When the lecturer in statistics joined the Council in 1998, students had just been prohibited from standing for the Council united in political parties (which prohibition has just been repealed), and the Higher Education Act had just been amended, particularly in terms of ‘the modernisation of university governance’. Political parties disappeared from the Council, and as the Council itself went from being a very powerful organ to mainly being an advisory body, people became increasingly less keen on serving on the Council.
No political ambitions
This being the case, it was not self-evident that Bode would become a councillor. “One Friday morning I was asked to serve on the Council by the then dean of the Faculty of Business Administration, because no one else from the faculty had decided to stand for election.” Bode had to have a good think about the request. “I had no political ambitions and I’m not naturally the kind of person who likes a good fight. But I said ‘yes’ anyway, mostly because I felt responsible and wanted to show some commitment to my university.”
However, he enjoyed being a councillor more than he expected. Bode always stayed true to himself, so he never raised his voice or erected any barricades. “Students in particular will sometimes do that. I remember this one discussion we had about ten years ago, about the number of study spots available on campus. There were two students at the time who occasionally crossed the line, I thought. They were almost rude.” For his part, Bode liked to set himself apart on the Council by presenting solid arguments gleaned from carefully read documents.
Which is how the lecturer in statistics, who claims he does not know much about finance, ended up becoming the Council’s budget expert. “The Chairman of the Council, Hans van den Berg, actually wondered a little while ago how they were going to manage that without me, but I really don’t regard myself as a person who is very good at reading budgets.” Bode has, however, worked hard (possibly partly because of this) to ensure that financial reports be rendered more readable. “I think the Council has done a pretty good job of that, particularly with the help of Pieter Jellema (Director of Corporate Planning & Control – ed.).”
Bode is not sure to what extent the Council really changed in the 23 years he served on it. “We now work completely differently. We no longer use permanent committees, but rather taskforces. Also, the Council now collaborates with the Executive Board much more. These days we’re more likely to serve as a critical friend and co-creator.” Bode believes that the Council’s new role means that the Council is getting more influential again, despite the fact that, as far as the law is concerned, it’s only right, more often than not, to issue recommendations on issues.
Sustainability into the strategy
One example of a co-creation effort that Bode particularly cherishes is the Council’s discussion of the university’s strategy for 2024. “Two students in particular, Boris Pulskens and Louise van Koppen, fought hard to make sure that sustainability was included in it. In the end, thanks to them, it became a separate core principle of the strategy.”
When we ask him which of his own achievements he is proudest of, he mentions the implementation of the Sustainable Transport Policy plan in 2012 and the compensation scheme for employees in lower pay scales when paid parking was introduced. “We understood that the university wished to give its employees an incentive to commute by train. But some employees, for whom public transport was not an option, incurred considerable costs because of that policy. We felt that wasn’t right. You can’t change the rules midway through a game. Well, maybe it was fair to impose the scheme on new employees [but not on people already on a contract]. So we tried to get the university to implement a compensation scheme for low-income employees, and eventually we got it.”
When Bode took his leave from the Council, he was awarded the Desiderius statuette, a miniature version of the statue of Erasmus that was erected in front of Erasmus’s birth house in the sixteenth century. The statuette is presented to people who have served the university ‘with distinction’. Bode is very proud of it. “It’s a true sign of appreciation. I’m not the kind of person who likes to claim the limelight. So I found it heart-warming to hear that my work had been noticed and appreciated.”