“Ok, before I start this class I will be honest with you, this is not my field of expertise whatsoever. Originally I knew just as little as you know now about this course. The only difference is that the last weeks I have been studying the textbook intensely and spent hours on the phone with the coordinator of this course, the only one left of this section after the reorganization a couple of years ago.” Those were the first sentences of our tutorial class of Economic Methodology this year. Obviously, I had heard about the reorganisation and the accompanying redundancies before, but it never sank in until that particular moment. So when the protests at the Maagdenhuis resulted in the rethink of the UvA’s programme, and even led to a meeting for FEB staff and students to exchange ideas and discuss the current situation, I did everything I could to attend this meeting. I was really curious about the FEB’s democratisation. Will things change and if so, in what way? To what extent would this result in better quality education and would it resolve my concerns about our faculty?
So I went to the M-building and stepped into a lecture room with a125 seats capacity. I was a little surprised by this, as the FEB has thousands of students and hundreds of lecturers. When the meeting started I looked around and approximately 70 people were in attendance. Barely ten of them were students, and four of those students were from the Students’ Council, and practically obliged to show up. To make things clear, every student and every staff-member received a personal invitation to participate in this discussion. So, the room was largely filled with staff members, and not surprisingly, the teacher I quoted previously was sitting right behind me. The Student Council, the Works Council, the Dean of the FEB, Han van Dissel, and even the Rector of the UvA, Dymph van den Boom, were all present at this gathering. The former vice-chair of the FEB Works Council led the discussion and in the spirit of ‘More room for discussion’ five points were to be discussed during the meeting, namely: quality & efficiency, education & research, temporary contracts, democracy and (financial) transparency.
The discussion started with the democracy topic, the first angry words came from right behind me, “During the reorganisation of 2011, the FEB showed a real lack of democracy, I was about to be fired, the only reason I am still standing here, is because I made an appeal and convinced the management I had to stay!”. Wow, that was heavy! The teacher in question and members of the Works Council requested a report to evaluate the reorganization, to face the facts.
“I was about to be fired, the only reason I am still standing here, is because I made an appeal and convinced the management I had to stay!”
After a rough discussion between the Dean and the staff, the moderator asked the students what they thought about the democracy problem. I was very curious about their opinion, it was honestly the first time I saw the person I voted for last year. This was the person who represented all the students of the FEB! “Actually we already have a lot of rights, the only problem is that nobody can see what we are doing and what we are working on.” Wow, not the kind of reaction I expected after all the complaints from students about lack of say.
The following topic, research versus education, was again a sensitive subject for the staff. The man behind me raised his hand as high as he could, but as soon as he mentioned reorganization the floor was given directly to someone else, not surprisingly to a member of the Works Council. ‘There should be an incentive for teachers for good teaching, now every additional hour you spend on teaching you can spend less on research, of which the latter is better rewarded.’
as soon as he mentioned reorganization the floor was given directly to someone else
And again the moderator explicitly asked the Students Council what they thought about this topic. “We think it’s a pity that teachers never share their research with the students.” That was all they had to say about it.
Finally we had arrived at the subject I was waiting for; quality and efficiency. In my mind I was thinking about a heated debate between students and teachers, about why we have multiple choice exams most of the time, and how it is possible that we have tutorials in groups of sixty persons with teachers who are not at all specialised in the courses they are giving. But it went quite differently. Again, the man behind me looked hopefully at the moderator, meanwhile I caught myself looking hopeful too, eager to know what this interesting man wanted to say about this matter. Unfortunately, the moderator pretended he didn’t see his hand and let someone else do the talking: “After the war, the aims of the university were: research, education and society. Now the societal aims are missing, with A-rated journals with Z quality as a result.”
Now it was time for the moderator to look hopeful, an expected glance to the Students Council again. But their response was to restate how disappointing it was that students never saw any of their teachers’ research results.
After about one and a half hours the meeting came to an end. At the end the moderator asked if anyone had something to add, again I felt an unsatisfied hand rising behind my back. “No? Nobody has anything to say? Good! Then we can have a nice drink with each other now!”