Update University Council October
Good day! We hope that you’re all well and that despite everything you have enjoyed the first two months of this academic year. Exams have started and everyone has been working very hard. With this update we inform you about the latest developments within our University. If you have any questions after reading our update, do not hesitate to contact us! You can find our details at the end of the update.
Discussion theme Hybride education
At the beginning of each UC we get the chance to discuss one of the topics that were brought in by the Council during the meeting in September. This time we discussed hybrid education. Each party got the chance to present their ideas and opinions on these topics. We presented the following:
As Lijst Calimero, we believe that it is important that education should be physically facilitated wherever possible, taking into account all health risks. There are many possibilities. For example, from conversations we had with you guys, we understood that in some faculties are actually doing pretty well. Here, for example, students are given the opportunity to reserve a place in the lecture hall and in addition, the lecture is offered live online. This is not only better for the student, but also for the teacher who is not talking to a screen in this way, but there is actually an opportunity for interaction. As we just heard during the presentation of the strategic plan, the board also attaches great importance to the connection between student and teacher. But there are also faculties where only recordings of recent years are placed and where there are actually no opportunities for any kind of interaction between teacher and student. It is precisely because students spend whole days behind their computers that their motivation, concentration and mental well-being deteriorate. It remains very difficult to find a balance between physical and mental well-being. When online education is given they should look for ways to motivate and involve students in a new way. When choosing to only facilitate online education it is very important in our opinion that this does not affect the quality of online education. A central approach would probably already help a lot. We are now about 7 months further, there has been a lot of time to switch.
List of decisions by the UC of 17 september
A quick review of the decisions made by the board after the last council meeting. First of all the board is investigating whether or not it is possible to translate more of the documents into English.
A roadmap to achieving level 3 privacy is being made, that should be finished imminently.
The strategic plan was delayed due to corona, however it is nearly ready. It should be ready to be discussed for the new year if everything goes to plan.
Announcements by the board
Cisca Wijmenga gave a presentation on the strategic plan and the path that the university should take. The University has to stand on the three pillars of education, research and talent/excellence. A lot of input was gathered from the participation meetings set-up during the last academic year. They tried to integrate a lot of the wishes and views of staff and students into the new plan. However, we will only know how they were integrated during the next UCouncil meeting, as that is when we will all discuss the strategic plan. We look forward to seeing how the input was implemented into the plan.
The board urges everyone to keep to the measures put in place by the RIVM following the prime minister’s press conference on Tuesday. University Council meetings will not be transferring to physical meetings anytime soon. Working from home is the norm once again.
Bureau vertrouwenspersoon RUG rapportage 2019
On this point we had a discussion about the Confidential Advisor and the functioning of this bureau. From the report of 2019 it has become clear that there are quite some problems, mostly in the areas of registering cases, gathering information on a central and faculty level, and the capacity of the Confidential Advisor. Therefore we have asked a lot of questions and made critical comments to advocate for a restructuring of the Bureau vertrouwenspersoon. In the discussion it has become clear that the UG will also get an ombudsperson. This person will be an impartial third party that will deal with complaints. Therefore we will wait for the implementation of this person, which will take place in the beginning of next year, to see how the Bureau vertrouwenspersoon can be restructured.
Underrepresented voices at UG
A group of 26 people consisting of students and employees from all over the University discussed diversity & inclusion on the 2nd of July 2020 in Groningen. As a follow-up to this meeting, the group have formulated recommendations on the 10th of September 2020, called “Facilitating Underrepresented Voices UG”. In order to manage Diversity & Inclusion and to help with the role of the Chief D&I, the Board of the University has approved proposals in relation with the starting point and the planning of this action through the year.
The University also published a revised and elaborated version of the Strategic Partnership Framework. The SPF is a plan to broaden and deepen our University’s collaboration with other universities around the world. It will initially run in a pilot phase, involving nine universities. We voted in favour of this project because of the opportunities it provides to staff and students to further their education and research. This was evident in how the SPF created additional PhD places, student exchanges, and international lecturing opportunities. The Board, however, agreed with us that any further additions to this SPF will need to be approved by the Council first. We believe that this is an important step in guaranteeing the quality of education as the SPF expands in future years.
During the ‘any other business’ part of this council we drew attention to our opinion piece about two interrelated topics, namely the welfare of students and the importance of student organizations. This is a short summary of our opinion piece:
Student welfare is a topic that has been discussed a lot for years. Many students were already struggling with mental problems before the corona crisis, which are now only reinforced by the measures taken. In addition, it is now getting colder and darker which also results in a higher number of seasonal depressions. All in all, we can say that we should be very concerned about the well-being of our students. In addition, research by the Municipal Health Service (GGD) shows that infections occur much more often between housemates, namely 57.1% compared to 1.4% in activities of associations. From our regular conversations with associations, however, we hear that there is a lot of uncertainty about their role during corona. These student organizations are run by motivated students who have a heart for the association and they take full responsibility for it. As a university, why not make use of these motivated students with their creative ideas and solutions? Give the organizations the resources they need and meet them when they show initiative and use them as a partial solution to the urgent welfare problem described earlier. However, we would like to say that we very much appreciate the efforts mentioned, such as opening up the OB. There are a number of faculties where things are already going reasonably well, why keep reinventing the wheel when it is also possible to regulate this at a central level, make use of best practices.
The Board had a positive reaction and we are glad to see that there have already been some developments. However, we think it’s really important to keep looking out for the student’s well being. There have been a lot of meetings concerning this topic. Please contact us if you have any more suggestions!
For this council we sent in our third question about the Confucius Institute. After questions of two members of the House of Representatives about the prolonging of the contract it has become clear that this prolongation will take place silently in December. Next to this, Minister Van Engelshoven (Minister of Education, Culture and Science) answered that the contract is not confidential. Therefore we asked for transparency and consultation of the Council in the process of evaluating and prolonging the contract, especially since this topic is increasingly taking place in the public debate. The Board of the University answered that they are aware of this and that they will involve the Council by providing information. We will certainly stay on top of this and make sure that the Council will be involved.