The lifts of the Van der Groot Building are carrying many groups of ESHCC employees to the ground floor, where an information meeting on the faculty’s future is about to be held. It is Thursday morning, and staff will be given the opportunity to ask members of the Executive Board questions about the plan for an ESHCC-ESSB merger. After all, many employees were left with questions after the closed meetings the dean had with staff members about the confidential first draft plans for the faculty.

Why do we need a merger?

Why? Why do we need a merger, anyway? This is a question that keeps being asked on Thursday morning. Van den Boom was appointed one year ago to make the faculty ‘more robust’. Three options were examined: remaining independent and undergoing restructuring, merging with the Erasmus School of Philosophy, or merging with ESSB. Since then it has become obvious that Van den Boom and the Executive Board favour the third option, but their minds have not entirely been made up yet.

First the draft proposal will have to be detailed and submitted to the Executive Board, which is willing to spend one million euros on a proper plan for a merger. Once that plan has been finalised, its details will have to be discussed by the faculties involved. Several questions are still waiting to be answered, e.g. who will make up the executive committee, and whether the current faculties will be able to continue using their own teaching methods.

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Will ESHCC merge with Philosophy or ESSB?

The Executive Board wants a ‘more robust’ ESHCC. A merger with another faculty is…

The plans are a contentious issue at both faculties, which is why dozens of academics working at ESHCC, ranging from PhD students to full professors, are getting together in room M1-12 on Thursday morning. “Really, we should have a group picture taken,” says one of them. “When will there ever be so many of us in one room again?” The group are divided among themselves. Some want answers to the question as to why a merger is necessary in the first place, while others seem to be resigned to a future shared with ESSB. The latter are mainly here to ask questions about details, but, as the Rector (Rutger Engels) and the President of the Board (Kristel Baele) explain, it is too early days for that. However, Engels is willing to say a few things about the reasons for the intended merger. Many of them are of a strategic nature.

A more comprehensive and larger faculty will be a stronger part of the university and will appeal more to outsiders, ESSB’s dean, Victor Bekkers, will tell his Faculty Council later that afternoon. “Nevertheless the words ‘vulnerable’ and ‘financial’ are often mentioned together in the initial draft of the plan,” the Council points out. Bekkers explains that ‘the neighbours’’ financial situation is sound. At least, it is at present, which is why it is a good idea to discuss a merger at the present moment. However, Bekkers, too, wishes to obtain greater clarity on ESHCC’s financial condition. “Also, this draft plan was written very much from ESHCC’s point of view. We have some questions about that, too,” he says.

‘No consensus ever’

Both faculties have members who oppose the merger. “No consensus is ever reached among scientists”, Baele says when someone comments on Thursday morning that some ESSB-affiliated academics are firmly opposed to a merger with ESHCC.

Once again, the members of the Executive Board emphasise that both faculties may benefit from the merger. The mood in room M1-12 seems fairly optimistic, but some of the attendees are still concerned about the way in which certain matters will be decided on. For instance, will ESHCC have to start using problem-based learning methods, too? Will all professors continue to hold their chairs? To be continued.

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