Organisation - June 21, 2012

Half VHL wants out from Wageningen UR

The employees of Van Hall Larenstein are still extremely divided concerning the collaboration within Wageningen UR. An opinion poll held yesterday during the day of the employee in Zwolle showed that only a narrow majority (51 percent) are in favour of continuing the partnership within Wageningen University and DLO.

'A great disappointment,' commented Managing Director Ellen Marks in defeat. 'Given today's mood and the way things were going, I had not expected this. Everyone was much more relaxed and listened to one another. I was perhaps a bit too naïve, but I had hopes that we would pull through.' On Friday, Marks and the management team will meet to discuss the recommendation that will be submitted to the executive board. She declined to comment on what this could be. 'I cannot foresee it now. I have to read the remarks written on the voting cards first.'
Executive board chairman Aalt Dijkhuizen described the result as 'the worst you can ever think of'. 'This affects us deeply. I had expected something else.' At the last opinion poll in January, 60 percent had voted for the partnership within Wageningen UR. Early next week, the executive board will announce if the three institutions will continue to work as one entity or go their separate ways. 'That will be a difficult decision. The signal is clear, but it is not something which tells us what to do right away.'
Deep sigh
As soon as the result of the poll was made known, a deep sigh - as much from dismay as from relief - ran through the room. While some are worried about having to go it alone in the future, others are pleasantly surprised. The Leeuwarden programme director Jan van der Valk does not attempt to hide his disappointment. 'No matter what the decision is, a big group of people will be dissatisfied.'
Hans Bezuijen realizes this too. 'This is difficult to interpret. It is nothing less than a dramatic outcome. Personally, I think that the executive board has let a chance slip when it did not consider the possibility of a more autonomous set-up for VHL in the area of governance and finance. Between the current situation and a separate executive board lie many other options. Many hard feelings would have been avoided if the executive board had promised to look seriously into that.'
Opinion poll
The employees' day on 20 June was the defining moment in a tense period which began after 18 January when the first opinion poll was held. The last few months have - under the guidance of Steven ten Have Change Management - seen various committees working on proposals concerning the conditions required in a partnership within Wageningen UR.
These proposals - such as on finance, autonomy, teaching and research - formed  the gist of the policy document presented by the directors and the management team to the executive board at the end of last week. This document and the executive board's response to it were what the employees had to vote on.