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What should be done differently at the University? Three lead candidates respond

From the workload to sustainability: the University Council helps decide on important topics. In the University elections – from 9 to 13 May – you can vote for who will represent you on the Council. Three questions to the three lead candidates of the staff parties: PhDoc, Universitair Belang and Leidse Academische Gemeenschap.

The three candidates are Professor Remco Breuker from Leidse Academische Gemeenschap (LAG), PhD candidate Max van Haastrecht from PhDoc and associate professorLudo Juurlink from Universitair Belang (UB).  

What sets your party apart from the other parties on the Council?

Juurlink/UB: ‘We are completely independent of any union or other influences and we try to give all staff as direct a voice as possible. We do this with broad representation from as many faculties, institutes and central departments in our party as possible. And we try to have as many different roles in our ranks as possible. We also get member/non-member duos to ask questions, hold discussions and collect information from a broad network before we decide on our position and enter into further discussions with the Council or Executive Board.’ 

Van Haastrecht/PhDoc: ‘PhDoc is the party of and for the new generation of researchers. We have less experience of the ins and outs of the University than our esteemed colleagues, but we more than make up for it with our enthusiasm and creativity. Today’s PhDs and postdocs have a fresh view of the world and we want to give their ideas a voice in the University Council. A good example is our focus on a sustainable future for the University. We are the only party with sustainability as a priority.’

Breuker/LAG: ‘We differ from PhDoc, with whom we often agree by the way, in that we don’t focus primarily on PhDs and postdocs but on the whole academic community of staff: support staff, researchers and lecturers. And not to forget students either. We differ because we’re not afraid to take our role as council members seriously and to actually keep a critical eye on the Executive Board. We tell it like it is, based on our pledge of demand, control and support – don’t expect any flowery or overblown language from us.’ 

What do want to achieve?

Van Haastrecht/PhDoc: ‘We focus on five main themes: diversity and inclusion, mental health and well-being, sustainability, personal growth, and representation. We want to celebrate diversity and promote inclusion by setting up diversity committees and extending the mandate of existing committees. Much could be improved in the representation of PhDs and postdocs. Everyone should be and feel free to take on an active role at the University. Representatives at all levels should receive fair compensation for the time they devote to this.’

Breuker/LAG: ‘It’s actually quite simple: more attention to the primary processes of research, teaching and outreach in a healthy and sustainable Leiden academic community in which everyone – students and staff, academic and support staff – feels at home and can do their job properly. A community in which your voice is heard. To make that possible we want a flatter organisation with less hierarchy, with attention to demand, control and support: an honest assessment of the work we have to do (demand), more say in the work we do and the conditions we do it in (control) and support from managers and colleagues (support).’

Juurlink/UB: ‘The workload is one of our priorities. Too many staff members are running on empty. But we prefer to think in terms of starting points than priorities and to think from the perspective of staff members about the best solutions to matters that require attention now and in the future. Solutions have to be feasible and the consequences – financial or otherwise – clear. A work-life balance is essential, but so too is a balance between teaching and research and between an inward and an outward-looking university. The University will thrive if its staff are happy and enjoy coming to work. Quality prevails over quantity and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’    

Watch the staff parties’ campaign videos

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The new Strategic Plan is about innovating and connecting. How will your party contribute to this?

Breuker/LAG: ‘Deeds not words. A university that expresses in deeds what it confesses with its mouth rather than one that uses words that hide the reality from view. We already connect, for instance through our sounding boards at faculties, so that the voices of those who do not seem to be directly represented in the Council count too. Innovation doesn’t say much to us. It’s often just a word. First get the basics right. That speaks louder than any plan whatsoever.’ 

Juurlink/UB: ‘In my 22 years at this university, I’ve noticed that many institutes and faculties are very self-contained and individualistic, which isn’t surprising. They are often competitors for things such as funding, investment, facilities and claims to physical space. However, everyone benefits from a high-quality and financially healthy university with internal “connection”. But collaboration should serve a goal rather than be a goal in itself. The same is true for the University’s position and connections with society. “Innovation” mainly makes me think of our teaching. In my opinion, that’s still too 20th-century.’ 

Van Haastrecht/PhDoc: ‘PhDoc represents the new generation of researchers, so innovating and connecting is in our DNA. Encourage interdisciplinary interaction by making all courses for PhDs and postdocs university-wide. We must also ensure that new colleagues feel at home sooner, for example by offering international colleagues and their partners a free Dutch course. We want to innovate by working together on a more sustainable and inclusive future, but also by recognising and rewarding the person behind the researcher. Science is much more than publishing alone. It is inspiring others!’

The University elections are from 9 to 13 May. You can vote for the student and staff delegations on the University Council, the student delegation on all faculty councils and the student delegation at the LUMC. Mid-term elections are being held for the staff delegations of the FGGA and Archaeology faculty councils and the Administration and Central Services Council.

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