While students of Wageningen University are waging war on evening lectures in good old-fashioned style – passionately and in large numbers – lecturers, PhD candidates and other employees are keeping remarkably quiet on the subject. How do they feel about the prospect of working in the evening?
Edwin Peeters, Associate professor (personal chair) at Aquatic Ecology and Water Quality Management
‘I am not against the introduction of evening lectures per se, but I do think it has a number of drawbacks. The working day for students and lecturers will be lengthened, which may impinge on evening activities, such as sports. I also think the introduction of evening lectures will cause work and free time to become increasingly interwoven. All sorts of daytime commitments often make it far from easy to compensate for evening hours worked. So in my view, this certainly won't be a good move in terms of the work pressure on both lecturers and students. It raises the question of where you draw the line. Will we soon be giving lectures in the weekend as well?’
Iris de Winter, PhD candidate at the Resource Ecology Group
‘I understand that the growing number of students is causing a shortage of teaching rooms and personally I think it is a good solution to introduce a limited number of evening lectures. For me, as a PhD candidate, it means that I can be asked to teach on courses timetabled for the evening. This is not a problem for me personally. In fact, I like having a couple of hours off in the daytime, especially in winter when the days are short. However, we should take care that the total number of taught hours on any given day doesn't become too high; students have to remain able to take in the subject matter. And we will certainly have to consider alternatives to evening lectures, such as better timetabling, the use of other buildings and staggering the lecture breaks. The university could also choose not to timetable any compulsory lectures in the evening and to record the lectures so that students with other commitments can view them at another time.’
Jaspen van Ruijven, Assistant professor at Plant Ecology and Nature Conservation
‘As a temporary solution, I don't think the evening lectures are a bad thing. There is a shortage of teaching rooms at present. Hurriedly throwing up new buildings only to realize a few years later that premises are vacant doesn't seem like a sensible option. But the evening lectures must not be introduced permanently, that would create too many problems for both students and staff. As a lecturer you do work in the evenings, but that is a flexible arrangement and your own choice. Being tied to a timetable in the evenings is a different matter entirely. You should be aware of what you are asking of lecturers. Evening lectures impose an extra obligation. We have enrolled in the pilot - with the course Ecological aspects of bio-interactions - because we want to find out for ourselves what it is like to have evening lectures. We can look at attendance figures, too. That will give us good arguments to use when evening lectures are debated.
Peter de Jong, Assistant professor at Entomology
‘I would not like to have to teach in the evening on a regular and permanent basis. In the evening there are other activities that cannot be done during the day. In my case, that chiefly means my family life with two young children. I think most employees would find the evening lectures less of a problem if their frequency was such that it was easy to plan around them. After all, I already work in the evening sometimes. If evening lectures became the rule rather than the exception, however, that would be a problem. Actually, I don't think the pilot is the best way to find out whether evening lectures are a good option. I think that a good, extensive and nuanced survey would provide more and more valuable information. For me, the frequency and intensity of evening lectures are important factors. It is debatable how representative the pilot will be in these respects.’
Annemarie de Vries, Site manager Orion
‘I think the pilot of evening lectures is a good thing. I see a lot of vacant space in the buildings in the evenings, so it is good to make more use of that. In addition, it provides opportunities for the staff because some people may find that working in the evening is actually easier to combine with their family. We will need to take on some new staff, and that too will raise possibilities. Orion will be used in the pilot on Monday evenings to meet the need for large lecture halls. On that day the building will remain open longer than usual, until 9 p.m. But I do think it is good to run this first as a pilot, so that it can be evaluated afterwards; I can understand that students and lecturers have objections.’
Lieke Melsen, PhD candidate at Hydrology and Quantitative Water Management
‘Actually I don't know much about this development: as a PhD candidate you are on the outside edge of everything and I'm not doing a course that is involved in the pilot. Personally, I wouldn't mind having to teach a practical course, say, one evening a week for a period of time. I already work in the evening sometimes or I am away on an excursion. But it must be kept within limits: I would be less happy were it to involve more evenings or a longer period of time. I do wonder whether it is a good idea for lecturers. Many of them have a family and are less flexible. I also wonder whether the students' attention won't be flagging by then.’