News - December 11, 2014

Five more months for ESG and Slingerland

Roelof Kleis,Albert Sikkema

Can you still function properly as a director if all your professors have said they have lost confidence in you? Yes, says the Executive Board. The director in question is Kees Slingerland, the Environmental Sciences Group director. One month ago, the 18 chair holders in the science group unanimously passed a vote of no confidence in him. The immediate provocation was a serious row about the budget for 2015.

It looked as if Slingerland’s  fate had been sealed with this  vote. But the Board decided that  Slingerland can still finish his  current term of office, due to end in May 2015. ‘Workable  agreements’ have been reached  about the next five months. The director will continue to do his  job but will no longer chair the  monthly meeting with the  professors.

The executive board hopes to  minimize casualties with this  decision. The rebellious  professors do not get their way –  Slingerland’s immediate  departure – but nor are they  penalized by the executive board  for their mutiny. The board  remains impartial, and the  parties to the dispute must solve  it together in the coming  months. 

Slingerland has made few friends during his time at ESG. The strong-willed and unbending  director has had countless  conflicts with his staff, some of  which ended up being settled in court. Slingerland, who has  guided Alterra through a difficult  period with declining budgets for  nature-related research, has a  reputation for being a tough  boss. He is pleasant to outsiders  but overbearing and inflexible in  his dealings with his staff. At  present the employees’ council  declines to comment on the conflict with the professors.

 Staff at the ESG do not really  know where they stand now. Strictly speaking, the conflict was  between the director and 18  university heads, but the lack of  confidence in the management  is more widely shared. Slingerland too will feel that he  does not have the executive  board’s full confidence – he is a  bit of a lame duck now. So it is in  everybody’s interests for  Slingerland to find ‘a new  challenge’ soon.