Op-ed: ‘Dear rector. Develop. A. Vision’
Looking at the past few weeks I have a thing or two to say, and since you took the liberty to insult all active students last week, I’ll be hijacking this session for a bit. But of course I will try to keep it as constructive as possible.
Before I begin, however, I would like to note that everything that is about to follow are my own personal opinions, based on my experiences. And although most of these experiences come from my time as an active student and board member of a study association at FSE, my opinions should in no way be taken as representing the bodies I am connected to.
With that out of the way, let’s start with my suggestions. Ironically enough, this very session and everything surrounding it will serve as a perfect example for most of them.
First off, I recommend you change your mentality. What do I mean by that? Very simple: If study associations host an event and very little people show up, they take a step back and question whether the event they organised is actually what their members are looking for and whether they should try other avenues of promotion.
You, however, did neither, and instead told UKrant how disappointed you were in the students’ lack of willingness to take responsibility. This is insulting to all the students I see around me doing voluntary work or overtime at FSE and who are the driving force behind much of the change and improvement in the faculty.
It also shows a baffling lack of reflection and insight. Do you really think that in a university with tens of thousands of students only seven people would show up to a well thought-out and properly promoted brainstorm session? How does that not raise any questions? We got over twenty people to show up to a session for just the physics cluster, and we even sent you the report for that.
You are showing a baffling lack of reflection and insight
Anyway, since you do not seem to have realised that something is wrong, let me go over it, bringing me nicely into my second recommendation:
Fix your communication. A mere alerting message does not constitute, as you claim in the article, ‘doing everything to call people to join the session’. Students already get so many messages like that, and most of them haven’t paid attention to them since about two weeks into their studies.
Even the students I know that usually religiously check the messages seemed barely aware of this session’s existence, since the subject of the message was also very unclear. If you really care about an activity, do as associations and other student communities have been doing for ages. Send out newsletters, heck, even separate invitation mails. We usually do big WhatsApp campaigns for important things, too.
I see how this might not be feasible for you as a board, but if it seemed like you really cared, I think most study associations would be more than willing to help out.
It’s not only the communication with students that needs work, however. One thing I think would significantly lower the workload for staff is to improve your communication with, and awareness of, the faculties. Instead of just pushing things, work together with them, have conversations.
Take for instance the study spaces. Instead of properly coordinating the information flow with the faculties about opening up study spaces to students, you sent out a message to everyone, with information that directly conflicted with the FSE policy, confusing everyone involved. You could also think about making money available specifically for faculties to improve their internal communication.
My third recommendation concerns your stated aim for this session. You were looking for ‘quick wins that can be achieved fast, as well as for groundbreaking ideas through which we can respond to rising student numbers and the uncertainty of future coronavirus measures’.
It’s not only the communication with students that needs work
I have several problems with this. First off, how come you are looking for fixes for problems caused by rising student numbers? Wasn’t it you who attracted them in the first place? Was there no long-term plan behind this?
Secondly, these seem like big, structural problems, and when have quick short-term solutions ever properly worked to fix those? And even if they could, they would be far more useful if implemented on a faculty level, like we are trying to do at FSE. But you are a central body.
I was also wondering: why have this session now? We’re quite a few months into the academic year and a year into the corona pandemic, and these problems have been evident for a long time now. Why come up with a session now, when the few short-term solutions that would have an effect have become practically infeasible to execute before summer?
The recommendation is thus: find your role in this university. Develop a proper vision, and base a long-term plan on that. Leave short-term solutions to the faculties, and facilitate their communication so they can share their experiences.
In addition, act on what you say. You can’t claim to have an anti-racism week and then do nothing with it. You can’t claim to care for diversity while also shooting down many of the projects people come up with, seemingly for arbitrary reasons. You can’t attract a bunch of international students and then have all your communication be in Dutch. You can’t have a session to brainstorm with people and then not promote it.
Develop. A. Vision.
This concludes my recommendations.
Tesse Tiemens is a physics students at the UG.