Organisatie - 7 juni 2007

One language or Babel?

Sometimes, words are not backed up by deeds. Or worse still, the deeds contradict the (nice) words. The Student-Staff Council (GV) has written this letter to address a problem of this nature, which is occurring within our own university.

Wageningen University is an institute with a strong international character, as evidenced by the number of foreign students, its strong international contacts and the wide use of English within the university. This last point, in particular, is a lively topic at the moment because the Executive Board has decided that English will be the official language in the university's head office as of January 2008. The SSC finds this a laudable endeavour.

Nevertheless, we have our doubts about the deeds that will be needed to back up the words. Because the SSC has worked in English for the last few years, we have a good perspective on the possible problems that may arise with English as the official language of the administration. One of those problems is that, despite all kinds of promises, declarations of intent and apologies, many important documents are still only available in Dutch. As a result, our French, Italian, Indonesian, Romanian and Chinese colleagues in the Council are excluded from council participation.

This problem recently reached a new low point when the SSC asked the Executive Board for an English version of its decision list. This was refused by the Board on the grounds that this was ‘not important for us’. The Executive Board conveniently seems to forget that it has a duty to inform its co-management councils. Moreover, in not providing an English version of its decisions, the Executive Board is acting contrary to its own international intentions and those embodied in the university it represents.

On behalf of the Student-Staff Council,
Wim Heijman and Mattijs Smits

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