A year ago, Dymph van den Boom was appointed to the interim deanship of ESHCC and charged with making the faculty ‘more robust’. She has now drawn up a draft recommendation featuring three options for the future, one of which is a merger with the faculty of social and behavioural sciences. An official decision on the subject is expected to be made in a few weeks.

The reason why the letter was sent before the formal decision has even been made was because “we want the board to know how we, the community, feel about this, and we wish to prevent them from thinking, as they might at first sight, that all we do is complain, and that academics are always divided among themselves,” says one of the academics who wrote the letter, Gijsbert Oonk, a Professor of Migration, Citizenship and Identity, also on behalf of his fellow writers, Koen van Eijck (Professor of Arts and Culture Studies) and Isabel Awad (Associate Professor of Media and Communication).

‘The merger will not improve matters – quite the contrary, actually’

“We hope our letter will be taken into consideration when the final recommendation is to be made. The second draft of the recommendation – which quite a few people have read – expresses an explicit preference for one of the potential scenarios, which is a merger with ESSB,” says Oonk on behalf of the writers of the letter.

The writers state in their letter that they ‘acknowledge that our School can and should improve its sustainability and performance in a number of areas in the future’, but that they feel that a merger will not improve matters. Quite the contrary, actually.

Faculties are too different

The signatories are not convinced that a merger will benefit the faculty, or even the university in general. The disciplines taught by the two intended merger partners are too different to be successfully united. The same is true for the differing views the two faculties have on teaching methods, according to the employees who signed the letter.

Both ESHCC and ESSB have undergone reforms in recent years, both slight and more far-reaching. “Many ESSB colleagues are against a merger with the ESHCC, for a number of legitimate reasons, including the fact that the ESSB has just gone through a far-reaching and difficult re-organization process. Clearly, this is not a good starting point for another major reorganization,” says the letter.

‘Comprehensive action plan’ to remain independent

The 115 signatories provided a few other reasons as to why they oppose a merger, but did make a point of mentioning that they do not oppose change per se. They would like to work on a ‘comprehensive action plan’ for an independent ESHCC. “A plan that builds on the strengths, potential, and commitment of the ESHCC community is far more likely to contribute to a thriving future of both our School and University than a merger which is forced upon us top-down.”

Oonk says that the fuss made about the faculty does have positive aspects. “In many respects the situation has brought us closer together and helped us identify our strengths, which we are all very proud of, and our weaknesses.”