Tenure track will no longer automatically lead to professorship
Tenure track will no longer guarantee professorship
The university no longer wants people on a tenure track to automatically become professors. The UG wants to prevent becoming too ‘bloated’; a situation in which too many academic employees are professors.
Scientific employees who start out as assistant professor on a tenure track always end up as professors, as long as they meet publishing requirements and bring in sufficient grant money.
Back when the university only had regular professorships and new people were hired only when professors died or retired, this system worked perfectly. But it’s led to some unintended consequences: there are too many professors.
Not all professors make good managers. ‘Some people simply don’t have the skills to be a group leader’, rector Cisca Wijmenga said during a recent university council meeting. ‘It requires both hard and soft skills. So we’re seeing things happening as a result of people lacking those skills that we don’t want.’
The process needs to be customised. Right now, they only have a research track in place, but the board of directors envisions tracks for education, impact, leadership, and clinical work, with the latter applying only to the UMCG.
The Faculties of Science and Engineering and Economics and Business want to set up pilots for tenure tracks that can end in the position of associate professor.
The plan has been met with criticism. Simon van der Pol with the council’s personnel faction is worried this will create a ceiling that young researchers won’t be able to break through. Lorenzo Squintani with the science faction doesn’t think the new plans will solve much.
According to Squintani, the people lacking leadership skills are already professors. ‘Things are already out of whack. Several faculties lack the room to promote staff to higher positions.’
Wijmenga acknowledges the problem, but still feels that the process of appointing professors should be scrutinised. She hopes other faculties will follow the FEB and FSE example. ‘Other faculties have said that they’re interested in doing a pilot.’
Board forces law faculty to hire scholarship PhDs
‘The faculty is basically being punished’
Board forces law faculty to hire scholarship PhDs
The UG will no longer support faculties who refuse to hire scholarship PhDs with funds for employed PhD positions. The Faculty of Law has caved and will once again start hiring scholarship PhDs in 2021.
To soften the blow a little, the faculty board suggests hiring the scholarship PhDs for a year in a lecturer position after they finished their promotion track. This would also apply to the current PhDs. The faculty council will discuss the proposal on Friday.
Almost a year ago, the faculty decided to bow out of the national scholarship PhD experiment and to look for alternatives. The decision came after angry scholarship PhDs expressed their dissatisfaction in a manifesto.
Scholarship PhDs aren’t paid as much as PhDs on an employment contract. They do not earn a pension, either, and do not receive holiday or end of year bonuses. They don’t have access to accommodations like laptops paid for by the university, either. However, their job is the exact same as that of PhDs on an employment contract.
There are also some ‘really silly things’ that show that the university doesn’t appreciate them, says scholarship PhD Jitske Sijbrandij. One example: everyone at her place of work received a token of thanks for their work during the pandemic, except for the scholarship PhDs. ‘So we’re not just underpaid, we also feel like we’re being excluded.’
No more funds
But the faculty might decide to hire more scholarship PhDs after all, ‘since the board of directors decided to only give the faculty any part of the central co-financing for PhD positions in the Ubbo Emmius programme if the faculty participates in the scholarship PhD experiment’, the faculty board writes in a memo to the faculty council.
Any faculty who refuses will have to pay all the costs of a PhD. In the case of the law faculty, this means they’ll only have the funds to hire two employed PhDs, as opposed to nine scholarship PhDs. This would make the research master less appealing, since there would be fewer chances of a PhD position afterwards.
Law scholarship PhD Wybrand van der Meulen is disappointed. He ‘really appreciated’ his faculty board taking a step back to consider the experiment. ‘They are basically being punished for that.’
The faculty board says its objections are still ‘valid’ and that it has ‘tried to figure out how to meet these objections’, it writes in the proposal to the council. ‘But with our hands being tied by the experiment, it’s not easy.’
PhDs are a breeding ground for new lecturers, the faculty board also writes. This was one of the arguments clearly in favour of continuing the experiment, says dean Wilbert Kolkman. That is why they want to offer the PhDs an extra year after their promotion to work as lecturer and write research proposals.
At the same time, all faculties had to make it clear that scholarship PhDs were not expected to teach. ‘Expectation management’, Kolkman calls it. ‘We have to make the situation extremely clear, right from the start of the track. Not just to the students, but also to their supervisors and the department board.’
Van der Meulen knew when he started that his job had other requirements. That he could refuse to teach. He did so, and his decision was respected. But he also knows that scholarship PhDs are still being made to teach. He understands that. ‘Teaching is an important part of getting your PhD.’
He expected to get a separate position for his teaching work, as a student-assistant. But this was impossible, as it would lead to issues with taxes. ‘But it’s an experiment, isn’t it? Why couldn’t they figure it out?’
Faculty council member Matthijs van Wolferen says the breeding ground isn’t a valid reason. ‘The whole system is overloaded. We’re delivering way more PhDs than we have room for. It’s not like there’s a job waiting for every single person who gets their PhD.’
Anyone who is unable to find a job then has to deal with a complicated process at the UWV, the Employee Insurance Agency, says Sijbrandij. ‘The system doesn’t have the correct data on us. So the first thing we have to do is apply for a correction.’ That’s not just complicated, but also time-consuming, she says.
If the council ends up voting on the issue, Van Wolferen will vote against it. ‘Who cares if we only have two PhD positions. Maybe we can free up some funds or find some external means to help us. But I don’t understand why we should exploit people just to keep the research master going.’
UG wants to speed test at Zernike
Potential tent in front of Jacobs hall
UG wants to speed test at Zernike
The UG wants to do a pilot speed testing students and staff. The university is considering erecting a tent in front of the Aletta Jacobs hall, or handing out tests to students.
The university has discussed the possibilities with the ministry of Education, Culture, and Science. Now, they have to wait for their response, rector magnificus Cisca Wijmenga said during a university council committee meeting.
Earlier plans by the UG to set up its own speed-testing lane were thwarted by the XL testing location at MartiniPlaza, which appeared to render the university facilities redundant.
Nowhere near capacity
However, the MartiniPlaza location only tests people who work in elementary or secondary education and who have a specific code from their employer. The testing facility is not even near its capacity.
‘We’re talking to the GGD about this issue’, says Wijmenga. ‘But for some reason, they’re being kind of rigid about this. I’m not sure why.’
Closer to campus
The situation might change now that people who aren’t suffering any symptoms can get tested as well, Wijmenga admitted. ‘But they would still have to go all the way to the MartiniPlaza. It would be nice to have a testing facility that’s closer to campus.’
On top of that, people often have to wait quite a while for their test results at MartiniPlaza, even though it should only take fifteen minutes. ‘Some people have to wait up to two hours’, says Wijmenga. ‘If you’re testing people ahead of a big exam, you can’t have waiting times like that.’
UG biologist goes to court to enforce animal testing
A young jackdaw being measured. Photo by Reyer Boxem
UG biologist goes to court to enforce animal testing
By banning an experiment with wild jackdaws, the Central Committee on Animal Testing is blocking an important line of research, says UG biologist Simon Verhulst. On Tuesday, he went to court to resolve the issue.
Verhulst submitted his application for an experiment involving sixty wild jackdaws back in 2016. He wants to inject young birds with the IGF-1 growth hormone. He would then check if the increased growth rate negatively affects the birds’ health, by measuring their telomeres. ‘But the Central Committee on Animal Testing says this isn’t allowed on wild animals.’
Telomeres serve as a kind of ‘protective cap’ on the end of chromosomes. Verhulst has been studying them for years. Telomeres grow shorter as an organism ages, and people and birds with short telomeres are more likely to die. ‘This research is increasingly important’, says Verhulst. ‘We just submitted a paper that proves that short telomeres correlate to more severe corona symptoms. Jackdaws are the best animal to use for research like this.’
By banning experiments like this, the Central Committee on Animal Testing (CCD) is blocking an entire line of research, says Verhulst. And he’s yet to hear a good reason for the ban. ‘I want to know it there’s a trade-off between health and an increased growth rate’, he says. ‘But I can only do that if the birds are also being challenged by food shortage, cold, or parasites. Those circumstances don’t exist in a lab, and we can’t simulate them.’
The CCD’s assessors, he says, have a background in biomedical research, which has a different research culture. The CCD representative even mentioned two different ‘schools of thought’, Verhulst says. ‘She suggested that she, or perhaps even the entire CCD, represented one of those schools.’ They want research environments to be as consistent as possible. ‘But that means you can’t generalise research results. I can’t make them understand that.’
The CCD is also against doing tests on wild animals. Interestingly enough, they are fine with capturing wild animals, running experiments in the lab, and then killing them. ‘A colleague of mine recently did that.’
Verhulst also says that jackdaws aren’t so important that they should be left alone. ‘A jackdaw’s intrinsic value to society is less than zero. It’s considered a pest and people are always allowed to shoot it.’
He expects a judge to agree with his reasoning, which means the CCD would have to re-evaluate his application. But he’s not sure that will be the end of it. ‘I’m ready to take this all the way to the Council of State.’
UG refuses to cooperate on national ‘sloppy science’ survey
UG refuses to cooperate on’sloppy science’ survey
Many universities are declining to participate in a national survey on scientific integrity. The UG has also refused to cooperate on what was supposed to be the biggest study on sloppy science ever.
All universities and university medical centres were supposed to participate in the National Survey on Research Integrity (NSRI). Research financier ZonMW invested 3.8 million euros and five years to study not just what goes wrong in scientific research, but also everything that’s done right. They planned to disseminate the survey to all researchers from all scientific fields to establish a baseline.
‘But sadly enough, when we were starting the research, the universities changed their minds’, says principal scientist Gowri Gopalakrishna, who works at the Amsterdam UMC.
According to UG spokesperson Jorien Bakker, the reason for this was that the universities’ rectors had questions about how the study was set up. ‘The research question and the impact on researchers also played a role’, she says.
No email addresses
Of the twenty-three universities and UMCs, only eight were willing to share their employees’ email addresses and actively tell their staff to participate. ‘We had to scrape email addresses from open sources, like university websites and PubMed’, says Gopalakrishna. ‘So due to an unclean database, we might not be capturing everyone. That took us a lot of time, but also the response rate is very poor, no more than 8 to 9 percent. People don’t even open the emails.’
Gopalakrishna worries that people think the email, sent by TNS NIPO, is some kind of phishing mail. Another explanation for the low response could be that researchers are inundated by communication from scientific journals. This means the survey runs the risk of not being representative: she needs at least 25 percent of people to respond.
‘I am really disappointed’, she says. ‘We offered the universities the opportunity to take a look at the studies and the questions and give feedback. Within reason we would be happy to try and modify to accommodate that. But they didn’t even want to look at it.’
She fears that ‘integrity’ has become a dirty word and that universities want nothing to do with it. ‘And that is very unfortunate and that is also the reason that we are doing this study. We wanted it to become a common topic to talk about and not one that we feel is a taboo.’
She considers the fact that two thirds of universities refuse to participate in the survey a clear indicator that they fear that ‘something bad is coming out of this’. ‘But we need to be able to discuss these things openly, without being punished.’
Ineke Wessel with Behavioural and Social Sciences, a proponent of open science, appealed to the university on Twitter to participate in the survey after all. ‘Why not?’ she asked. ‘Utterly important! Colleagues, please participate. Anonymity guaranteed.’
‘The goal is very ambitious’, she says. ‘A national survey that includes every single academic discipline is unique.’
If the university participates, it’ll send a message that this is important, says Wessels. ‘I was told that universities aren’t participating because people are sick of surveys. But this is telling; it shows they feel this is less important than other things.’
She’s not entirely surprised. After all, universities are part of the system. ‘Universities want to be at the top in the rankings and earn Nobel Prizes and prestigious grants. But all that is part of the system that needs retooling. It makes sense that they don’t want to promote that.’
She still sees sloppy science happening everywhere. But no one knows how big the issue is, and where the problems actually occur. That hurts the scientific community. ‘It’s clear from the Stapel case that lying isn’t okay’, she says. ‘But there’s a grey area that people don’t know about. Some people don’t even realise that they way they’re handling data isn’t entirely okay. That’s something we need to change.’
If you’d like to participate in the survey after all, check your email for a message from research leader Lex Bouter, sent by TNS NIPO. This is the invitation to the National Survey on Research Integrity.
Unis should do more to reduce air travel, says The Young Academy
The Young Academy in report:
Unis should do more to reduce air travel
Universities are not doing enough to reduce their CO2 emissions caused by flying. The Young Academy says they need to take action to prevent returning to old behaviour after the corona crisis.
The universities do mean well, says the report Flying high but flying less, which was published on November 11. In the report, The Young Academy takes a closer look at Dutch universities’ sustainability policies and their efforts to reduce flying. Universities have plenty of green offices, road maps, and policy objectives. But that’s not enough, the Academy says.
Policy makers says they feel there’s a lack of tools and mandate. Any measures in place are informal, which means they’re not very effective. At the same time, it’s clear that flying is responsible for a large part of universities’ CO2 emissions. The Erasmus University estimates theirs is at 27 percent, while the UG says 12 percent of its CO2 emissions are due to flying.
The universities prefer to focus on making their real estate more sustainable, by using green power, geothermal heating, or energy-efficient buildings, and don’t pay much attention to the impact flying has. The Young Academy says the universities’ policies on the issue are ‘fragmented, powerless, and ineffective’.
Central policies are often ineffective on a faculty level, and while universities try to offset their CO2 emissions, this doesn’t change anything about how often people fly. Most universities’ policies involve discouraging or banning short flights, when in fact most damage is done by intercontinental flying.
Wageningen estimates that 60 percent of people flying for the university leave Europe. The UG counts the number of kilometres people fly. Eighty-four percent of the total number of kilometres flown in 2019 was intercontinental. A study done last year by UKrant showed that 70 percent of flights from 2017 to 2019 where within Europe.
The Young Academy says universities should aim for a culture change by, for example, setting conditions when they award research grants and by sharing best practices.
The informal nature of the actions also needs to change. ‘Opt for reducing flights, not carbon offsetting’, the Academy writes. ‘Ban air travel for journeys that can be made within eight hours by alternative means of transport and consider introducing CO2 quota for research projects/groups to force researchers to prioritise.’
Last year, the UG introduced a directive to limit flying. People were no longer allowed to fly to a European destination if the destination could also be reached by alternative means within six hours or if the distance was less than five hundred kilometres.
Young UG researchers awarded fourteen VENI grants
Young UG researchers awarded fourteen VENI grants
Fourteen talented young UG researchers were each awarded a VENI grant worth 250,000 euros by research financier NWO. The financier handed out 162 grants this year, for a total of 41.5 million euros.
More than 1,100 researchers applied for funding from the NWO talent programme. The financier awarded 14 percent of all applications with a grant. More women had their application accepted than men (17 and 12 percent, respectively).
At the Faculty of Science and Engineering (FSE), Veronica Allen will study how the molecules that led to life on earth arrived here. She will track these molecules as they exist in young star systems, using radio telescopes. Nichole Barry studies the faint glow of interstellar hydrogen by combining software from the Netherlands, Australia, and the United States in order to catch a glimpse of the earliest galaxies.
Elise Marie Jerschabek Laetz studies sea slugs. They can do without food for extended periods of time, switching to photosynthesis to avoid starvation, stealing functional chloroplasts from algae. Zoe Christoff at the department of artificial intelligence looks at the impact of social networks on democracy.
Eelco Tromer, who currently works at Cambridge, will return to the UG for his project, focusing on developing new malaria therapies in Cambridge. Ivana Drienovská is starting a project in unnatural amino acids.
At the arts faculty, Jana Declerq’s research focuses on the communication concerning chronic pain.
The Faculty of Economics and Business (FEB) did well, too. Tom Boot will study econometric models that will help with accurate forecasting in times of crisis. Christiaan van der Kwaak also studies financial crises: he wants to know if policies developed to mitigate crises can actually generate new ones.
Their FEB colleague Björn Mitzinneck looks at how municipalities, companies, and citizens can work together to help in the energy transition.
At religious sciences, Brenda Mathijssen wants to know how various cultures deal with ‘green’ death practices like natural burial.
The UMCG got three VENI grants. Claudia van Borkulo studies depression. She wants to develop an improved method to measure its symptoms. Geneticist Patrick Deelen wants to use genetic information about common diseases to predict which genes cause rare diseases. Finally, Anouk van der Hoorn wants to improve proton therapy for brain tumours to ensure it causes less damage to the surrounding healthy brain tissue.
Five VIDI grants for UG researchers
Five VIDI grants for UG researchers
Five UG researchers will receive a VIDI grant from research financier NWO this year. They’ll get 800,000 euros to set up their own, independent line of research.
Kerstin Bunte with the Faculty of Science and Engineering is going to set up a project within Artificial Intelligence. She wants to develop systems that link the predictive power of AI to the explanations that computer models can provide. This can lead to – for example – individually adjusted medication.
Else Starkenburg and Lingyu Wang, also with FSE, are both trying to unravel the secrets of the universe. Starkenburg is doing that by tracking down the oldest stars in the Milky Way to get a better view of the early years of our galaxy. Lingyu Wang will be using artificial intelligence to measure the impact of mergers on how galaxies and black holes grow.
The arts faculty wins a VIDI with David van der Linden’s research. He’ll examine how France managed to restore peace after the religious wars of the sixteenth century. He hopes to gain more insight into the long-term effects of peace strategies.
Finally, Sebastiaan Mathôt of Behavioural and Social Sciences will research to what extent we can influence our senses with our brains.
NWO received 503 applications in this funding round. 261 of them were submitted by men, 252 by women. They awarded 16 percent of the total number of applications; 15 percent of men’s submissions, and 17 percent of those by women.
That means the number of applications has increased again. Since 2017, NWO has required an ’embedding guarantee’. Researchers must demonstrate that the institute they are conducting research for supports them. As a result, the number of applications initially fell from 589 (2017) to 443 (2018) and the percentage of awarded applications went from nineteen to fifteen percent.
Spokesperson Poppy Savenije of NWO acknowledges that the embedding guarantee has not had a ‘dampening effect’ yet. The data will be evaluated. ‘But at this point it is still too early to predict the consequences of theses results for the next round.’
FSE sets up tenure track for teaching professors
Emphasis on education and knowledge transfer
FSE sets up tenure track for teaching professors
The Faculty of Science and Engineering (FSE) is setting up a tenure track for teaching professors. The pilot is planned for the end of this year.
The faculties efforts are aimed at fixing the continuing lack of teaching capacity. It’s also aimed at improving the quality of education. The plan is part of developments at the UG to emphasise individual research achievements less and emphasise education and knowledge transfer more.
In a regular tenure track situation, researchers are hired temporarily in the function of assistant professor. If they perform well in their research duties, they are eligible for a permanent position as associate professor and can ultimately become a full professor. It gives people a clear view of their potential career.
But UG staff whose main job is teaching have no such perspective. The faculty wants to change this. Employees on a teaching tenure track are required to spend 60 percent of their time on teaching, 30 percent on research, and 10 percent on administrative tasks.
Unlike regular tenure track employees, they will not receive funding to pay for a PhD. Employees on a teaching tenure track have no need for their own research group, and they aren’t required to bring in any subsidies. They will not automatically get the right to grant PhD degrees when they’re promoted to associate professor. However, they will get the opportunity to set up innovative education projects.
The FSE faculty council likes the plan. However, they wonder if current research groups will be happy to have colleagues who don’t bring in any subsidies.
Dean Jasper Knoester acknowledges the risk. ‘We’re starting out with groups for whom this won’t be much of a problem’, he says. He emphasised that ‘each educational director will need the expertise’. He also hopes that the new tenure tracks will make people appreciate the development of new teaching methods more.
Third chance for students who are unable to sit FSE exam
‘Aletta Jacobs hall is safe’
Third chance for students unable to sit FSE exam
Students at the Faculty of Science and Engineering are guaranteed an extra opportunity to sit an exam if they are unable to attend an on-campus exam.
Students at the science faculty have been worried. Some of them have said that they wouldn’t feel safe sitting exams in the Aletta Jacobs hall with three hundred others. Others were unhappy that they wouldn’t be able to sit the exams since they weren’t in Groningen.
‘We’ve asked the programme directors and the exam committee to schedule as few on-campus exams as possible’, said FSE portfolio manager of education Rob Timmermans during a faculty council meeting on Wednesday. But some exams require materials and others would be so easy to cheat on that they simply have to be administered on campus.
Timmermans emphasises that the Aletta Jacobs hall is safe and that there are strict protocols in place. Students have to wear face masks, there are separate routes laid on the floor, there are rules for how many people can go to the bathroom at once, and all students will be seated two metres apart. ‘But any student who doesn’t feel safe is guaranteed a third opportunity at sitting the exam’, he said.
The timing of this third opportunity still poses a problem. ‘What about students who studied for two weeks who get ill the day before the exam, or what if they suddenly have to go into quarantine? Their third chance will probably be scheduled for the second block. You’d have to have intense moral fortitude to forgo sitting the exam’, said faculty council member and student Joost Mulder.
Difficult to implement
Timmermans emphasised how important it is to stay home. But he did admit that it would be difficult to pick the right time. ‘It will certainly be difficult to implement’, he conceded. ‘We’re working out these details right now.’
The faculty board will also start a sounding board of students from all over the faculty, so they will be able to take students’ feelings into account. ‘That should probably have happened earlier’, admitted Timmermans.
The faculty worries about what would happen if the current restrictions are tightened even further. Until now, exams in the Aletta Jacobs hall have been allowed, but any changes to that policy would pose a problem. ‘If that happens, we’d have to postpone the exams’, said Timmermans.
Government announces partial lockdown, face masks compulsory
Government announces partial lockdown
On Tuesday evening, the Dutch government announced that a ‘partial lockdown’ will go into effect this Wednesday because of the rapid increase in corona infections. Starting at 10 p.m., all pubs and restaurants will close. Face masks will become compulsory.
With 7,393 new infections on Monday, prime minister Mark Rutte said during the press conference, the government had no other option than to implement harsh restrictions to get the coronavirus under control. ‘The number of social contacts and movements we make has to be cut drastically’, he said. ‘It is the only way. We have to be tough on ourselves and on our behaviour.’
This means that bars and pubs will have to shut their doors for at least the next two weeks. Restaurants and coffee shops are only allowed to open for take-away service.
People are urged to work at home unless it is impossible for them to do so. The number of visitors at home is restricted to three people per day. Outside, groups can consist of no more than four people.
Face masks will finally become compulsory in indoor public spaces and public transportation. However, this still needs to be worked out legally. Until then the government strongly urges everyone to use a face mask. At schools and universities, students and teachers must wear a mask when not in class.
Shops will close at 8 p.m., with the exception of food shops. Alcohol and soft drugs are banned in public spaces between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m.
Team sports with teams of more than four persons are cancelled and competitions are forbidden for everyone under 18. Sports canteens, showers, and locker rooms will close. Only professional sports will still be allowed.
The new rules will stay in place for at least two weeks. In the weeks leading up to October 27, the government will decide what measures will be necessary in the weeks that follow.
The government corona dashboard shows the development of the coronavirus in the different regions, like the number of infections, the numbers of hospitalised corona patients, and the reproduction number. It also shows the level of risk in the different safety regions of the country. Groningen is classified as a level 3 – serious. The highest risk level is 4 – very serious – and applies to major cities like Amsterdam where there are more than 250 confirmed cases per 100.000 people in a week.
What our current conduct teaches us can help fight climate change
What our conduct teaches us now can help the environment
The way we’re responding to the corona pandemic can teach us how to respond to other global crises, like climate change.
UG researchers Thijs Bouman and Linda Steg, as well as Thomas Dietz, who works at Michigan State University, say personal values play a large role in how we respond. These values make people feel personally responsible for certain things and spur them into action. ‘When individuals act in accordance with their personal norms, they typically feel proud, good and true to themselves’, the researchers write in a paper published in Nature Sustainability.
The government can help, the researchers say. One thing they can do is communicate clearly. ‘When the crisis had just started, the measures they were taking were quite strict, and we believe this could help battle climate change’, says Bouman.
Initially, the government’s way of communicating was clear, consistent, and simple. Citizens knew what to do in order to battle the virus: wash their hands and keep their distance. It was also important that they communicated the crisis in a way people could understand, for instance by talking about the number of hospitalisations or deaths. This made citizens feel like it was something that directly affected them.
That’s important, because strict rules might only work for a little while; long-term change can only come about if people themselves change. They should want to follow the rules. ‘Just telling people they should feel personally responsible doesn’t work’, says Bouman. ‘Enforcement would need to be accompanied with strategies that foster intrinsic motivation to act, for instance by targeting the different factors of our theoretical model’, the researchers write.
Many of these factors are missing when it comes to environmental policy and the climate. But, says the trio of researchers, we can do something about it.
Once again, clear communication is key, like using numbers that show the impact of the climate crisis. ‘It’s easy to talk about CO2 exhaust, but people can’t see it, which makes it hard to understand. If you tell them about the number of people affected or how many species have gone extinct, they’ll get it. It makes the situation personally relevant.’
The government should also tell people what they themselves can do and what their contribution, like going vegetarian or cycling to work, actually does, just like they did when telling people to wash their hands and keep their distance.
Finally, actions speak louder than words: corporations and governments both should encourage environmentally conscious behaviour through financial support. They should also engage in the behaviour themselves. ‘Just like people who get into trouble because of the government rules during the corona crisis can count on compensation and settlements.’
How students deal with corona
How students deal with corona
‘I felt really guilty towards my parents’
What does it feel like to have coronavirus? Two students explain how they dealt with Covid-19. ‘My friends made jokes about getting corona before I actually got it.’
First Mira had a really bad headache. Then it worsened overnight. Then she measured her temperature. ‘It was 38.5 degrees, so I immediately thought: ‘This is corona.’
Wasting no time, Mira called the GGD the next morning and was lucky to get an appointment straightaway. She did feel guilty, though, as she had to go outside to get to the test location. ‘During my bike ride I tried to avoid contact with anyone.’
The precautions were not an overkill. She tested positive. But she felt relieved. ‘I was happy that I hadn’t visited my parents, or my grandparents, or I hadn’t seen too many people recently.’
But not every student that tests positive is that lucky. Joyce, for example, had been staying with her parents when she learned she had corona, for which she tested at Schiphol airport after her vacation in Mexico. ‘I felt completely fine and didn’t have any symptoms back then’, the international business student says.
Joyce’s parents had to get tested too. Fortunately, they didn’t contract the virus. Nevertheless, the three of them had to quarantine for ten days. ‘I felt really guilty towards my parents because I was stupid enough to just assume that nothing happened during my vacation’, she says.
Close to home
Joyce was one of the first people in her friend group to catch corona. ‘Everyone was really shocked. They would always make jokes about getting corona before I actually got it’, she says. Even though she was asymptomatic at first, she lost her sense of taste. Her lungs hurt too. ‘I smoke less now because it was quite painful in the beginning.’
Mira’s feelings of relief vanished when she started to feel sick. ‘I had a fever. I was really tired. I do feel like the virus has really weakened me.’
She was also worried because, suddenly, it felt very close to home. ‘I was thinking of the chances of corona making me really sick. What if I am that one young person that does have severe symptoms?’
When Mira texted her friends and housemates that she had tested positive, one of her housemates panicked a little, too. She thought she was positive as well. ‘Even though everyone responded supportive, I noticed there suddenly was this sense of uncertainty among all of us. Everyone could get it right now’.
Together with her house, Mira worked on establishing new routines. ‘Luckily we have two bathrooms. From the moment I knew I had a fever, we made sure that I only used one bathroom, while all my roommates used the other one,’ she says.
Besides, they discussed what to do to make sure corona would not enter their house again. ‘We made a calculation. If the six of us would each have corona at a different time, it would mean that we would have to quarantine a total of 60 days together. That is two months. No one really wants that.’
When Joyce was allowed to go outside again, her friends were hesitant to meet up with her at first. Joyce says her mindset did change after corona. ‘I still see my friends, but I think we should all try to be more cautious, especially to protect those who are more vulnerable.’
Mira also has a different perspective on corona, now that she has survived it herself. ‘I feel that students who actually want to comply with the rules, are often looked down upon. That really annoys me’, she says. ‘I think we should all realise that you are the one who causes other people to have to cancel everything. Other people cannot go to their job, internship or parents, because you did not comply with the rules.’
Why Fay should not go to parties
Why Fay should not go to parties
Students who claim the right to go to parties are dead wrong, says student of international relations Mathias Matzen. ‘Going to parties right now is like peeing your pants because it is cold – it might feel good in the moment, but it will only end up making everything worse.’
On the 23rd of September, UKrant published an article in which you discuss why you still go to parties. You say you want your life back, that you personally are not at risk and that you’ve obeyed all the rules so far. You find it unfair that these rules interfere with your lifestyle. You’ve decided to break them and take your chances.
But dear Fay, going to parties because you want your life back is like peeing your pants because it is cold – it might feel good in the moment, but it will only end up making everything worse. When you go out to party, you are independently deciding to no longer follow the guidelines that are there to ensure the safety of everyone.
Let me first say that I also miss the life we had before this, but the only way we can get that life back is if you stop thinking of your own immediate desires and instead focus on what is best for everyone. For six long months you claim to have upheld the regulations, but now it’s enough. You want to party… TO LIVE!
But Fay, do you not see how wrong you are? You say you miss is your social life and going to university. You are sad that you have online classes, and even worse, you feel are being blamed for spreading the virus. Do you not see the irony here? You complain about being blamed for spreading the virus, while knowingly breaking the rules that are aimed at preventing you from doing so.
Whenever you go to a party, you put yourself at an increased risk of attracting the very virus you want to get rid of.
You are angry that others do not seem to care about the regulations as you do. They bump into you in the street. Why are people blaming you, who is not at risk, while the ones in danger are the very same people breaking the rules? It sounds like you want everyone else to obey the rules just so you can break them.expecting everyone to uphold the regulations, so that you can break them.
Your article is a moral justification for why it is okay for you to go out and party. But Fay, while you yourself may not be at enhanced risk of the virus, others around you are. You might be okay to return to university when it reopens, even with the risk of being infected, but many others are not. You tell yourself that it is okay to break the rules because even if you do get sick, your symptoms won’t be that bad.
Fay, we have these regulations to safeguard those for whom getting infected would be a serious matter. You write that you don’t visit your grandmother; what about the grandmother who stands next you in a store when you don’t know you are contagious? What about the healthcare worker who has to call in sick because you infected them? Your whole moral justification is that they should be avoiding you because you might be contagious, when it should be that you should try and not get infected at all.
You are afraid of the punishment for your actions. You don’t want to get fined for partying, which means you are aware that what you’re doing is wrong. And while you refuse to take responsibility for your own actions, you do feel the world is giving its responsibilities to you. You say that you will be ‘left to try and find jobs after this, pay tuition, solve the climate crisis’.
Do you believe you and your peers are the only ones who are affected? This crisis impacts so many others. Right now, your biggest concern seems to be that you cannot party. All the while, you continue to party. How much worse a situation would we be in right now if everyone acted like you?
I hope you can see how wrong your actions are, and I believe you and UKrant owe an apology to everyone who is affected by this crisis and all those who continue to follow the rules. When you write and publish these words with no disclaimer, you help condone, normalise, and encourage others to follow in your selfish, irresponsible footsteps.
Mathias Matzen is a student of international relations at the UG.
At UKrant: A platform for all voices
At UKrant: A platform for all voices
Every day, the editorial staff at the UKrant wonders: What are we writing about, why are we writing about it, and how are we writing about it? A look behind the scenes.
Two weeks ago, during a meeting with our student editors – where we obeyed all the corona rules and made a note of everyone who was there, just in case – we asked them: how is everything? How are your classes? What’s happening with you and your roommates?
One of the students told a story about how she attended a large party that ended with the police showing up. She said how difficult it was for her to enjoy life right now. Her arguments were well thought out and thorough.
The conversation took place before the corona outbreaks at the student associations in Groningen. However, the cities of Rotterdam and Utrecht had recently issued warnings about young people getting infected. Here, people were complaining about students having parties in the Schildersbuurt and the Korrewegbuurt.
We were concerned. At the same time, we were wondering why these young people were so lackadaisical about following the corona rules. Higher-ups had been asking students to take responsibility, but clearly to no avail. Students also appear to be unbothered by the accusation that they’re selfish and rude. Tens of thousands of people in the Netherlands – not just students, either – are looking for ways to meet up.
We asked our student if she wanted to write her story down. To explain how she felt. She would be giving a voice to the thousands of Groningen students who do what she did but are afraid to admit it. She agreed to do so.
The article she wrote made quite a splash.
Thousands of people read and shared it. People responded to it on our website and on social media. People were angry they had to read about this in our newsletter, accused UKrant of being irresponsible, and called our student editor hedonistic and selfish. Many people felt this article should never have been written.
Nevertheless, the UKrant editors stand behind the decision to publish this article.
Does that mean we agree with everything our student editor wrote? Absolutely not. But we don’t have to. It’s our job as UKrant to report on what’s going on in the academic community in Groningen. It’s a sad world in which media only publish articles that everyone agrees with and bans anything divergent.
It’s a sad world in which media only publish articles that everyone agrees with
This week, we also published an article on what to do if you feel sick but you can’t get through to the GGD to get tested. Our advice: stay home! We also published appeals from student assessors and university president Jouke de Vries that asked students to take responsibility.
On Instagram, people commented that these actions were contradictory, but that’s not true. It’s how a medium like UKrant should operate. It allows for a critical discussion.
It should be pointed out that our student doesn’t write that she doesn’t care about the rules. She says she prefers to socialise with people she knows and stay away from strangers.
It may look like she’s the only one. People have been castigating her on the website and on social media. Please don’t forget, though, that she was brave enough to write down how she feels and to put her name on it, while thousands if not tens of thousands of other people in the city do the exact same things she does, just in secret. We are proud of her for that.
We can’t pretend this is not happening. It won’t do to ignore others’ actions while also calling all those students hedonistic, selfish, and irresponsible. Sure, we can preach at them and tell them what to do. But in return, all they do is nod like good little children and do whatever they want anyway. Just look at the continuous rise in infections.
So here’s something else we can do: we can listen to them. We can engage them in a discussion and try to find some workable solutions.
Our student editor’s contribution this week serves as the starting shot for a relevant discussion. Let’s see who’s willing to have that discussion and remain civilised, critical, and respectful.
Christien Boomsma is acting editor in chief of UKrant
Scholarship PhDs would prefer regular employment contract
Scholarship PhDs would prefer regular employment contract
According to a survey among 225 scholarship PhDs organised by the PhD Network Netherlands, if scholarship PhDs had any say in it, they’d have a regular salary rather than receive a scholarship.
Of the 225 respondents, 74.4 percent say they’d rather have a regular employment contract. They applied for their position because it was the only one available, or because they couldn’t get hired as a regular PhD.
8.8 percent of the surveyed PhDs prefer their status as scholarship student.
The PNN isn’t surprised. ‘Scholarship PhDs make less money than employed PhDs and they earn no pension. Any supposed advantages like increased freedom in setting up their projects are not being fulfilled. It’s clear that scholarship PhDs are doing the exact same work as employed PhDs under worse employment conditions’, says PNN chair Lucille Mattijsen.
She would like the scholarship PhD experiment ended as soon as possible. ‘It’s become clear that the scholarship is preferred by the higher-ups. The PhDs don’t see the merit of it.’
But the PNN is satisfied with the ‘top-up’ grants for international PhDs. When a PhD starts at the UG with an external scholarship, the university supplements this to the level of a regular scholarship PhD.
The PNN’s findings correspond with the ongoing criticism levelled at the scholarship PhD experiment. Last year, the Groningen scholarship PhDs published a manifesto demanding the UG put a stop to the experiment. In it, they said they do the same work as their employed colleagues but are paid less. They also can’t claim any employee benefits.
This manifesto has since been signed nine hundred times. 236 of these signatures were from scholarship PhDs. In spite of the criticism, the UG decided to continue the experiment; they’ll have room to recruit 650 more scholarship PhDs over the next few years.
PNN: Scholarship PhDs don’t have much freedom after all
PNN: Scholarship PhDs don’t have much freedom after all
Scholarship PhDs do not have more freedom to design their project than regular PhD students do. They cannot exert much influence on how they write their research proposal, and don’t have a lot of input during their research.
The PhD Network Netherlands (PNN) says so in a new report based on a survey of more than four thousand PhDs in the Netherlands. One important factor that impacts the freedom of scholarship PhDs is where the money for their research comes from: whether it’s from the first flow of funds or from external financiers. The discipline is another deciding factor: people doing a PhD at the arts or law departments have a lot of freedom, while PhDs in the scientific fields do not.
Groningen Graduate Schools project manager Marjan Koopmans says scholarship PhDs’ increased freedom lies mainly in the themes of their research proposal. ‘It’s true there’s less of a difference in the actual implementation’, she says. ‘But scholarship PhDs can decide their own hours and go on vacation whenever they want.’
She also points out that the PNN survey isn’t representative. ‘All in all, 120 regular UG PhDs and sixty scholarship PhDs filled it out.’ She says the low number of respondents and the fact that the PNN used its own channels to disseminate the survey could have influenced the results.
The PNN also asked respondents about the quality of their supervision. Overall, PhDs are fairly happy with their everyday manager, who usually isn’t their promotion supervisor or co-supervisor. They give their managers a mean grade of 7.3. Many PhDs do feel like they’re being pressured, with 43 percent saying so. In 21 percent of these cases, PhDs feel their work stress is being trivialised.
Supervisors also tend to contact them at night and on weekends. 13 percent of respondents said they felt pressured to take on extra work. Supervisors also want to be credited as co-authors on papers when their contribution has been minimal.
The PNN argues that everyday managers who are doing a good job should get the recognition they deserve. One way would be to give them the right to do a PhD, since currently only professors are allowed to do so. The PNN also proposes to set up independent procedures to allow PhDs to address problems.
Koopmans doesn’t think allowing managers to do a PhD will solve any of the issues. According to her, it’s easier for scholarship PhDs to switch managers, which the survey results show has its own issues. ‘I’ve had it happen a few times. It’s not something people do because they want to, since it’s a hassle, but they have a personal scholarship which makes it easier.’
Finally, the PNN calls for an end to the Experiment Promotieonderwijs, also known as the ‘scholarship PhD experiment’. ‘The only advantage to this system was supposed to be the increased freedom PhDs had in their projects. But this advantage never materialised’, the PNN writes.