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Dean Paul Wouters: 'Don’t expect the impossible of each other and of your students!'

23 March 2020

In the light of the coronavirus outbreak Dean Paul Wouters has a video message for all FSW faculty & staff:

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Dear collegues,

As we face into the second week of us as a Faculty having to work apart from one another, I want first of all to express my huge personal thanks to you all for your adaptability, efforts, and flexibility. In this international health crisis, we are feeling our way together. It’s not easy and we have to handle all sorts of challenges.

The Faculty Board is proud of the way each of you is making the most of the drastic measures we have to take for the sake of public health as a whole. I really want to emphasize that we cannot expect each other simply to continue all our work activities online. A great deal of our teaching and research requires us to be in a shared space. And that is now impossible, so we will have to accept that in this crisis it’s ok to scale down our ambitions somewhat. Don’t expect the impossible of each other and of your students!

As in all times of crisis, your own health comes first. We’re all working out how to cope with the social and professional implications of this situation. Being and staying healthy and looking after our loved ones is the highest priority. Look after yourself, and also those around you and your colleagues. It takes time to adapt your surroundings and the way you work.

The coronavirus causes a lot of uncertainty. We have to handle a lot of information every day. Stress and fear are also all part of the equation. So it’s important to look out for one another. Don’t hesitate to ask for support and advice. We are facing a protracted crisis situation, and we’re all finding our way together.

The reality changes every day, and that demands flexibility of us all, and an ability to improvise. Today we start remote teaching. A lot of effort has gone into setting this up over the last week. Very many thanks to all of you for the enormous efforts and creativity that have been called for to convert our teaching to remote learning in such a short time.

This crisis also has important implications for research and other activities. We in the Faculty Board and its Decentralized Crisis Team are trying to keep everyone informed as best as possible. For everyone the same rule applies: do as much as you can online, and do what you can.

I have enormous admiration for the flexibility everyone is demonstrating in puzzling out how to work from home. For our Faculty and University it is a new experience to do this together on such a large scale. And it has huge personal consequences. Certainly if you also have to teach children at home, or if you are in isolation. I am impressed at how calmly and flexibly you have handled this. It makes great demands on your adaptability and time, and means finding different ways of working and coordinating our work. In addition – with a view to possible absence due to illness – it is important to ensure good backup arrangements. So let’s support and help each other with that too.

Finally, I’ve been impressed by the various heart-warming initiatives for coming together online – from joint app groups and online meetings, digital lunches, and coffee dates to shared online sports activities. As social scientists, we have a good understanding of how unsociable and downright unpleasant social distancing is. Luckily our Faculty is brimming with enough creativity, humour, and inventiveness to cope with the new reality.

Not everything will go well immediately, and we are aware that our systems don’t always cooperate as they should. These limitations are part of today’s reality.

Let me repeat: your own health, and the health of those around you, is the most important thing of all. If you have any symptoms, contact your doctor and inform your manager. I have every confidence that we will weather this crisis. I will keep you posted regularly over the coming weeks and wish you not only health and strength, but also another good and flexible week’s work.

Stay safe,

Paul Wouters
Dean Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

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