‘In a healthy society you let your voice be heard’
The University elections are being held from 25 to 29 May. All employees can vote online for the staff members of the University Council.There are two parties on the electoral list, FNV Overheid and PhDoc. We spoke to the leading candidates of both parties.
Remco Breuker, FNV Overheid
‘I never imagined I would go into ''politics'', but here I am. And that's because I really think there are some things that need to be done differently. Researchers are working in an environment that's bad for their health. I have no problem if people like to work hard or put in more hours than they're paid for; I do the same myself. But there's something wrong if we're more or less forced into it by our employers. And that's just what's happening in universities.'
‘FNV Overheid (the Government sector of the Federation of Dutch Trade Unions) wants to reduce the pressure of work at Leiden University. It's simply too high. There's a lack of adequate funding, so lecturers are working too many hours, and many of them are on the brink of a burnout. There's also something wrong with the balance of power. The management is much too top down, which means that teachers, for example, have too little say in the education budgets. At the same time, the bulk of the responsibility is on their shoulders. I believe we should divide the power more fairly.'
‘I see the other party – PhDoc – not so much as a rival, but as a partner. We have different ideas about where we want to focus, but it wouldn't surprise me if we think the same about a lot of things. It seems to me logical, for instance, that they want more attention to be paid to the interests of young researchers, because they are often in a very precarious position with temporary contracts. But, even though the differences between our parties may be small, it's still important to vote. In a healthy society you let your voice be heard; it's a privilege to be able to do that. And if you don't vote, you forfeit the right to complain about what goes on.'
Nicholas Kontovas, PhDoc
‘Since coming to live in Leiden I've noticed that the majority of PhD candidates and postdocs, and particularly the ones who come from abroad, like me, have some difficulties with social, academic and administrative issues at the University. I want their voice to be heard. The current system doesn't do enough to recognise that these are real problems.'
‘PhDoc (the party representingPhD candidates and postdocs at Leiden University) wants to take a critical look at PhD policies, the PhD regulation and the guidelines around it. We want to make sure that all the decisions on these matters are in the interests of the groups that have the most to lose. We also want to work towards a diverse and inclusive university that really values a free exchange of ideas. It's not our intention to split the community into good guys and bad guys, but to make sure that everyone understands the challenges that others are facing.'
‘PhDoc is the only party to have as one of its key principles the hiring of a psychologist who understands the specific challenges of PhD candidates and postdocs. In times like these, the future is very uncertain for people who want to make their career in the field of science and academia or in the broader knowledge sector. Protecting their emotional and social health is essential.'
‘I've also worked in other countries, where the academic world is rife with rigid power structures, bordering in some cases on totalitarian status. Staff at Leiden University are fortunate in that they can have some influence in decisions that have a direct influence on important aspects of their life. Together we can make sure that our university is and remains a place we can be proud of and where we want to continue to work.