News - February 9, 2011

Crisis of confidence at VHL. And now?

The teachers at the Frisian branch of VHL have now expressed a loss of confidence in director Ellen Marks too. So what is the next step? Here are five scenarios.

In a letter to staff Ellen Marks shows she had been affected by the criticisms
According to the joint employees' council of Van Hall Larenstein, Ellen Marks does not have the capacities required to lead the organization. On Wednesday 26 January, the council passed a vote of no confidence in the general director. VHL board chairman Aalt Dijkhuizen lost no time in making clear that Marks had the board's full support. So what happens next? Here are five possibilities...

1. Ellen Marks resigns
But would that solve all the problems? Whereas the former college had an autonomous board, since 2004 the board has been a sort of middle man between the newly formed applied sciences university and the executive board of Wageningen UR. As long as staff go on feeling that the board does not have the institution's needs at heart, every manager will get caught in the crossfire. Marks herself has been affected by the criticism but shows a fighting spirit in a letter to staff: 'Together we can prepare VHL for the future.'

2. The employees' council resigns
This would lead to fresh elections. But a new council would probably face the same problems. Most of the teachers in Leeuwarden are not happy with Marks: 147 of the 224 signed the petition that was sent to Aalt Dijkhuizen. The Velp staff are divided, while those at Wageningen do have confidence in Marks.

3. No change
Formally, the employees' council cannot attach any consequences to the no confidence vote. If the council refuses to meet with Marks, it loses its right to advice and veto, and the policy just goes ahead, with only written responses being allowed. If there is a difference of opinion, an arbitration committee is brought in to clear things up.

4. Cut Leeuwarden loose
The executive board of Wageningen UR could call off the heavily contested internal merger and get rid of the most obstreperous branch of VHL. But that is not going to happen. Wageningen UR has too many interests at stake in Friesland, what with Wetsus and the planned Dairy Campus. Besides, the merger is history now. Even for the employees' council, which voted for it before the summer.

5. The employees' council has dealings only with the board from now on
The council prefers to talk to Rien Komen the director of operations and educational quality, but the board insists on consultations with the entire management team. An alternative would be for the council to communicate directly with the board in future.
® Alexandra Branderhorst