Science - June 22, 2006

Professors angry at housing plan

The professors in the sub-department of Agrotechnology and nutrition are furious about the Executive Board’s plans for re-housing the various groups. They have sent a letter in which they threaten to withdraw their cooperation.

All the professors signed an unusually strong-worded letter to the Executive Board last week. They describe the re-housing plan of the Executive Board for the new campus ‘disastrous’ and ‘incomprehensible’ and consider the reaction of the board to their previous letter ‘disgraceful’.

The uproar is about the plan to split up the department that is currently housed on the Dreijen terrain. According to the plan, part of the department will move to De Born, but the rest will stay on the Dreijen, in the Chemistry building and the Transitorium. This will separate the food microbiologists from the food technologists. The professors claim that this will disrupt the current cooperation.

The new accommodation plan, according to the letter writers, is the straw that broke the donkey’s back on the Dreijen. ‘It is yet another example of how we as a department draw the short straw, and no one listens to us.’ The professors also point to the good performances of the nutritionists. Of the sixty most cited Dutch researchers, six work within the department in Wageningen.

The professors believe that their department is being discriminated against in comparison with other parts of Wageningen UR. The chair groups of Environmental Sciences Group and Plant Sciences will be housed in a new building, and the animal scientists will move in a few years to the renovated AB building at De Born. ‘The fact that other departments know they will get new housing, and we will not, is creating ill feelings amongst us.’

The works council of the sciences group agrees with the professors’ criticism. Chairman Dr Arie van der Bent is also dissatisfied with the ‘swampy’ decision-making concerning the new accommodation. ‘The procedure that has been followed with the new buildings is not at all transparent in our view. The plans keep being readjusted, but which decisions are now final? What are we talking about?’

The signatories of the letter were not available for comment. Professor of Microbiology Willem de Vos: ‘The letter is clear enough. We are waiting for a response from the Executive Board.’ The latter indicated that it is ‘preparing its response’. / KV

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