‘It feels safer when you know other students got tested’

‘It feels safer when you know other students got tested’

How can we go back to letting the nearly seventy thousand students at the UG and Hanze take their exams in person? By testing them beforehand. Monday saw the start of the first speed-testing pilot for higher education in the Netherlands, at the Zernike campus.
By Giulia Fabrizi and Rob Siebelink / Video and photos by Rianne Aalbers
18 January om 15:23 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 19 January 2021
om 16:19 uur.
January 18 at 15:23 PM.
Last modified on January 19, 2021
at 16:19 PM.

Medical student Ilona Meuleman winces ever so slightly when a fellow student wearing protective equipment pushes a cotton swab up her nose. In just a few hours, she’ll know whether she has Covid or not. Or, since that’s what this is all about, whether she’ll be able to sit an exam in person later that day. 

On Monday, the UG and the Hanze University of Applied Sciences started a pilot to test students for Covid-19 before they sit an exam. Groningen is the first speed-testing location in the Netherlands specifically geared towards students. Next, they want to see how the speed testing can be used to allow students to return to on-site classes.

No time

‘We came up with the idea for a speed-testing location back in October’, says UG rector Cisca Wijmenga. When the ministry of education and overarching university association VSNU asked the UG before the Christmas break to set up a pilot, the facility was up and running in no time. 

The facility has been set up at the UG’s Facilities Management building, a stone’s throw from the Aletta Jacobs hall. There are three testing lanes, which can process 450 tests a day. For now, however, they’ll test no more than a hundred students, who will be pre-selected and emailed. Participating in the pilot is voluntary. Results take three hours.

Example

Education minister Ingrid van Engelshoven, who visited Zernike on Monday, says the UG, Hanze, and Noorderpoort collaboration on the facility is an example for the rest of the country. ‘They did a thorough job setting everything up. The way they’re testing students before an exam or, in the next phase, before class, is what we want to see in the rest of the country as well.’

If this pilot is successful, the next step would be to test before practical classes or seminars. ‘I want to start testing on a large scale and give higher education and students some room to breathe. I want them to not just be able to sit exams, but to go back to classes at the university.’

‘I want to tell other districts to take a look at the collaboration that’s happening here. This is how it’s done. I hope the entire country learns something from Groningen.’

‘No trouble’

Dentistry student Sanjaya (21) is one of the students who signed up for the first round of testing. She has an exam Monday night and presented herself to be tested at Zernike at 9.30 in the morning.

‘I did hesitate when I first read the email. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go to Zernike and back again before my exam. But in the end, I figured it wasn’t much trouble, so why not get tested? It also feels safer when you know that most students got tested, even if it’s voluntary.’

Sanjaya liked that she could be tested in the morning rather than just before the exam. ‘I’ve got time to go back and study, so I’m not really bothered by the test. I wouldn’t like it as much if I had to take an exam right now.’

Universities will ease up on BSA this year after all

Universities will ease up on BSA this year after all

On Thursday, overarching university association VSNU announced that Dutch universities will ease up on the binding study advice (BSA) this academic year after all.
15 January om 13:37 uur.
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om 13:48 uur.
January 15 at 13:37 PM.
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Door Giulia Fabrizi

15 January om 13:37 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 18 January 2021
om 13:48 uur.

By Giulia Fabrizi

January 15 at 13:37 PM.
Last modified on January 18, 2021
at 13:48 PM.

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The number of ECTS that students have to earn to get a positive BSA will be lowered by 10 to 15 percent. Universities can decide on the particulars themselves, and the rules may vary per department. The UG’s board of directors will decide on the matter on Tuesday, a university spokesperson said.

The University of Amsterdam (UvA) lowered the minimum requirement by 6 ECTS. The UvA said this means that, on the whole, students ‘need to pass one less class in order to continue to the next year’. The University of Leiden also announced how it would relax the BSA rules: students will only have to earn 40 ECTS, rather than 45.

Effective

The Groninger Studentenbond (GSb) is happy with the announcement. However, they feel the measure won’t actually be effective unless the UG lowers the BSA from 45 to 35 ECTS.

‘Lowering the norm by 15 percent leads to fewer than 40 ECTS. Since most of the courses at the UG are worth 5 ECTS, it would be best to just lower the whole thing down to 35 ECTS’, says GSB chair Marinus Jongman.

Just like they did last year, the GSb has been calling on the UG to abolish the BSA for the entire year. They say the first-year students who started during the pandemic are unduly stressed because of it.

Two weeks ago, GSb and student party Lijst Calimero presented the stories of five hundred students, in which they talk about their experience with the BSA. It was a last-ditch effort to convince the university to do away with the rule.

Pressure

Other student organisations responded somewhat positively to the news. Lyle Muns, chair of the national student union LSVb, says she would like to see the BSA abolished altogether. ‘But this takes some of the pressure off at least.’

The Intercity Student Consultation (ISO) is ‘happy with the leniency’. Chair Dahran Çoban: ‘This is a good move by the universities. It shows that they know this isn’t a normal year. It’s good to see that the university boards have heard our appeal from earlier this week.’

In the autumn, education minister Ingrid van Engelshoven announced she would abolish the BSA for universities of applied sciences for this academic year, but not for research universities. This was because universities said that their students weren’t unduly impacted in their progress. They therefore wanted to stick with the BSA.

GSb: ‘Dear city, please stop getting rid of student rooms’

The municipality hopes to alleviate the nuisance caused by students in neighbourhoods like the Schildersbuurt by converting rooms to studios.

GSb: ‘Dear city, please stop getting rid of student rooms’

The Groninger Studentenbond (GSb) is worried about the rapid increase of studio apartments in Groningen. The union says this is leading to a disappearance of necessary student housing.
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om 11:37 uur.
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13 January om 11:37 uur.
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om 11:37 uur.

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January 13 at 11:37 AM.
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The GSb is calling on the city to abolish the policy that allows for student rooms to be converted into studio apartments. 

‘For every new studio apartment, student rooms disappear’, says chair Marinus Jongman. ‘This year alone, sixty-four permits were approved, which means approximately a hundred rooms disappearing when we’re in the middle of a student housing crisis.’

The municipal council will discuss the policy as part of the multi-annual residential programme. 

Wrong prognosis

‘The city systematically underestimates the UG’s growth’, says Jongman. According to the GSb, the city’s current plans show they think the university will have 35,000 students in 2025, when, in fact, 36,023 students were enrolled at the UG in October of last year. 

‘Every year, we have to set up emergency housing, while student rooms are being demolished in favour of studio apartments’, says Jongman. ‘They should limit and regulate this, to prevent it from getting out of hand before it’s too late.’

Alleviate pressure

Transforming student rooms into studio apartments is supposed to alleviate the pressure on neighbourhoods with a large student population. ‘In certain areas, the students are considered a nuisance’, says Jongman. ‘The city hopes to curtail this by turning rooms into studio apartments, because they think apartment residents are quieter.’

But Jongman says the city is failing to address that this development creates an unwanted incentive for private landlords. ‘They can charge much higher rent for a studio apartment. And because studio apartments are bigger than rooms, rooms are disappearing. If we’re not careful, people will soon have to pay 900 euros a month for a studio apartment, like they do in Amsterdam.’

New residential towers

Jongman is happy with everything the city’s done to build new student housing, such as the Woldring en Nido residential towers at the Reitdiep. ‘But their projection of the necessary number of residences is based on obsolete data.’

‘It’s not right that on paper, there is no housing shortage, when it’s impossible for students to find a room come September and 150 people respond to a single ad. That’s not a healthy housing market.’

Solution to extract financial data from AFAS costs UG 200,000 euros

Three-year contract with different company

Tool to extract financial data from AFAS costs 200,000 euros

In order to use financial data from AFAS, the UG bought a licence with a different software company last year, costing over 200,000 euros.
13 January om 11:22 uur.
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om 11:53 uur.
January 13 at 11:22 AM.
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Door Giulia Fabrizi

13 January om 11:22 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 18 January 2021
om 11:53 uur.

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January 13 at 11:22 AM.
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Last year, AFAS partner Salure and the UG agreed on a three-year contract to develop a tool to extract financial data from the system.

This option wasn’t available until September of last year, which frustrated business coordinators and administrative staff. In order to keep track of, among other things, project expenses, they were forced to use old-fashioned Excel sheets. 

This new solution is costing the UG 6,000 euros a month for the next three years. This is in addition to the existing budget of 10.5 million euros.

Errant estimation

‘Initially, we wanted to do the reports in AFAS itself, or use our own tools’, programme manager Erwin Boelens explains. But after the AFAS implementation in January 2020, it quickly became clear that things were not working out the way the university wanted them to. 

‘Making our own tools turned out to take up more time than we’d expected, so we had to come up with a different solution. That’s when we turned to Salure. They have tools that can be embedded into the AFAS system.’

Separate programme

Some sceptical staff members wonder if the addition of Salure doesn’t impinge on the university’s objective. After all, switching to a different operations system was supposed to merge all the outdated expense, payroll, HR, and purchasing systems in one single solution. This adds another separate tool to the mix, and it’s from an outside provider. 

Boelens says that assessment is too simple; after all, the tool has been integrated into the AFAS system. Anyone accessing it needs to log into AFAS first, after which they’ll be directed to a page where they can consult and edit the financial data. That means it’s not a separate programme, but a necessary part of the new system.

Urgent solution

How long the UG will use Salure is unclear for now. ‘We can cancel the contract annually. Right now, we need to urgently publish the reports and make sure people have access to the system. Salure is our solution.’ 

In the future, AFAS might create a similar tool for the university, or the university does this in-house. ‘We’ll evaluate whether we’re on the right path over the course of the year.’

SSH threatens new sanctions after another illegal party

SSH threatens new sanctions after another illegal party

Student housing corporation SSH is considering new sanctions against residents at the Winschoterdiep after they organised another illegal party last weekend.
12 January om 15:43 uur.
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om 16:21 uur.
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12 January om 15:43 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 12 January 2021
om 16:21 uur.

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A female resident was having a birthday party and posted a video of it on her personal Instagram page. SSH spokesperson Madelon van Gameren says the video showed that people were on the property around midnight on Saturday night. ‘Security checked the property at fifteen minutes past midnight, but by then the party was already over’, she says.

But it’s clear that dozens of students gathered that evening at the party, flouting the corona rules. They were also breaking the strict rules the SSH introduced in October after earlier parties in the building.

Random pattern

Security at all SSH properties has since been tasked with keeping the students in line. The guards aren’t stationed permanently in the buildings; they make rounds between the buildings. ‘The rounds are a different pattern every time, to make sure they’re unpredictable’, says Van Gameren.

‘It allows us to randomly check up on our properties. There are also three student custodians at the Winschoterdiep who alert us when things get out of hand.’ It was one of the custodians who called security to report the party on Saturday night.

Earlier actions

In October, the police broke up a party at the Winschoterdiep after several noise complaints. SSH sent an angry email to all its residents and took action.

As long as corona lasts, residents are not allowed to receive outside guests. No more than four people at a time are allowed in common spaces, and only if they socially distance. No one is allowed in the common rooms after ten p.m.

Van Gameren says they’ve seen an improvement since the implementation of the new rules in October. ‘Ever since we followed up, most of the residents follow the rules. We’re very proud of them. In addition to our earlier actions, we also email our residents to let them know it’s their responsibility.’

Consequences

But not everyone seems to have got the message. In its angry October email, SSH wrote that anyone who broke the national corona rules or the new house rules could count on heavy sanctions.

But SSH has yet to decide on the consequences of last weekend’s party. ‘We’d first like to talk to the resident who threw the party to have her tell us what happened. Then we’ll decide what sanction to impose’, says Van Gameren.

No more Erasmus exchanges to and from the United Kingdom

Image by Daniel Diaz via Pixabay

No more Erasmus exchanges to and from the United Kingdom

Students and lecturers who want to go on exchange to the United Kingdom will no longer be able to do so through the Erasmus+ programme. Under the new Brexit deal with the European Union, the UK has left the programme.
5 January om 16:53 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 6 January 2021
om 9:32 uur.
January 5 at 16:53 PM.
Last modified on January 6, 2021
at 9:32 AM.


Door Giulia Fabrizi

5 January om 16:53 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 6 January 2021
om 9:32 uur.

By Giulia Fabrizi

January 5 at 16:53 PM.
Last modified on January 6, 2021
at 9:32 AM.

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UG spokesperson Gernant Deekens says that exchanges to Great Britain and Northern Ireland are no longer a certainty. ‘We have exchange agreements with forty-five British universities’, he says. ‘We’re now trying to reach individual arrangements with them in an effort to keep the exchange going.’

Deekens can’t say what these arrangements will look like. As of January 1, exchanges from and to the UK are no longer eligible for Erasmus+ funding. ‘Students can still use the Marco Polo programme, or they can pay for the costs themselves.’

Students and lecturers participating in an exchange project that received Erasmus+ funds before December 31, 2020, will be able to continue their projects.

Turing

It looks like British students will continue to be able to go on exchange. The British government is working on setting up its own exchange programme, called Turing. As of right now, this programme appears to be geared towards sending British students to the EU.

The Brexit also means that students who would like to do a bachelor or master programme in the UK will have to pay significantly higher tuition fees. The old regulations will apply to anyone who’s starting in the spring of 2021 in the UK, and they’ll pay the same tuition fees that British students do.

Britons in the Netherlands

Britons who want to study in the Netherlands will also see a change in tuition fees. Students who already lived and were registered in the Netherlands before or by December 31, 2020, will continue to pay the legal tuition fees, even if they’re only starting their programme after that date. 

Different rules apply to students who move to the Netherlands after January 1, 2021. They’ll have to pay institutional tuition fees and, in most cases, they will not be eligible for student financing.

Professor of tax law leaves over tax fraud

Professor of tax law leaves over tax fraud

Ruben Freudenthal left his position as professor of tax law per January 1, after the Public Prosecution Service (OM) fined him 50,000 euros for attempting to commit tax fraud.
4 January om 13:46 uur.
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om 13:46 uur.
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om 13:46 uur.

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According to the OM, Freudenthal deliberately provided incorrect and incomplete information when the tax authorities audited a property management business belonging to Freudenthal and a partner. 

Withholding records

The tax authorities suspected Freudenthal of withholding records on the business activities in 2014. They asked him to provide this paperwork, but he claimed no such paperwork existed and that the business wasn’t obligated keep records. 

However, the tax authorities said it was. A year after Freudenthal denied the existence of the records, the former professor forcibly handed over the paperwork. 

Exemplary role

The OM is taking the case seriously, since Freudenthal has an exemplary role as professor of tax law. 

Freudenthal, who is also a partner in accounting and tax consultancy firm Mazars, decided to resign from his position as professor at the UG per January 1.

Practical classes at UG will continue

Necessary lab work is also allowed

Practical classes at UG will continue during lockdown

All UG buildings will be officially closed from Wednesday, December 16, to Monday, January 18. The UG is obeying the lockdown as necessitated by prime minister Mark Rutte, announced on Monday evening.
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om 16:57 uur.

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All classes, seminars, and exams will be online during the lockdown. The only exception are practical classes, which will still be taught on site. A few exams are also exempt and will be held in the Aletta Jacobs hall. The various departments will issue more information on this.

UB and research

The UB will also close its doors on Wednesday, although people will still be able to borrow and return books. Starting Monday, January 4, special compensation will be in place for vulnerable students; a limited number of study spots will be available to them. 

The Special Collections room at the UB will remain open and serve as a ‘laboratory’ for the humanities department. In addition, location-based research, like necessary lab work, will also continue. The faculties have to determine for themselves which research is necessary.

Events and business trips

Meetings at the university will also change. Graduation ceremonies and speeches are cancelled. During the lockdown, PhD ceremonies will be held without an audience; only the PhD student, promoters, president, and secretary are allowed to attend. 

Business trips abroad are also cancelled, no matter the colour code of the country people want to travel to. The board of directors might make an exception, but only for long-term research for which data has to be collected on-site.

University council battles UG on budget

University council battles UG on budget

The university council will not endorse the UG’s budget for next year. The council says information on crucial elements was incomplete and tardy.
14 December om 15:24 uur.
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om 17:27 uur.
December 14 at 15:24 PM.
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Door Giulia Fabrizi

14 December om 15:24 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 14 December 2020
om 17:27 uur.

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at 17:27 PM.

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After a long and pointed discussion between the university council and the board during a council meeting on Thursday, eleven council members endorsed the budget, ten didn’t, and three abstained.

While the number of council members who endorsed the budget was bigger than the number that didn’t, this did not result in an endorsement from the council as a whole. For that, at least half the number of votes plus one need to be in favour of endorsement. That means there’s no official negative recommendation, either, and the budget has not been rejected. The vote will be deferred to the university’s supervisory board.

Insufficient information

The budget led to a heated discussion, as the council claimed it had been poorly informed on seven different topics.

The discussion went from the redistribution of funds based on the Van Rijn recommendation, to the two million euros the AFAS implementation has cost, more than seven hundred thousand euros that is to be spent on the Dean Entrepreneurship project – which has yet to be evaluated – and more than six hundred thousand euros that’s been spent on facilities management due to corona.

The council claimed it didn’t have time to prepare. The discussion of several topics, like arrangements made with faculties concerning the Van Rijn redistribution and the corona-related costs of facilities management, came too little, too late, because most of the arrangements had already been agreed upon.

Cause of concern

Hans Biemans with the board of directors admitted that the council had been insufficiently included in the decision-making process. He said he doesn’t want to use the corona crisis as an excuse, but had to confess that because of the current situation, not all decisions have been made in unison with the council.

The council initially asked the UG board to postpone the budget vote, to allow everyone to better prepare. But Biemans argued that for certain topics, like the Van Rijn distribution and the facilities management issues, it was impossible delay any discussion. These were then put to a vote and approved.

De AFAS and Dean Entrepreneurship costs, as well as the costs to implement an integrity policy, were postponed to the next meeting.

The fact that the council didn’t endorse the budget as a whole is a cause of concern for Biemans: ‘We do still have to work together, and I don’t really know what to do about the people who voted against the budget.’

University council in emergency meeting over Vindicat

University council in emergency meeting over Vindicat

The university council will hold an emergency meeting this week about Vindicat’s accreditation being revoked. The council claims the board of directors did not inform them correctly.
14 December om 15:05 uur.
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om 15:06 uur.
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Door Giulia Fabrizi

14 December om 15:05 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 14 December 2020
om 15:06 uur.

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That means the council’s faith in the board of directors has once again taken a knock. During the heated budget meeting on Thursday, December 10, the council blamed the board for informing them poorly and insufficiently.

Board member Hans Biemans told the board during the Thursday meeting that the matter of Vindicat’s accreditation was still being discussed and that he couldn’t say anything about it. A few hours later, the UG issued a press release that showed that it had already been decided to ban Vindicat from official events. The association will still receive committee grants.

Cheated

David Jan Meijer, faction chair for De Vrije Student (DVS), says he feels ‘straight-up cheated’ in the matter. He also says the board isn’t standing by the agreements they made with the associations. ‘At the core of those agreements is that association boards can only be held responsible for incidents they could have influenced directly’, he says.

But it’s now turned out that the board is also taking into consideration when Vindicat members violate corona rules, like when two year clubs organised a bus party or when approximately a hundred members attended a house party. DVS’ call for an emergency meeting is being supported by student party SOG and two staff members. No one yet knows whether the board of directors will attend. ‘The board isn’t obligated to be at any of our meetings’, explains Simon van der Pol with the personnel faction.

‘Shocking example’

Van der Pol is one of the staff members who supports the emergency meeting. ‘I’m mainly concerned about the fact that the council isn’t being informed properly and that we’re missing out on things. Vindicat is just once example, albeit a shocking one.’

‘As far as I’m concerned, it’s unacceptable for the board to talk about reform, leaving us to read about the decision in the news several hours later. In the meantime, they failed to answer any questions we had during the meeting’, he says. 

While the entire council harshly criticised the board’s poor communication on Thursday, not all members see the point in an emergency meeting. ‘We had an intense meeting about the budget last Thursday. To be honest, I think that’s more important’, says Casper Albers with the personnel faction. As far as he’s concerned, this particular matter could have waited until the next scheduled meeting.

Informal meeting

In the meantime, the board appears to be taking the council’s feelings about the budget seriously. Board president Jouke de Vries, who couldn’t attend Thursday’s meeting for personal reasons, has requested an ‘informal meeting’ with council representatives for Wednesday, December 16.

But some council members don’t like that this meeting will be private. ‘Something that should be decided during a university council meeting will now become a backroom deal on Wednesday morning’, says Meijer. For that reason, his faction will not attend. 

Student party DAG would also prefer a public meeting, but will not dismiss attending the informal meeting out of hand. ‘It’s a difficult decision, because we do want a seat at the table’, says faction chair Ivi Kussmaul. 

Right steps

Albers says it’s normal for the board to request an informal meeting. ‘After a negative advice, this is the step the board should be taking’, he says. ‘They’ll ask about the sore points and what the council wants the board to do to make it right. Besides, it’s not like any decisions will be made during the informal meeting.’

Van der Pol also says the board is taking the right steps. ‘It would be better to discuss these issues during a public meeting’, he says. ‘But sometimes you have to have an informal meeting if you want results.’

Both Albers and Van der Pol are clear when it comes to what the council needs for a positive advice: they want promises concerning the board’s transparency and the manner in which the council is informed.

Alumnus donates 35 million euros to the UG

Generous donor prefers to stay anonymous

Alumnus donates 35 million euros to the UG

A UG alumnus has donated 35 million to the Ubbo Emmius Fund. The donor wants the UG to spend 30 million on CogniGron, which researches materials for a new generation of computers.
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om 14:13 uur.

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The gift is part of a larger donation. It’s not yet known how much the donor, who wants to remain anonymous, will be donating in total. The university does expect more donations in ‘the near future’.

The UG says the total amount depends on the yield of the total donated fortune. One condition the donor set is that the money is spent on scientific research.

Huge amount

University president Jouke de Vries is grateful. ‘Never before has the university received such a huge amount from an alumnus to benefit scientific research’, he says.

‘It will give us the opportunity to make substantial investments in basic and applied research. We’ll also be able to give young and ambitious academics the chance to further their scientific career.’

CogniGron

The first 30 million will be allocated to the Groningen Cognitive Systems and Materials Center (CogniGron), where scientists are working on developing materials for a new generation of computers.

‘It’s important research, because the need for computers that can process and interpret enormous amounts of data will increase exponentially over the next few years’, says Beatriz Noheda, CogniGron director.

‘At the UG, we can significantly contribute to that via a multidisciplinary project involving scientists from various fields. We would have liked to name the CogniGron centre after the donor to convey our gratitude, but we obviously respect their wish to remain anonymous.’

UG want 5000 speed-tests for January exams

UG want 5000 speed-tests for January exams

The UG has plans to test five thousand students ahead of exams during the exam period in January.
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Laatst gewijzigd op 14 December 2020
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The plans were announced by the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU). In addition to the universities of Delft and Eindhoven and the VU in Amsterdam, the UG wants to set up a speed-testing pilot programme once the government gives the go-ahead.

Last week, rector Cisca Wijmenga already hinted that plans were underway, after an earlier proposal for a UG speed-testing lane was put on hold due to the GGD Groningen opening an XL speed-testing lane at the MartiniPlaza.

Self-testing

The VSNU says there will be a separate testing facility at Zernike Campus in January. Approximately a thousand students and staff members a day will be able to do a self-test before on-campus classes.

The universities are doing these pilots and experiments to enable a return to on-site education, according to the VSNU. ‘Students and lecturers are eager to go back to on-site education. That would improve the quality of education, as well as the students’ and staff members’ well-being.’

Support

The plans do depend on financing and government approval, the VSNU says. The proposed five thousand speed-tests can only be performed if ‘the institutes receive proper financial and logistic support’. Students and staff will be able to administer self-tests once they become available.

On Tuesday, the Lower House will vote on a motion tabled by GroenLinks and D66. During the corona press conference earlier this week, prime minister Rutte said it might be possible in the new year to perform controlled experiments on the public at sports events, theatres, and business conferences.

There is one condition: the number of infections has to go down. However, Rutte didn’t mention anything about institutes of higher education.

Vindicat to be stricter towards members

Vindicat to be stricter towards members

Vindicat rector Wessel Giezen recently stripped two year clubs of all their privileges because their members organised a bus party, breaking all corona rules. While the board used to be ‘powerless’, it’s now taking firmer action.
9 December om 12:58 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 14 December 2020
om 13:58 uur.
December 9 at 12:58 PM.
Last modified on December 14, 2020
at 13:58 PM.


Door Giulia Fabrizi

9 December om 12:58 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 14 December 2020
om 13:58 uur.

By Giulia Fabrizi

December 9 at 12:58 PM.
Last modified on December 14, 2020
at 13:58 PM.

Giulia Fabrizi

Nieuwscoördinator
Volledig bio
News coordinator
Full bio

After the police broke up a house party involving a hundred people packed into a Vindicat house, rector Giezen clearly said the board had no power over them.

‘Of course I’m angry’, he said at the time, ‘but the bylaws give me no authority to punish them in any way. We only have power over incidents that happen at the club or during official Vindicat events. Even though it was a Vindicat house, I have no clout over what happens inside.’

A week after this party, it came to light that Vindicat members organised a bus party that included a DJ, alcohol, and balloons filled with laughing gas. The partygoers broke all corona rules.

People all over the city, including members of the municipal council, were outraged. The VVD said that members are clearly fighting the cultural change the association started in 2016. The liberals have had it. They asked mayor Koen Schuiling to act more strongly, and to withdraw any financial support and ban Vindicat from official city events.

Outraged

Rector Giezen understands that people feel outrage at members not obeying corona rules. After all, wasn’t the first time.

In the spring, a group of first-year students were standing too close together while waiting to enter a pub. Next, several members, including a board member, were having an illegal party inside the Vindicat building. During one of prime minister Rutte’s press conferences on the corona rules in September, a group of members was found sitting close together and even cuddling on a club house balcony.

Actions

‘For anything that happens at the club, we immediately spring into action’, says Giezen. The board installed crush barriers and a doorman in front of the club house to manage the queue for the in-house pub (back when it was still open). They also had new locks installed on the doors to the balcony.

The board member who let people into the club house pub is no longer on the board. ‘Other than that, we’re mainly trying to prevent further incidents. We’re talking to house managers every week and alert the police and the Safety Region when we think people might be organising big parties.’

Punishment

Against all expectations, the bus party did have consequences for individual Vindicat members. After the board found out two year clubs had rented the bus, Giezen was unrelenting: ‘We’ve stripped the clubs of all their privileges. Basically, they no longer exist as far as we’re concerned.’

The members are no longer allowed to come to the pub as a year club on Wednesday, they’re excluded from official events, and they will not be included in the annual Almanac.

This is a severe punishment for an association where members pretty much do everything with their year club. ‘As far as I know, this has never happened before’, says Giezen.

Policy change

The board hasn’t doled out many punishments before. How come Vindicat was unable to punish the students organising the house party, but did punish the year clubs after the party on the bus?

‘In this case, it was clear to us who organised the bus party’, says Giezen. ‘Year clubs are subject to the board bylaws, so we were able to act.’

Giezen says that Vindicat is struggling with the changes brought on by the pandemic, just like everyone else. This also explains the more severe punishment for the bus party’s organisers, he says.

Not because of the commotion it caused, but simply because this kind of behaviour is abhorrent right now. ‘Everything is new to us; no other board has ever had to deal with something like this. We’ve realised we need to change our policy to match the circumstances.’

Colleagues still fighting for Joost Herman’s rehabilitation

Colleagues still fighting for Joost Herman’s rehabilitation

More than a month after former professor Joost Herman was dismissed definitively, both current and former employees are still bristling at the ‘inhumane treatment’ he received at the hands of the UG. The latest person to object is former vice dean Frans Rutten.
9 December om 10:28 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 9 December 2020
om 10:28 uur.
December 9 at 10:28 AM.
Last modified on December 9, 2020
at 10:28 AM.


Door Giulia Fabrizi

9 December om 10:28 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 9 December 2020
om 10:28 uur.

By Giulia Fabrizi

December 9 at 10:28 AM.
Last modified on December 9, 2020
at 10:28 AM.

Giulia Fabrizi

Nieuwscoördinator
Volledig bio
News coordinator
Full bio

Professor Jacques Zeelen attended a hearing at the Leeuwarden court and subsequently penned an open letter to UKrant, and retired professors Hans Renner and Peter M.E. Volten both expressed their support. Now, former vice dean of the arts and economics and business faculties conveys his outrage at the university’s actions.

Rutten wrote a letter to Jacques Zeelen and sent a copy to the board of directors, praising Zeelen for the way he ‘expressed his disgust with the way the UG persecuted its own professor’.

Culpable

In addition to being vice dean, Rutten was also the co-founder of the NOHA programme, and he understands that when Herman created the private foundation NOHA Groningen and used it to divert European funds from the NOHA programme, his actions were culpable.

But Rutten feels the way the UG has publicly pilloried Herman, taken away his opportunity to defend himself, taken away his health benefits when he is coping with a burn-out, and is demanding he pay back the funds that have in fact been spend on the NOHA programme (1.2 million euros), is disproportionate.

Questions

The affair raises several questions for him. Why didn’t anyone on the arts faculty board take a careful and composed look at what exactly was going on, rather than running to the board and sounding the alarm? How did the same thing happen at the board, resulting in immediate legal steps and public accusations?

These are questions that the Leeuwarden court also asked, remarks Rutten. ‘Contrary to what the magistrate said, the court acknowledges that Herman’s missteps were made in a particular context, and that it would be unfair and unreasonable to not dismiss him without a transition payment.’

Shared

Rutten says his letter, which he wrote on November 4 and added onto on November 7 and December 2, has been shared many times among university colleagues. ‘Apparently the letter has been disseminated – with my express permission, of course – quite a bit at the UG; I have been receiving spontaneous support from various corners, up to the highest levels of the organisation.’

Rutten quotes several of these messages of support, which range from ‘It’s great that the UG employees get to read your work’ to ‘Your words perfectly encapsulate how so many of us feel about this whole thing’.

The support has strengthened Rutten, and in his final words to Zeelen, he calls on him to continue his defence of Herman. ‘The damage that has been done to him personally and at the UG, is excessive enough.’

Internationals unable to understand council meetings

Internationals unable to understand council meetings

Internationals on the university council don’t understand important policy documents because they are not being translated. It’s on them to use free translation engines to translate the documents.
7 December om 13:58 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 8 December 2020
om 15:12 uur.
December 7 at 13:58 PM.
Last modified on December 8, 2020
at 15:12 PM.


Door Giulia Fabrizi

7 December om 13:58 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 8 December 2020
om 15:12 uur.

By Giulia Fabrizi

December 7 at 13:58 PM.
Last modified on December 8, 2020
at 15:12 PM.

Giulia Fabrizi

Nieuwscoördinator
Volledig bio
News coordinator
Full bio

Three of the four student parties in the university council brought the issue to light. More than 20 percent of the current council members are internationals, but important documents are still only available in Dutch, says Eoin Raftery with Lijst Calimero.

Translation engines

None of the documents for this week’s Thursday meeting, when important financial topics like the institutional budget will be discussed, are available in English. The internationals themselves are tasked with running the documents through free translation engines, says Raftery, which often results in incorrect translations.

This means the international council members spend more time preparing for meetings than their Dutch counterparts. More than once, the internationals ask questions about what certain things in the documents mean. A proper translation would prevent time being wasted on this.

‘All of us are making concerted efforts to learn Dutch, however, the technical nature of the documents in question means that a translation is completely necessary’, says Raftery.

Accessible

The issue concerning the translation of council documents has been ongoing for years. In 2017, the board of directors promised that by 2021 at the latest, all university council documents would be published only in English.

Lijst Calimero, together with De Vrije Student and DAG, appreciates the board’s intentions but emphasises that the time to act is now.

‘We respect our Dutch colleagues’ right to speak their native language, and we always want this to be protected. However, we are part of this academic community too and we have a right to participate. It is clear this can only happen when we have a language policy that is balanced, fair and consistently applied.’

Vindicat punishes year clubs after bus party

Dozens of members flout corona rules

Vindicat punishes year clubs after bus party

Two of Vindicat’s year clubs have lost all their privileges at the association after they organised a bus party where no one obeyed the corona rules.
4 December om 13:03 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 7 December 2020
om 13:59 uur.
December 4 at 13:03 PM.
Last modified on December 7, 2020
at 13:59 PM.


Door Giulia Fabrizi

4 December om 13:03 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 7 December 2020
om 13:59 uur.

By Giulia Fabrizi

December 4 at 13:03 PM.
Last modified on December 7, 2020
at 13:59 PM.

Giulia Fabrizi

Nieuwscoördinator
Volledig bio
News coordinator
Full bio

Vindicat rector Wessel Giezen announced the news on Thursday afternoon. ‘It’s come to our attention that the bus trip was organised by two year clubs’, he says. Videos of the party were being shared through social media and WhatsApp on Thursday afternoon.

They show dozens of students drinking, dancing, and yelling in the special party bus. None of them are wearing a face masks, and no one is obeying social distancing rules.

After the media became aware of the party, one of the students present realised the potential consequences. In a voice message, she asks her fellow students to delete all photos and videos from their social media.

Privileges

Later that afternoon, Giezen became aware that the party had been organised by two year clubs. ‘Since they are subject to our bylaws, we’ve decided to cancel both clubs’ privileges.’

A year club consists of fifteen to twenty students who all started at the same time. Each year club has its own name, and members can present themselves to the rest of the association via year club activities and the annual Almanac that Vindicat publishes.

Barred from the pub

‘All these privileges are now cancelled, and they’re not allowed to come to our in-house pub as part of their year club’, says Giezen. They’ve made a list with the members’ names and pictures to make it easier to identify any member that attempt to enter the pub anyway. ‘But after today, everyone at Vindicat knows who they are. That will make them think twice.’

Giezen says the punishment is a harsh one. ‘We’re basically telling them their club doesn’t exist anymore. I’ve been a member since 2017, and I’ve never known anyone to be punished like this.’

House will not encourage unis to cancel binding study advice

House will not encourage unis to cancel BSA

According to a vote on two motions concerning the binding study advice (BSA), it doesn’t look like the Lower House wants to tell research universities to cancel it for this year.
2 December om 11:31 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 2 December 2020
om 11:37 uur.
December 2 at 11:31 AM.
Last modified on December 2, 2020
at 11:37 AM.


Door Giulia Fabrizi

2 December om 11:31 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 2 December 2020
om 11:37 uur.

By Giulia Fabrizi

December 2 at 11:31 AM.
Last modified on December 2, 2020
at 11:37 AM.

Giulia Fabrizi

Nieuwscoördinator
Volledig bio
News coordinator
Full bio

The motions were submitted last week after a decision to cancel the BSA this year because of the corona pandemic. Universities of applied sciences will be cancelling the BSA, but research universities, including the UG, have decided they will maintain it. 

Unfair

SP MP Frank Knutselaar says this is not fair, because all students run the risk of study delays because of the coronavirus. He doesn’t think it’s right that research university students should be burdened with a BSA ‘during these difficult times’ while applied sciences students aren’t. 

He submitted a motion, asking the minister to ‘appeal heavily to the universities’ to cancel the BSA this academic year. A small majority in the Lower House disagreed with him: the motion was rejected by 79 out of 149 votes. 

Stayed

A second motion was submitted by Paul van Meenen (D66) and Lisa Westerveld (GroenLinks). They were also trying to raise awareness of the fact that ‘some students are unable to flourish under these extraordinary circumstances, even though they are fit to study under normal ones’. 

They addressed universities directly in the motion, calling on them ‘to not just apply the BSA in this year that has been so marked by corona, but to come up with a different norm that does justice to these extraordinary circumstances’. The motion was stayed, which means the House hasn’t voted on it yet. 

UG

The UG has maintained that it will continue to apply the BSA this academic year. Responses to the decision have been mixed. Both student organisations and the Groninger Studentenbond asked the university to cancel the BSA, but some lecturers would rather that didn’t happen. 

How long the BSA will be maintained in its current form is another matter, since the Lower House accepted a motion to do away with the concept altogether this past October.