Blog and opinion
9 February 2018 • Karel van der Lelij
The uncomfortable disparity of non-committance
I read your last two blogs, sometimes agreeably, but more often with the question of whether we are talking about the same reality, about the same THUAS. In your blog of 15 January you state: ‘It takes many cups of coffee for the Executive Board to hear any criticism from teachers and staff’. This is something that Leonard and Hans have done recently, albeit it with a slice of pizza. I experienced those meetings as constructive discussions, where there was also room for criticism of the Executive Board’s policy.
Room for criticism
On Tuesday 16 January, Leonard gave willing participants insight into his findings and how he experienced those discussions. Once again there was room for criticism. Even more so, he organised that critical debate himself and was very open to hearing all sides. Am I correct in that I did not see you there, in any event, did not hear you?
In your last blog, you connect the lack of room for contradiction with the crisis at the university of applied sciences, I experience a very different crisis at THUAS. If there is a crisis at THUAS, then I would not say it is down to a lack of room for contradiction, but due to too much non-committance. I also read that in your blog: As far as you are concerned, staff should be able to get away with not implementing decisions once taken. I formulate that as such, because I want to show the flip side of that coin that you call room for ‘a significant counterforce and freedom of speech’. I feel like you are going a little overboard here.
Since 1968, democratisation has been blazing a trail and having to compete with other movements in society. It has made society as it is today; nothing more and nothing less. That provides room for personal opinions and for significant counterforce. But work still needs to be done and work takes place within the frameworks of decision making and policy. I take to frameworks like a duck to water; frameworks within which people can not simply do what they feel like doing. I am an advocate of frameworks, because in part they can lead to results through the checks and balances.
If there is crisis at THUAS, then it could lie in the forms and procedures that can get in the way of lecturers, and also students and staff, and that can lead to despair. I refer to the poor setup of OnStage, to the sub-optimal use of Sharepoint and the registration procedure for courses and exams. They help no one (except to get out of the frying pan into the fire). They keep me and others from actually working; thereby becoming increasingly less efficient and even less effective.
The unlimited scaling down of support staff is really not the solution. Moreover, it fails the colleagues who have chosen support as a challenge; either consciously or subconsciously. I do not know how it works for you, but when I am able to work with colleagues from the services (without forms and procedures), I experience positive energy and passion for the education.
I believe as you do that the ratio between Support Staff and Teaching Staff could be more in balance than it stands now at 38:62. But you should not – as you now do in your blog play off the SS and TS against each other, without solid research, as if the TS does all the work and SS sits back and watches. Procedures can be reduced with the right tools. But the SS, TS and students have to do that together.
It all sounds so dismissive in your blogs. I not only disagree with your opinion in relation to the content (that sometimes provokes good debates), but you appear to be seeking out the confrontation instead of wanting to solve things together. As chair of the General Council and as a colleague, you could help me by not only emphasising the contradictions but by also looking at what connects you and others. You do not create solutions by stating how something should not be done. I believe you create solutions by looking for them together.
This blog is partly inspired by Managing Professionals? Don’t! by Mathieu Weggeman.
This is a reaction to the blog that has been summarised by the editorial team. For the full version, please contact the author via: K.J.vanderLelij@hhs.nl.
Guest blogger and university of applied sciences lecturer Karel van der Lelij: At work, you can’t just do what you feel like doing, which is why frameworks are required.