23 September 2019 • HNTB
Constructive start of the staff and student participation year
Two armchairs and a table lamp. They are placed in front of the stage in the auditorium. It could hardly be more homey than that. However, the auditorium is not filled with people who came for a monopoly competition, but for the kick-off of the 2019-2020 staff and student participation year. They are people who are involved at any level in staff and student participation as well as in the decision-making processes.
There were times in the history of The Hague University of Applied Sciences when participation and decision-making were somewhat at odds with each other. Chairman and professor in Change Management, Jacco van Uden, reflects on this in a playful way by showing a homemade remake of a Monty Python clip. It is a conversation on a construction site, during which the interviewer keeps holding the microphone in front of the person who is not speaking. This is, you could say, an unconstructive way of communicating. The easy chairs and table lamp hold the promise of even more to come.
Getting away from the silo mentality
Jacco van Uden is proud of the “programme that has been put together so well.” How should it go? How did it go? How can it be done? What will it become? These are the questions that will be dealt with in the plenary session. First of all, he will have a brief conversation with the new chairman of the General Council, Mendeltje van Keulen, and with the chairman of the Executive Board, Leonard Geluk.
Mendeltje van Keulen, professor in Changing Role of Europe and, earlier in her career, chairman of the works council of the Clingendael Institute, would like to see more exchanges of ideas at the university of applied sciences. “We still work in silos too much. I prefer to make connections.” Leonard Geluk is happy with the fact that everyone has now been chosen for the participation councils. Services, education and research are all represented. As far as I am concerned, we are going to focus on strengthening cooperation.”
Many members of the participation councils are new. How to do it, then, is a relevant question. Deputy Registrar, Paul de Widt, and Director of the Office of the Board, Jerimi van Laar, explain how the staff and student participation councils can be supported. Jerimi: “Have a feeling for what’s really going on, across the whole of the university of applied sciences, at the faculty or service department levels. Be proactive and come up with ideas. Paul and I want to find the legal basis and facilitate you.” Paul points out the importance of real dialogue. “Talk to the participating authorities at the beginning of the processes. This way, you give signals to the participating authorities.”
It’s getting busier around the table lamp. Jacco van Uden talks to three people from the HRM Degree Programme Advisory Committee: Sander Rijksbaron, programme manager, Hans Veentjer, lecturer, and Lisanne van Deijk, student. They talk about successes and problems in the daily practice of staff and student participation. So, they address the question: how did it go?
Any problems? Each of them gives a score of 9 for the cooperation between the authorities and the participation in their faculty. Jacco then puts into words what many people are thinking: “Three 9s, that’s too good to be true! What would it take for you guys to lower that grade? Sander Rijksbaron: “That could easily go down if our conversations were no longer about the content, but were to become very procedural.”
Of course there’s always room for improvement. As far as Lisanne is concerned, she would like it to become easier to fill vacant seats in the future. Hans Veentjer believes that something could be done about the remuneration and the hours that are available for the participation councils. And Sander believes that there are not enough formal arrangements for staff and student participation at The Hague University of Applied Sciences. “We also need to make students more enthusiastic and, as a degree programme advisory committee, we can look a little further ahead.”
Peeking at the neighbours
In that respect, they have arranged things better at the Fontys University of Applied Sciences. Jacco is talking to Hans Smaal, chairman of the central participation committee there, and to Thyme van den Beuken, the chairman of the student group. Hans Smaal: “We’re putting the responsibilities in staff and student participation as low as possible, i.e. in the sub-councils. We’re learning to let go of ingrained ways.”
Thyme: “I get involved in the process in a timely manner by keeping an eye on the annual calendar, by being proactive and by asking critical questions. Always keep in mind that you are not a professional in the participation councils. Most importantly, say what you have to say as a support staff member, lecturer or as a student. Let yourself be supported by the people who are there for this and do your best to keep the atmosphere good.”
Forget Monty Python
Then it is time to continue getting to know each other on a decentralised basis and, as a council or committee, to enter into dialogue with the authorities on what is going on within the university of applied sciences, the faculty, the degree programme or the service departments. I eavesdrop here and there. At the instigation of Mendeltje van Keulen, the General Council, together with the Executive Board, will examine questions about content, process and practical issues in greater depth.
In another room, the Faculty Council and the ITD Degree Programme Advisory Committee discuss spearheads and preconditions. And the participation council within the Faculty of Management & Organisation is having a good conversation with the faculty dean at the same time.
The armchairs and table lamp have now become unnecessary props. The conversations in the groups exude a constructive attitude. The get-together with drinks afterwards was warm and friendly. Monty Python was forgotten.