Organisation - November 18, 2009

Rector to revise tenure track following protest

The rector magnificus Martin Kropff wants to call a halt to the introduction of the tenure track for the university's existing staff. 'It is not sufficiently clear what consequences this career path policy will have', he said in a statement on 17 November. 'The questions this raises are a reason to discuss the issue again calmly with the directors of the Sciences Groups and Research Institutes. We are therefore putting a temporary halt on the implementation of the tenure track system for existing staff.'

His statement comes following growing unrest within the Chair Groups. A campaign was started at the Centre for Ecosystem Studies protesting against Wageningen University's new career path policy, the tenure track system. In a letter stating their protest, the initiators complain about the stringent quality requirements for scientific staff. The strict criteria have to be met not just by new employees but also by existing staff. They claim this will affect the quality of teaching and the performance of the Chair Groups.
Petition
'Everyone's talking about it', says initiator Dr. Fred de Boer of the Resource Ecology Group. It was not long before dozens of researchers at the Department of Environmental Sciences had signed the petition. Reactions are now coming in from researchers at other Sciences Groups.
  Most of the academic staff at Environmental Sciences do not meet the new criteria - and that includes the staff members who were assessed as being good or excellent only three months ago by the international review panel. Most members of staff at the Plant Sciences Group also do not meet the criteria, says Theo Jetten, secretary of the Production Ecology and Resource Conservation (PE&RC) Graduate School.
Defeatism
Many professors are critical of the introduction of the tenure track system for existing staff. 'You are not encouraging quality if two thirds of the staff do not meet the requirements, you are causing defeatism', says Prof. Herbert Prins, the chairman of PE&RC. And board member Prof. Tiny van Boekel at the Food Technology, Agrobiotechnology, Nutrition and Health Sciences Graduate School (VLAG) concludes: 'The danger with the tenure track is that people will only look out for themselves. We need to be flexible in the application of our policy to ensure that we end up with evenly balanced Chair Groups.'
  Prof. Ton Bisseling, chairman of the Experimental Plant Sciences Graduate School, welcomes the strict criteria as a way of preparing young talent for professorships. 'Most of our staff meet the initial criteria.' He, too, advocates a customized approach and consultations to improve quality.

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