hans van den berg voorzitter universiteitsraad
Hans van den Berg, chair of the University Council. Image credit: Personal Archive

These are complicated times for the university’s staff and student representative bodies. Like everyone else, the members of the University Council have been banned from convening on campus, having to discuss matters by means of video calls instead. The 24 members of the council have a publicly accessible meeting every fortnight to discuss matters.

‘Hearing the news through EM

But having informal meetings is hard these days. “We had to learn about coronavirus-related measures from EM,” says Van den Berg. “We’ve broached that subject with the Board, because the University Council plays an important part, even in times of crisis. The Council provides the university’s checks and balances. For instance, it provides new insights and voices the concerns of the academic community.”

“The Board has acknowledged this and is seeking to improve the situation. We now have weekly meetings between a few councillors and the Board. Three members are allowed to listen in on the deans’ meetings and the meetings between the faculties’ managers so that the Council can keep abreast of what is being discussed there.”

‘What constitutes regular these days?’

While Van den Berg praises the Board for makings these arrangements, he does still have a few niggling concerns, as the Executive Board has a policy of sharing coronavirus-related measures with the Council after the fact. ‘Regular’ subjects must be submitted to the Council the regular way (i.e., before the measures are implemented), but then again, what constitutes regular these days? “Let’s say, student enrolment figures for next year. These are being affected by the coronavirus crisis. Let’s say, heavy workloads. Those are getting even heavier because of the coronavirus crisis. So what isn’t coronavirus-related these days? It’s hard to say.”

Van den Berg feels that the present situation is unsustainable. “Right now it makes sense for us to be notified after the fact. I wouldn’t want the Council’s involvement to delay any urgent decisions. But we can’t stay in crisis mode all the time. In the longer term, we will have to be more actively involved, with regard to coronavirus-related measures, too.”

The University Council hopes to discuss the impact of the coronavirus crisis on participatory bodies with the Executive Board next week.


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