In the issue of May 9th, the Universiteitskrant addressed the housing problems at the Faculty Behavioral and Social Sciences. Here, we, the staff of the Faculty of BSS, would like to respond to several statements by our Dean in this article.
In the article, it is stated that ‘not everyone is happy with the plans of the Faculty Board’. This is something of an understatement: Virtually no one seems to be happy with the plans of the Faculty Board, as indicated by the large number of signatories to this letter. The psychology staff have several serious issues with plans of the Faculty Board, and the way these plans have been put forward.
First of all, the constructive input of the Housing committee, directors and department chairs regarding housing has been brushed aside by the Faculty Board. From the very beginning of this year, the department of psychology has demonstrated that the housing plans will have many negative consequences for teaching and research, while the Faculty Board has failed to make a proper analysis of the consequences of relocating teaching rooms to the Hortus campus.
The presented plans therefore lack proper justification. The Board, however, continues to insist that renting additional space outside the Hortus location is not an option. The many attempts by the department to engage in a constructive discussion with the Board have yielded no results. Quite the contrary: The Board blames staff for disagreeing with the Board’s housing plans. As a result, the only conclusion we can draw as staff is that the Board fails to promote the primary interests of our faculty: the quality of our teaching and research.
Secondly, communication about the housing plans has been very poor, even after repeated requests of staff members, and as a result of this, the reasoning behind the present plans is completely unclear.
Thirdly, the present plan encompasses the conversion of the Heymans wing into teaching units, and relocation of staff members who have their offices there to other rooms on the Hortus location. As a result, members of sub-departments will be separated from their colleagues. Moreover, the sub-department of developmental psychology will be forced to move to another building in its entirety. All these measures will have direct and indirect negative impact on the quality of teaching and research.
Of course staff would completely understand housing plans in order to remain within budgets, as long as quality of teaching and research is not negatively affected. However, that is not the case for Board’s present housing plans.
In our discussions with the Board, psychology has put forward four main arguments explaining why the present plans will have disastrous consequences for teaching and research:
The Heymans wing is not suitable for teaching. The Board wants to convert offices in the Heymans wing to teaching space. This building, albeit originally built for teaching, has already been shown to be unsuitable for teaching because of climate control issues. Rooms get too hot and stuffy – this was one of the reasons to convert the building to office space in the first place. Relocating teaching rooms to this building will have a negative impact on the quality of teaching.
There will be insufficient teaching space to schedule teaching during daytime. Even if the Heymans wing is completely converted into teaching space, there will still be insufficient room to schedule all classes during the day. In the plans, teaching is routinely scheduled in the evening hours. Apart from the massive inconvenience for students, and teaching staff and their families, we know that teaching in the evenings reduces teaching quality.
Physical separation of sub-departments negatively impacts cohesion in the department. In recent years, the Department of Psychology has strongly invested in increasing cohesion between the sub-departments. For example, our research program will now be evaluated as one unit in the coming research assessment, and several new master programmes have been initiated to which two or more sub-departments are contributing, such as the highly successful Talent & Creativity programme. Physically separating sub-departments will lead to practical problems, for example with secretarial support.
More importantly, though, separation damages cohesion and collegiality, and may even result in unwelcome formation of divisions and sub-groups within sub-departments, effectively undermining the cohesion that the department has worked so hard to achieve. Cohesion between sub-departments is an absolute requirement for effective and innovative research and teaching.
Tenured/tenure-track staff should not share offices. A final part of the plan is that staff with a research and teaching appointment (i.e. assistant/associate professors) will have to share offices. This will also have negative consequences for teaching and research. Preparation of teaching and research both entail highly focused work.
Other duties of tenured staff, such as student supervision, require the possibility to meet with students or colleagues without affecting other colleagues. Such meetings are often ad hoc and on short notice. This will no longer be possible without disturbing colleagues when rooms are shared: all meetings will have to be scheduled, and rooms will need to be booked, adding administrative burden. Given the projected lack of space, it is very doubtful such rooms will be available.
Obviously, this limits the possibilities for spontaneous chats with colleagues, but even worse, it significantly limits the availability of staff to students – in many cases it will no longer be possible for a students to have spontaneous interactions about their thesis or other projects of interest with professors. The atmosphere required for creativity and a sense of community will be negatively impacted. Sharing offices will also result in more colleagues working from home, where they can work undisturbed. The atmosphere of co-creation and creativity required for excellent teaching and research will be severely undermined by absent staff.
All the measures proposed by the Faculty Board are at the expense of the core goals of our work as academics: to excel in teaching and research. Only a modest investment, which the Faculty Board so far refuses to make, will ensure that we can continue to fulfill these duties.
Elkan Akyurek, Casper Albers, Dorien Bangma, Stella Banis, Dick Barelds, Gwennis Barthel, Julian Boelens, Nienke Boersma, Elske Bos, Charmaine Borg, Theo Bouman, Elise Bennik, Thecla Brakel, Jolien van Breen, Gerrit Breeuwsma, Laura Bringman, Marah Butzbach, Ralf Cox, Simon Dalley, Sandra Dammers, Judith Daniels, Sjoukje van Dellen, Maarten Derksen, Marijn van Dijk, Friederike Doerwald, Selena Dolderer, Stacey Donofrio, Sarah Elbert, Hermien Elgersma, Ando Emerencia, Kai Epstude, Fleur van Feen, Minita Franzen, Anselm Fuermaier, Mandy van der Gaag, Geraldina Gaastra, Anna van der Gaast- Witkowska, Coby Gerlsma, Klaske Glashouwer, Ole Gmelin, Hedy Greijdanus, Yvonne Groen, Alike Groot Koerkamp, Gera de Haan, Nina Hansen, José Heesink, Sonja Heimink-Groot, Janika Heitmann, Yannick Hill, Wiljo van Hout, Marloes Huis, Rafaele Huntjens, Dorothee Jelsma, Bertus Jeronimus, Steph Johnson-Zawadzki, Lise Jans, Ellen de Jong, Kiki de Jong, Nicole de Jong, Rachel de Jong, Lisette de Jonge Hoekstra, Nienke Jonker, Jacob Jolij, Anita Keller, Nicola Klein, Kees Keizer, Henk Kiers, Barbara Kip, Janneke Koerts, Tessa Kok, Libbe Kooistra, Namkje Koudenburg, Leonie Kreuze, Edith van Krimpen-Stoop, Saskia Kunnen, Toon Kuppens, Pontus Leander, Nienke Lemmen, Lonneke Lenferink, Miriam Lommen, Iris van der Lijn, Wim Meerholz, Rob Meijer, Darya Moghini, Aafke van Mourik Broekman, Maaike Nauta, Renate Neimeijer, Brian Ostafin, Sara van de Par, William Pitz, Tom Postmes, Marieke Pijnenborg, Ron van Ravenzwaaij, Selwyn Renard, Eric Rietzschel, Justin Richardson, Diana Rus, Tassos Sarampalis, Susanne Scheibe, Christien Slofstra, Nick Snel, Mark Span, Russell Spears, Henderien Steenbeek, Laura Steenhuis, Frank Steyvers, Elise van der Stouwe, Maggie Stroebe, Katharine Stroebe, Jorge Tendeiro, Catia Teixeira, Marieke Timmerman, Lara Tucha, Oliver Tucha, Marije aan het Rot, Berfu Unal, Jasper Vogel, Leonie Vrieling, Bertine de Vries, Pieter de Vries, Stefanie de Vries, Janine Weeting, Ineke Wessel, Annemie Wetzels, Burkhard Wortler, Barbara Wisse, Wu Yingqui, Nadja Zeiske, Martijn van Zomeren