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Dean Jan Kolen: 'The foreseeable future will present us all with new challenges, but we will face and overcome them together'

20 March 2020

As nearly everyone else, Jan Kolen is also working from home.

A word from the Dean

The philosopher, Peter Sloterdijk, once reminded that even in the heydays of globalization our lives are ultimately local and localized. Notwithstanding the abstract view of global space and time that we as archaeologists - both researchers/lecturers and students - have become familiar with, our work and lives always take place in localized physical settings. Think about our fieldwork landscapes, excavation sites, labs, study rooms and, -perhaps most importantly- our homes. Yet, in these days, it becomes increasingly clear that there are gradations of local life. In the upcoming weeks, most probably, our world will become ever smaller. Even to such extent that most of us can only remember from our youth. 

We have not chosen for this situation out of free will, of course, and the effects are worrying. Some of us have to take care of vulnerable loved ones, or for children as our partners are desperately needed elsewhere – like our hospitals and care centres. 

At some point in time our local worlds will open up again. Perhaps at that time we can use the lessons learned under these harsh conditions to provide remote teaching programs for the growing number of young people who are not able to pay for an expensive study at Leiden University. Young people from all around the world, from Europe through Asia, Africa and the Americas. There is the potential now to find new ways for working at home that significantly decreases pressure on our natural environment and physical infrastructures. These benefits may not weight up to the losses, but they will be there, and they could help so many others.

In the meantime teaching will proceed digitally. Our non-scientific staff have been working tirelessly over the past few days to prepare for the remaining part of the semester and to facilitate all our lecturers with their remote teaching. Thank you –staff and teachers - for all your efforts. 
Our students are flexible and smart (and fast) users of information technologies, but they will miss the social contacts and conviviality that self-evidently belongs to the life of young people and students. We will stay in touch with them throughout the process of learning and studying in coming weeks, which asks for self-motivation and determination on their side as well.

Our staff is naturally attracted to, and talented at preforming research. We therefore belief that you, apart from those offering remote courses and guiding students through the next block of the teaching programs, will also find ways and time to finish publications, start up new research, develop new ideas and perspectives on the deep history of humankind, and -who knows- make new plans for the next step in their careers. 

This is a trying time for any working professional, but our thoughts particularly go out to our PhD’s, who may experience serious delays in their research projects. They should know that we all fully support them and that we will do everything for them that is in our power as soon as life and work conditions have normalized. They are the future, and we have full confidence that they will emerge from this difficult period more successful than ever.

The foreseeable future will present us all with new events and new challenges. We will face them as students, as academics, as staff, but we will face them together and we will overcome them together. Social distancing is uncomfortable, and for many of us unnatural, but it is necessary to protect what we hold dear. 

Stay strong. Be safe. It will take some time, but we will see this through. 

Cordial greetings, 

Dean Jan Kolen 

On behalf of the other members of the Faculty Board 

Bleda Düring, Chair of Research 
Rory Granleese, Assessor (Student Affairs) 
Jacqueline Schut-Adema, Chair of Finance and Operations 
Janneke Mulders, Secretary

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