Organisation - June 21, 2016

Column: What are you WURth?

The management has explained the finer details of the WUR system to us. If, like me, you only teach, your chair group doesn’t get enough income to cover your salary. So I’d better butter up my researcher colleagues because their lucrative research projects have got to cover their own salaries and part of mine. The alternative is that I bring in research projects myself.

My contract is for two days a week, and I spend an average of two and a half days a week on my teaching, thanks to the large number of students of mine who are working on theses and internships. How am I ever supposed to bring in projects as well? I can see my colleagues sweating over research proposals with great energy and op top of their working hours. Sometimes it can take two months of fulltime work, only to get a rejection.

‘Smart cooperation’, I can hear the management saying. Sure, so saddle someone else with the work and turn away weak students? The system forces you in that direction! 

I don’t want to turn away struggling students because that’s why they come to me. Nor do I want to be dependent on my colleagues for my salary, and I want education to be seen as worth a full salary.

The worst of it is that the current system is mainly geared to the financial success of your chair group and that the real problems in agriculture are not being tackled.

A bloated factory-farmed chicken’s legs give way when it’s overloaded. WUR employees are just as loyal to the WUR system as these chickens are to their production system. There is a difference though. Factory-farmed chickens cannot protest. We could protest but we choose not to. How long can that go on?

Kees van Veluw (57) teaches Permaculture and is active in organic agriculture networks. His vision stems from his work with African farmers, his networks with Dutch farmers, his family life with his wife, three sons, dog and chickens.