10 October 2018 • Dave van Ginhoven
What to do when there’s nothing you can do
There’s nothing I hate more than feeling helpless, but it’s happened to me twice recently and inspired some self-reflection.
On 7 October I was supposed to see U2, but when I arrived at the Ziggo Dome after months of anticipation, I was told that my tickets had already been scanned by someone else. It was suggested that I might have been careless with my tickets and when my wife and I protested, security threw us out on the street like we were a couple of drunks who just got handsy at a strip club. There was nothing we could do.
This happened just days after THUAS was in the news for its unflattering ranking in the Keuzegids, something that I felt was just as unfair as getting bounced out of a concert that cost me 200 euro. It made me angry, because I felt like there was nothing I could do.
There’s nothing I can do about the fact that much the ranking was based on the National Student Survey (NSE), or the fact that no one seems to care that the NSE measures Student Satisfaction, not Quality, or the fact that only a third of our students actually completed it, or the fact that it includes questions that wouldn’t cut the mustard in my research skills course, or the fact that the NSE is presented to students as a way to give valuable feedback to their school, but ends up being used to rank their programme in a way that could impact their own reputations as graduates, effectively tricking them into devaluing their diplomas. There’s nothing any of us can do. Or is there?
I’m not religious, but the words of an old prayer spring to mind: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” As hard as it is, I have to accept that no one ever wins a fight with Ticketmaster and I’m never going to hear Bono sing ‘Acrobat’ live, but I CAN still listen to that song anytime I want, and maybe I’ll pay special attention lyrics about not letting the bastards grind you down.
At THUAS, we have to accept that even if we didn’t get the results we were hoping for and even if we don’t feel that the Keuzegids gives an accurate picture of the quality of our programmes, we have to focus on what we CAN do.
We can, for example, take NSE feedback seriously and do whatever’s possible to address it. We can also talk to our students to find out more about how to increase their satisfaction and study success, while also making sure that they’re aware of the impact that such surveys have on our reputation and theirs. And we can do our level best to do a kick-ass job in the classroom.
In short, we can be mad about bad reviews, or we can get to work early tomorrow and figure out how we’re going to prove them wrong.
But that’s just one guy talking.
Dave van Ginhoven is a senior lecturer at European Studies, which he’s happy to promote to anyone who will listen. Before that he used to be a journalist and a Canadian. He loves to talk, but don’t take him too seriously. He’s only one guy.