The opening on Tuesday of the academic year for the University of Applied Science in Velp was boycotted by staff and students of Van Hall Larenstein. The Forestry and Nature Management team of lecturers had organized an alternative meeting in the canteen because of their dissatisfaction with managing director Ellen Marks, who is responsible for the suspension of education programme director Hans van Rooijen.
'I rather expected not many people would turn up when I read my e-mail this morning and saw an alternative meeting was being organized,' said the VHL director. 'Perhaps I will have a look in a bit and see what's happening at the other side. Only I gather I would have to wear a T-shirt and that's going a bit too far. After all, I didn't spend this morning ironing for nothing,' she joked.
Around two hundred staff and students chose to attend the speech given by Arnold Heertje, the well-known economist and critic of the education system. Heertje claimed in a passionate argument that education managers were focusing too much on mergers and new buildings and not enough on lecturers, students and the quality of education. 'The managers have neglected the rank and file. There is now a poisoned atmosphere at this applied university. People are being threatened with dismissal and disciplinary measures whereas there should be an atmosphere of debate and openness. The good news is that this is now being exposed and a change is underway. We need to move to a debate about educational quality that is respectful and content-based, without regard for hierarchical positions.' Hans van Rooijen also attended the protest speech, to the surprise of many people. Van Rooijen: 'I was invited and it's a public meeting.'
A number of staff members shuttled backwards and forwards between the chapel and the canteen. They described the situation that had developed as 'very unpleasant' and 'difficult'. 'Our energy is being consumed by the wrong things,' said one of the lecturers. 'You are constantly having to justify the decisions you are making. There is a chance that the university will split into two camps.'
The Executive Board calls the action 'very disappointing' and says it is considering what to do about the situation. On Thursday fans will be able to enjoy Marks's speech after all via a video link with the VHL location in Leeuwarden.
Plenty of rolls left in the empty chapel