) and Suzan Stoter (ESL) discovered this on Monday morning. The two deans had a banner hung up on the facade of the Sanders building last weekend as a ‘gift from the ESE and ESL to Erasmus University Rotterdam’. And they did not stop at half measures either – they even hired an artist specially to make it. Only they did so without the permission of the Executive Board – because it was supposed to be a surprise. The banner was intended to ‘celebrate’ the 20th anniversary of the double degree (mr.-drs.) programme.
An innocent enough gesture, you would think at first sight, but the members of the Executive Board thought differently. Hanz Zwart, manager development at ESL, got a telephone call from security this morning. “The message was: your gift is not appreciated, the banner will be removed today.”
And this was no empty promise, as the banner was indeed removed half an hour later, under the watchful eye of the two deans and various other representatives of the two faculties. Wouter Homburg, chairman of In Duplo, the study society for students following the double degree (mr.-drs.) programme, was also in attendance. “We were so happy with the gift. I thought it was a really nice gesture from the faculties. It is rather contradictory to take the banner down. There is nothing weird on it; students come to this university specifically for the programme.”
Homburg was unable to explain the removal of the banner. “Perhaps people felt as though they had been passed over and not consulted. It can only have been an internal power game.” No one at either of the faculties in question knew why the gift had been taken down in such a heavy-handed manner either.
The soap finally came to an end early in the afternoon with an explanation from the Executive Board. An email to the faculties stated that ‘the banner had been removed because such banners may not be hung up there as the windows have to be accessible for cleaning. An exception had been made for the banner that had hung there previously. We understand In Duplo’s wish to celebrate their 20th anniversary – it is certainly something to be proud of – but we would like to find another spot on the campus for the banner’.
The question is not whether the banner was a nice gift or not; most definitely it was. The issue is that the two schools should have asked the permission of the CvB. Since the days of EUR President Henk v.d. Molen, no other Executive Board in The Netherlands has given its deans (some of them with very limited management experience) so much power. I would be very glad if this starts to change, at long last, and the CvB takes decision-making authority back where it belongs. Otherwise, I wouldn’t mind at all running for President next time; it must be an easy job !