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‘Don’t only ask for advice during elections’ (correction)

The student-staff ratio has been a key issue in university politics for years. But no one on the university council has ever asked the staff for advice on the matter, says Mariano Méndez, chair of the FSE faculty council.

Every two years we, the staff members of the University of Groningen, have the chance to elect who will represent us at the university council and other councils across the university.

Last Sunday morning, just one day before the elections started, several of us received an email from a candidate to the university council asking us for advice about the issue of the 5 to 10 percent growth of the student population in Groningen without a similar growth of the staff and facilities.

The student-staff ratio is a very topical issue at FSE. The fact that we have discussed this topic almost every time the faculty council met with the FSE board over the past four years is proof of that. This is a topic near to both students’ and staff members’ hearts; both factions wish to see a more balanced student-staff ratio to help improve the learning environment and reduce work pressure.

I don’t know how things are at other faculties, but judging from what I hear from members of other councils and what I read in UKrant, it is clear to me that this is an important topic across the whole university. What is also clear to me is that this topic is not new, and that this discussion has been going on for years.

The question is: what have the university council in general done about this in all these years? And how often did the council contact the staff and student members of the faculty councils to hear their ideas about this problem?

Over the past six years, no member of the faculty council has ever been approached by the university council

I cannot answer the first question in any way because I do not attend university council meetings, but I am willing to accept that the council may have come with proposals to try and address this issue.

Concerning the second question: over the past six years, no member of the faculty council has ever been approached by any member of the university council regarding this problem. The chairs and vice chairs of all the councils meet regularly with members of the university council to discuss important topics, but this topic was never on the agenda of those meetings.

I’m not advocating for or against any particular candidate in this piece. I am also not campaigning for myself. I am a candidate for the FSE council, but since we only have nine candidates for nine positions, there won’t be elections this year.

It is understandable (and fair) that candidates want to expose themselves to the community at election times to try and get votes. My intention is to reach out to the members of the university council that get elected this year and ask them to be more proactive in consulting the communities they represent during the whole period in office, and not just before an election.

Mariano Méndez is professor of high-energy astrophysics at the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute, and is currently the chair of the FSE faculty council.

CORRECTION: The original letter stated that members of the faculty council had not been approached by members of the university council for the past six years, the published version stated that no FSE employee had been approached by the university council. This has been corrected after publication.

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