News - June 30, 2016

Possible oversights in PhD elections

Linda van der Nat

The elections for the representation of PhD candidates in the WUR council may not have conformed to the rules, says Jeroen Candel, ex-chair of the Wageningen PhD Council. The exclusion of a large group of PhD candidates is out of line with agreements made earlier with the executive board, he says.

Candel, currently assistant professor in the Public Administration and Policy group, was chair of the Wageningen PhD Council two years ago. Together with the WUR Council, the PhD Council drew up a plan to enable doctoral researchers to be represented on the Council. ‘We foresaw the possible problems with the elections back then, which is why we discussed the rules for the PhD elections at length. It was agreed with the WUR Council that all PhD candidates who are registered in the Wageningen graduate schools have both active and passive voting rights, so that includes those without contracts.’

So Candel was amazed when the election committee recently decided that the elections had conformed to the rules, even though only 990 of the nearly 1900 PhD candidates had received voting papers. ‘In all the communication with the executive board, it says that all PhD candidates get to vote. And the WUR Council’s proposal on this was ratified by the board. So in my view, the exclusion of external PhD candidates from the elections is out of line with what was decided two years ago.’

We foresaw the possible problems with the elections back then
Jeroen Candel, ex-chair of the Wageningen PhD Council

According to Candel, everyone in the WUR Council agreed at the time that PhD researchers working on their research in Wageningen should have a say in decisions affecting all PhD researchers, such as staffing policy and work stations. ‘For this it shouldn’t make any difference what kind of contract or post you have.’

Candel wonders whether the current WUR Council is aware of the agreements. ‘As far as I know this was agreed with the executive board. So I am curious what the election committee will do. If it turns out that the executive board’s decision on the participation of PhD candidates in the WUR Council was not correctly implemented, then I think the PhD candidates who didn’t get to vote now should still get a chance to do so. That is the most correct way of doing it.’

The WUR Council is currently taking a good look at what happened, says Linda Veldhuizen. She is doing a PhD in Animal production systems and is closely involved in the PhD elections. ‘We will be coming back to this shortly, because it is important to us to finish this properly.’

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