News - May 10, 2007

POST / One central council

This letter continues the discussion started by Resource correspondent Korné Versluis about the new co-management model (page 5 Resource # 29). The idea of the new model proposed by the Executive Board of Wageningen UR is to reduce the four different co-management bodies to just one. One of the most important consequences of the new model is that the power of students will be much less.

I would like to consider this new model in more detail using a typical Wageningen method: making the connection between theory and practice.

I agree with the Executive Board and Versluis from the theoretical point of view. One co-management council is clearer, cheaper and easier to understand than a system with four different councils. However, if we look from a practical point of view, the picture is more complicated. The proposed model does not do justice to the complexity of the organisation, nor does it adequately representation all sections of the organisation or the principles of good governance.

First, Wageningen UR is a complex organisation. The current, apparently complex co-management model has been developed to represent the three very different parts of the concern (WU, DLO and VHL). The logic is that there is a council for each of the entities that knows exactly what is going on. Students are, for instance, well represented by the WU-Student Council. A simple co-management model does not do justice to the diversity of interests within the concern.

Second, Versluis rightly argues that the university gives up a lot in the new model, as its number of representatives will be halved. Bear in mind that other Dutch universities also have faculty councils with student seats. The number of student representatives is very small in the current proposal. Moreover, the difference in level of abstraction between council and student is too great, and the same is true for university staff.

Finally, the Executive Board wants to push the proposal through without answering important questions. A request to define the goals goes unanswered, proposals to improve the current model have been ignored and the consequences of the proposal are completely unclear.

When things are going well in the organisation, one tends to forget what has been achieved in the past by student and staff input in co-management. Let’s hope we are not in for a return to the authoritarian university government of the sixties.

Mattijs Smits (PSF), on behalf of the Progressive Student Party (PSF) and the Christian Student Party (CSF)