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Speak up where it will help, not just at the coffee machine

For five years, Pauline Hutten put her heart and soul into the Faculty Council of the Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs (FGGA), but a short time ago, she handed over the baton to Sanneke Kuipers, who is now Chair. We met up with them both for a joint interview about the importance of participation.

Pauline Hutten

Pauline, you've now handed over the chairperson's gavel to Sanneke. How do you look back on your time in that role?

Pauline: ‘I got to know the University and the faculty much better and, of course, have seen the faculty grow a lot. Both in terms of students and staff numbers and in terms of maturity. I found it an extremely enjoyable role and the added value for me was that I had more student contact than I normally have in my work as a policy officer at the Institute of Security and Global Affairs (ISGA). As a Faculty Council (FR), you can play a major part in strengthening the management of the faculty and of the faculty as a whole.’

What have you achieved during your five years on the Faculty Council and what do you look back on with pride?

Pauline: ‘Something I am truly proud of is the fact that the Faculty Council now operates on a much more professional footing. We started out as a group of individuals who only saw each other at the consultation meeting. Back then, no documents were discussed in advance. The whole way we operate is much better now. We have a Faculty Council meeting before the consultation meeting with the Faculty Board. We talk to each other much more effectively, we take part in team-building outings and there is also a handover document. Our interactions with the University Council are also much better. To put it in a nutshell, we too have become much more mature.’

Hutten cites some recent examples of projects instigated and put on the map by the Faculty Council. ‘The subject evaluations are a great example of one of our successes. Within the institutes, there was increasing discussion about this. Through our intercession, the management set to work on this and a fine document emerged. We also drew attention to the confusing array of initiatives for students, and this led to the development of the student roadmap in order to address this. All in all, some very nice projects have been implemented.’  

Sanneke Kuipers

A question for you both – what drives you?

Sanneke: ‘Whenever they get talking at the coffee machine, everyone has an opinion about how things should be better or different. So what they should actually do is make sure their views are being heard. You don't have to be on the Executive Committee in order to have a positive influence on the ins and outs of the faculty. In my view, few people realise that the Faculty Council is actually a very nice way of doing this, as it gives people the chance to allow their ideas or concerns to be heard and to have their say. Besides, I think it is a good thing for everyone to see the big picture. You also get to see the constraints that management is facing and get to know things about other institutes.’

‘I totally agree,’ adds Pauline. ‘It is an important task to do. Participation is a necessity.’

Are you going to miss working for the Faculty Council, Pauline?

‘I will miss it, but the time has also come for me to hand over the baton. It also takes up a lot of time. You need to prepare well, take responsibility for particular matters yourself and read a lot. And I know the Faculty Council will be in good hands with Sanneke as Chair. After all, she has already been around here for so long, has held a variety of roles, (editor's note: Director of Education in the ISGA, Professor of Crisis Governance), has an enormous amount of knowledge and has already been a member of the Council.’

Sanneke, are you going to do things differently?

‘No, I think Pauline has done a truly excellent job. She has always had a constructive way of communicating, including in the way that the Council interacts with the Faculty Board. The first thing you must do is to identify the things that you like and maintain a positive atmosphere, even if you are very critical. That is certainly something I can learn from. Always stopping to consider what will it mean if I say this to other sections within the faculty and what is the best way of putting your concerns on the table, but in such a way that everyone still feels valued.’

Hutten laughs. ‘As Chair, that's really tough and was something that I had to learn to do myself. For example, students come in with a very unrealistic image with regard to the things they can change. A maximum of 15 students per working group or subject is really not feasible, but as Chair, you also want students to feel free to express their views. Finding a balance can be tricky.’

What are the most important issues for the time ahead, Sanneke?

‘Issues that keep coming up such as workload, recognition and appreciation, diversity and, of course, facilities. Because participation also includes contributing thoughts and listening to other people's opinions about the quality of research and education and how best to facilitate it. And what can we do to make this an excellent place to work and interact with others? For staff and students alike. And the new Spui building, how should we use that space? As locations go, it is a bit of a hotspot where all sorts of things come flooding in. Something may also happen that suddenly turns the building into a shelter, a refuge. That's something that all of us need to sit down and think about. How can we work better together as institutes? I'd like to call out to my colleagues once more and encourage them to ensure that their voice is heard. Seek out your colleagues who sit on the Council and talk with them. You can also send an email to faculteitsraad@fgga.leidenuniv.nl if you want to share anything with us.’

Text: Margriet van der Zee

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