Usually, the university council committee meetings are quiet. But on Thursday, the public gallery was filled to the brim with employees of the KVI-Center for Advanced Radiation Technology (KVI-CART).
They don’t understand why the board of directors wants to restructure their institute. In reality, this would lead to the dissolution of the institute, and the members of the three research groups would have to be employed elsewhere. But it could also mean forced redundancies,
‘What problem are they even solving?’ Oscar Kuiken, technician at KVI-CART and secretary for the employees’ council, said during the meeting. ‘We are doing well. So why is this plan being rushed through?’
The RUG board says it doesn’t have much of a choice. The KVI-CART, which was reorganised once before in 2013, is running low on reserves. Every year, there are new budget deficits. The deficit consisted of more than 400,000 euros in 2017, and 200,000 euros in 2018. ‘Nuclear physics just isn’t very high on the agenda’, says board president Jouke de Vries. ‘That means it’s difficult to get funding for it.’
Additionally, it’s said the researchers don’t collaborate enough, the expensive particle accelerator isn’t used enough, and there are insufficient funds coming in from companies.
And so the board of the directors is now officially announcing the reorganisation. They have been talking to the Faculty of Science and Engineering (FSE), who are interested in adopting the astrophysics research group. Medical sciences is in talks to take on the medical physics group, which researches proton therapy, among other things.
But FSE has already said they are not interested in the nuclear physics research group. ‘And we have to respect the autonomy of faculties. So we can’t make them’, says De Vries.
The university council strongly disagrees with his arguments. Bart Beijer with the personnel faction and Lawrence Gormley with the science faction wonder why the board is dismissing several large grants that were acquired in 2018 – some of them as recent as December? And why did the board block the signing of contracts for new projects?
This supposedly lost the KVI-CART 1.5 million in income. ‘2018 was supposed to be the year we reaped what we sowed, but we’re being denied the opportunity’, says Olaf Scholten with the personnel faction, who also works at KVI-Cart.
The factions also want the board to promise there won’t be any forced redundancies. But De Vries refuses to accommodate them. ‘I can’t make that promise. It wouldn’t be fair.’
He does maintain that he thinks all staff will be able to find a position elsewhere, even if it isn’t at the RUG. ‘I think some researchers will have more opportunities to continue their research abroad.’
The university council has no right to consent, only the right to advise on reorganisations. In this case, the council’s advice will probably be negative; the board of directors can choose to ignore this.