University employees from all over the Netherlands are furious at outgoing education minister Ingrid van Engelshoven. She wants universities to prepare education activities with and without social distancing for September.
In a letter to all university boards, which she sent on Friday and shared on Twitter on Saturday, the minister writes that the cabinet won’t decide which scenario will actually be implemented until August 13.
Earlier, the universities were told that they could in all likelihood assume that there would be lectures without distance restrictions. The UG board decided in May to switch to a plan that doesn’t take the one and a half metre limit into account. Instead, groups can’t consist of more than seventy-five people.
The education minister’s tweet was not well received. ‘Do you realise what you are asking of teachers and support services? A group of people who are at their wits’ end. Hopeless’, said professor of private law Charlotte Pavillon.
‘Will you also provide an extra set of roster officers for the coming months?’ asked education coordinator Eva Teuling. ‘At our faculty, we have approximately 3-4 FTE. They need the whole summer to prepare for just one of these options.’
The common denominator of the hundreds of reactions is that the plan is impossible for both teachers and schedulers. ‘I plan everything ‘normally’. If that is not possible, I switch to everything online. That works, but not as well’, wrote Casper Albers, professor of statistics.
‘I’m not going to prepare for a third option. I’m a bit fed up with the government opening up everything but education. I guess it will just have to go wrong.’
The Dutch National Students Association (ISO) is also unhappy with the news. ‘The whole of the Netherlands can go back to the office, on holiday, and to festivals, but students are once again being given the runaround,’ says president Lisanne de Roos. ‘It’s incomprehensible that students and institutions are kept in the dark even longer about what the coming academic year will look like. August 13 is too late.’
In contrast to the ISO, the national student union LSVb is pleased with the news. According to its president Ama Boahene, it’s good news that physical education seems to be possible in the new year, and universities should ‘prepare for the best scenario’.