Oops: exam posted online in the middle of the night

Questions hastily changed

Oops: exam posted online in the middle of the night

The exam for the Civil Law 2 course was postponed by an hour because the exam was accessible on Nestor in the middle of the night.
12 January om 14:04 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 13 January 2021
om 11:25 uur.
January 12 at 14:04 PM.
Last modified on January 13, 2021
at 11:25 AM.


Door René Hoogschagen

12 January om 14:04 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 13 January 2021
om 11:25 uur.

By René Hoogschagen

January 12 at 14:04 PM.
Last modified on January 13, 2021
at 11:25 AM.

René Hoogschagen

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Hundreds of students were ready to take the exam on Tuesday morning when they were told it had been postponed. It turned out the exam had been posted on Nestor overnight, coordinator Evelieke Slob confirmed, which meant the students could have potentially seen it.

Students pointed out the mistake to the course’s lecturers, after which the exam was cancelled. The lecturers changed the exam in great haste, allowing the exam to take place the same morning.  If the mistake had been discovered after the exam had been administered, the whole exam would have been invalid.

The law faculty doesn’t yet know why the exam was accessible on Nestor before it was supposed to be.

Heritage clubs protest law faculty’s alterations to library

The law faculty’s current location is not big enough.

UG threatens to find different location

Heritage clubs protest law faculty’s alterations to library

In a letter to the city council, the municipal executive board says that if the Faculty of Law isn’t allowed to add an extra storey to the former public library (OB), it will look for a different location.
6 January om 11:15 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 11 January 2021
om 16:09 uur.
January 6 at 11:15 AM.
Last modified on January 11, 2021
at 16:09 PM.


Door René Hoogschagen

6 January om 11:15 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 11 January 2021
om 16:09 uur.

By René Hoogschagen

January 6 at 11:15 AM.
Last modified on January 11, 2021
at 16:09 PM.

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Most of the Faculty of Law is currently located at the Harmonie complex, which it shares with the Faculty of Arts. After the OB’s move to the new Forum, the law faculty felt its premises would make a great new location, but only if they could add an extra storey to the building to make room for all students and lecturers. 

But cultural heritage association Heemschut Groningen and Stichting Vrienden van de Stad fiercely oppose the addition. The two heritage foundations have called upon the city council to refuse the alterations.

Waiting for approval

The alterations are scheduled to be finished by the summer of 2023, says Hanneke van den Berg with the law faculty board. For more information, she refers to VGI, the UG’s property management department, which in turn refers to the communications department. 

What’s this about the plans to look for a different location? ‘The UG has submitted an application to alter the building and we’re awaiting the city’s decision. I can’t speculate as whether they’ll decide in our favour or not’, says spokesperson Gernant Deekens.

Municipal board

The municipal board writes to the city council that they want to approve the addition. It cites the increase of students due to the pandemic as a reason. More high school students graduated and fewer will be taking a gap year, which means there will be more first-year law students.

But Heemschut Groningen’s secretary Gijsbert Boekschoten says he’s not sure if the extra room is even needed. ‘Perhaps they’ll actually need less room in the future due to online education.’

In the letter, the mayor and councillors write that the building was originally going to have an extra storey. At the time, the extra storey was not built because it ‘didn’t fit the plans’. The city architect even consulted the now 85-year-old Italian architect Giorgio Grassi, who designed the building, about new addition plans.

Zoning plan

While this is all well and good, the addition would increase the building’s height by 5 metres, which the zoning plan does not permit, say Heemschut Groningen and Vrienden van de Stad. The executive board is overstepping the mark by deviating from the plan in such a visible location without proper argumentation, says Boekschoten. ‘It’s not as though the building is in some back alley.’

‘They’re basically undermining the municipality’s spatial planning policies’, he says. ‘The council is in charge of that, not the UG or some architect. The first priority is a decision, so we can object to that if need be.’ If it comes to that, says Boekschoven, Heemschut will not hesitate to take the matter to court.

Practicing your pharmacy skills can be done online

Practicing your pharmacy skills can be done online

The ‘practice pharmacy’ that enables pharmaceutical students to gain experience was switched to an online version last week. But going from helping real-life patients at a desk to online consultations is a big change.
24 November om 12:19 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 24 November 2020
om 12:19 uur.
November 24 at 12:19 PM.
Last modified on November 24, 2020
at 12:19 PM.


Door René Hoogschagen

24 November om 12:19 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 24 November 2020
om 12:19 uur.

By René Hoogschagen

November 24 at 12:19 PM.
Last modified on November 24, 2020
at 12:19 PM.

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‘On the first day, a patient came in and she was visible to everyone in the pharmacy on this big screen. And she had a question about a bacterial yeast infection’, Claudia Dantuma-Wering says, laughing. 

Dantuma-Wering is a pharmacy lecturer as well as the coordinator for Gimmics (Groningen Institute Model for Management In Care Services), a game that teaches master students how to run their own pharmacy, including inventory management, doctor consultations, and the occasional upset customer. 

In order to make everything look as real as possible, groups of students would normally decorate a small room in the building at the Antonius Deusinglaan to look like a pharmacy, with flyers and empty medication boxes. They would sit in that room every day, for five weeks. Now that the corona crisis has prevented this set-up, the game has moved online.

‘It’s good for them to learn how to do patient consultations online’, says Dantuma-Wering. ‘They might have to do it for real in the future.’ 

Important skills

Gimmics was created at the UG twenty years ago, but it has been used at seven different universities, ranging from Brisbane to Vilnius, under the name Pharmacygame. Dantuma-Wering explains that leadership and responsibility are important skills in a pharmacy setting. Every day, a different student plays the boss.

Pharmacy student Nora Oving has just helped out a patient who had a headache. On the web cam, she shows the room she’s in. Her five fellow students wave. They’re seated far apart in an otherwise unfurnished room; the doors and windows are open. They did create a counter: a few tables pushed together, with a plastic screen to shield the students from the handful of actors who will stop by.

‘It feels very different’, says Nora, who once played a patient in the fake pharmacy and is now part of the Heinen Pharmacy team. ‘It doesn’t feel like a pharmacy. We’re here in person for only half the week. The rest of the time we’re at home.’ They have to clear the room every day because other people need it after them, which means they can’t decorate the place. ‘It’s kind of impersonal.’

It’s harder to read people’s facial expressions

Pelle Posthumus works at competing pharmacy Goedbloed. He’s having a hard time keeping track of all the online documents. ‘We’ve got a hundred tabs open at once. But I probably just need to get used to it. This is just the first day.’

‘I would’ve preferred talking to people in person rather than through a computer screen’, says Eyub Demirkol with pharmacy Van de Werf. ‘It’s harder to read people’s facial expressions and I’m never quite sure if they understand everything I say. You can’t read people’s body language either, or whether their feet are tapping, for instance. In real life, it’s much easier to see those signals that convey something is wrong.’

Nevertheless, it still feels kind of real, Nora says. ‘We’ve got a lot of orders in and we’re talking to real health care providers and suppliers. That makes everything a lot more realistic.’

Spotty connection

Dantuma-Wering says there haven’t been many issues, apart from the internet connection being a little spotty sometimes. ‘We’ll get interference or accidentally talk over each other.’ It’s difficult to say where the issues come from. It could be the students’ laptops or the Wi-Fi in the building. ‘Eduroam doesn’t work everywhere.’

It was a lot of work to turn the game into an online version, says lecturer Christa de Vries-Vingerling. ‘There were eight or nine pages of issues we needed to take care of.’ All prescriptions had to be available digitally and the students weren’t allowed to see all of them at once, just a few each day.

Everything for the actors had to be made available online as well, ranging from the evaluation forms to the pharmacy visits themselves. The visits are now done through Collaborate. ‘That works really well for receiving foreign actors’, says De Vries-Vingerling.

New website

Next year, Gimmics wants to design a new website which incorporates these changes. ‘One advantage is that we’re using much less paper. That was something we’d been working towards’, says Dantuma-Wering. 

She does miss talking to her colleagues in the game room, which used to be bustling with people. ‘I do think the students appreciate being able to get together for those three days a week.’ Nora confirms. ‘We’re having a pretty good time around here. Don’t we?’ she asks her teammates. In the background, people agree. ‘We do.’

Students win appeal in cheating case

Students win appeal in cheating case

Two UG students have successfully appealed their punishment after the exam committee invalidated their exams for cheating. The committee should have provided more evidence. This means online exams will have to be changed.
17 November om 16:48 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 22 November 2020
om 16:22 uur.
November 17 at 16:48 PM.
Last modified on November 22, 2020
at 16:22 PM.


Door René Hoogschagen

17 November om 16:48 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 22 November 2020
om 16:22 uur.

By René Hoogschagen

November 17 at 16:48 PM.
Last modified on November 22, 2020
at 16:22 PM.

René Hoogschagen

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Exam committee chair Frank Verstijlen is ‘surprised’ at some of the Examination Appeals Board’s decisions. The board pointed out, among other things, that there was no evidence provided of WhatsApp conversations to substantiate the committee’s decision. ‘Obviously, it’s difficult to provide that’, says Verstijlen. ‘We’re not some domestic intelligence service.’

‘The system we created to administer online exams is showing cracks’, Verstijlen says. Law faculty dean Wilbert Kolkman says things needed to change anyway. ‘Online exams were new to us at first, but now we have to stay one step ahead of students.’

More assignments

Kolkman thinks the answer lies in more oral exams and more assignments for courses with fewer than sixty students. ‘The board is willing to invest funds to support lecturers in this endeavour.’ 

When it comes to larger exams, his priority is to have more in-person exams, ‘divided across multiple sessions if need be’. But if that proves impossible, the dean still considers postponing or proctoring exams options. ‘But proctoring is expensive, and we’d rather not postpone.’

Whether the decisions, which were published on the UG website earlier this month, will affect other faculties, Verstijlen can’t say, although he suspects they will. ‘The appeals board will want to be consistent.’

Different questions

Both cases involved students of criminal law. In an answer in the Criminal Law 3 exam, one of the students talks about a necklace rather than an earring, which was mentioned in the question. The exam was set up so that students were presented with variations on questions. One of the variations concerned a necklace.

The student explained that in her family, they never talked about earrings, but rather about necklaces, and that she had simply confused the two types of jewellery. Neither the lecturer nor the exam committee believed this, and the student was punished: her grade was nullified and she was excluded from taking the resit this year.

In June, the other student submitted an answer to the Criminal Law 1. The font changed in the middle of the text. He also discussed a topic that was only mentioned in a different variation of the question. Both the examiner and the exam committee felt this indicated he’d copied and pasted the text from someone else’s answer. He received the same punishment as the first student. 

It is not possible to dispute the appeals board’s decision.

Faculties sound the alarm on cheating

‘Board needs to crack down on this issue’

Faculties sound the alarm on cheating

Last week, the faculties of law, arts, BSS, and FEB sent the UG board an urgent letter. The faculties are worried about students cheating on online exams.
2 November om 16:16 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 22 November 2020
om 16:22 uur.
November 2 at 16:16 PM.
Last modified on November 22, 2020
at 16:22 PM.


Door René Hoogschagen

2 November om 16:16 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 22 November 2020
om 16:22 uur.

By René Hoogschagen

November 2 at 16:16 PM.
Last modified on November 22, 2020
at 16:22 PM.

René Hoogschagen

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Wilbert Kolkman, dean of law, says people voiced their concerns during earlier board meetings. Then, it was discovered that a large number of students had cheated on three FEB exams, which were then nullified. ‘That’s when we decided we needed to band together and do something.’

Priority

It’s not like they think the board isn’t doing anything, Kolkman says, ‘but they need to prioritise this. That’s what we’re doing. Let’s all do something about this right now.’ ESI, the UG educational support centre, has qualified people working for them, he says. ‘Maybe they should be going full steam ahead in situations like these.’

The law faculty has also had issues with students cheating on exams. Its exam committee recently concluded that students cheated significantly more often during the last period of last year. Two students in particular communicated through Facebook during multiple exams, and dozens of others were caught cheating in minor ways.

Worried

The faculty has cracked down on the cheaters. Concerning the two students and their widespread cheating, their marks for the block in question have all been invalidated. They have been banned from taking online exams for a year. The other students simply have to retake the exams they were caught cheating on. 

The faculty is worried that this is just the tip of the iceberg and that they failed to detect other forms of cheating. But a statistical analysis of several bigger law courses taught during the last block last year showed that it wasn’t all that bad. 

Alternative testing methods

After they’d sent the letter, the faculties received a short proposal from the educational advisers at ESI, Kolkman says. One idea would be to no longer organise exams to take place at the end of each block, but to give students an assignment in block 2 and create a big exam that combines courses at the end of block 4 ‘when the pandemic has passed’.

‘We have to make do with what we have’, says Kolkman. ‘Teaching has already started, so we can’t just change everything. But we can discuss alternatives. I’d prefer it if we had something at the ready should we ever need it.’

Law faculty clamps down on cheating

Photo: Reyer Boxem

Two students were caught five times

Law faculty clamps down on cheating

Two law students have had all marks from their online exams invalidated after they were caught cheating on five different exams. They are also banned from taking any online tests for the rest of the year.
20 October om 13:23 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 22 November 2020
om 16:22 uur.
October 20 at 13:23 PM.
Last modified on November 22, 2020
at 16:22 PM.


Door René Hoogschagen

20 October om 13:23 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 22 November 2020
om 16:22 uur.

By René Hoogschagen

October 20 at 13:23 PM.
Last modified on November 22, 2020
at 16:22 PM.

René Hoogschagen

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During the exams, which took place in the last block before the summer, the students communicated over Facebook chat, says exam committee chair Frank Verstijlen.

They’re not the only ones who cheated: the exam committee received more than sixty reports of possible cheating during the previous academic year. Verstijlen says this is a lot more than the year before. Most of the reports concerned the last exam period.

Approximately fifty cases of cheating have been confirmed. Some students have appealed their judgements.

Voided

These students will also have their marks voided, although only for the exams they were caught cheating on.

They will also be excluded from future online exams, albeit not as long as the two big fraudsters. In almost all cases, the cheating student will no longer be able to graduate with honours.

Cheating is a serious offence, the faculty wrote in a message to all students. ‘Especially for students of law, who are being trained to serve the law.’

Moral appeal

Last year, the law faculty decided to postpone the third block exams and move them to the fourth block because of the impact of the corona crisis. This would allow the faculty to adjust to administering online exams and anticipate any potential cheating.

In the end, the faculty decided to change all courses with more than seventy-five students to open-book exams. Berend Wezeman, who was dean at the time, said the questions would concern ‘cases that required some thinking’, rather than just easy facts students could look up. Smaller courses were poised to switch to oral exams or essays.

The faculty board also issued a moral appeal to students by having them sign a pledge to not cheat. ‘We decided to trust our students’, Wezeman said. He did also issue a warning: ‘If you violate our trust, we will not hesitate to take action.’

Cancel exams

Students also have to sign a pledge for the first exam period of this year. The exam committee has sent out an email, warning students that anyone who cheats exposes their fellow students to the risk of online exams being cancelled altogether.

Since in-person exams will be impossible for the foreseeable future, this could mean all exams will be postponed indefinitely, or the university could start using controversial proctoring software during online exams.

It would allow examiners to keep an eye on students during online exams. Verstijlen says this is an option. ‘But we’d prefer not to.’

Survey: 40 percent of employees are having a hard time

Photo: Tim Gouw via Unsplash

People who work from home can’t relax

Survey: 40 percent of employees are having a hard time

A survey from the HR department this summer showed that two thirds of UG staff are worse off than before the corona pandemic. 40 percent report that their mental state has worsened.
8 September om 16:57 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 22 November 2020
om 16:21 uur.
September 8 at 16:57 PM.
Last modified on November 22, 2020
at 16:21 PM.


Door René Hoogschagen

8 September om 16:57 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 22 November 2020
om 16:21 uur.

By René Hoogschagen

September 8 at 16:57 PM.
Last modified on November 22, 2020
at 16:21 PM.

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The survey asked almost six thousand employees, including student assistants and scholarship students, about their well-being during the pandemic. 40 percent of staff filled out the survey.

Work stress

The employees whose mental state had deteriorated cite work stress, the lack of colleagues, and uncertainty about the future as some of the causes. Other examples are loss of motivation, lethargy, depression, and problems sleeping. The pandemic has also made people worry about their own health and the health of their loved ones.

The report says that more than half of employees complaining about work stress being even worse is ‘concerning’, since the staff survey held in 2019, before the pandemic, showed that even back then half of employees were already suffering from work stress.

HR has concluded that the measures that were taken after that survey should be implemented even faster. 

Lack of involvement

Another interesting result, the report reads, is that several employees feel that management is lacking in decisiveness on various levels. The lack of involvement on the part of the UG, team leaders, and the board of directors is also something the respondents criticised. 

‘Employees said that the positive communications about “becoming the best online university in Europe” completely ignores the increased stress they’ve been experiencing’, the report reads. ‘They feel that management has no idea how the employees really feel.’

Office

Many employees are having trouble working from home. 40 percent doesn’t even have a proper home office, lacking things like a good chair, screen, or good computer. 

Others miss the peace and quiet of working in an office; one third of employees have children under the age of 16. They especially complain of a disrupted work/life balance, since their kids need attending to during the day and employees tend to continue their work at night, sometimes until very late. 

Group pressure

Respondents also say they feel either group pressure or pressure from management to keep working outside of normal office hours. Working from home, employees miss the physical difference between work and private life, HR writes, which means they’re unable to relax. A total of 60 percent of the respondents said they were experiencing this. One respondent was quoted as saying: ‘There is no home, only work.’ 

Nevertheless, some of the respondents say the current situation is an improvement. They have an easier time planning their days, don’t have to travel as much, and enjoy the structure of online meetings. They also have more free time. 

Back to the office

Two thirds of employees can see a future in which they work both at home and at the UG. However, this should not be enforced, some of them warn. A quarter of respondents doesn’t want to work from home ever again.

However, many of them say that working at the office should be safe in accordance with RIVM guidelines: properly ventilated, no more shared offices, and preferably no more flexible workspaces.

There is a difference in responses by Dutch employees and internationals: while several Dutch respondents ask not to be patronised too much, some internationals would like restrictions that are more severe than what the RIVM advises, like enforcing the use of face masks. ‘We have to make sure that both groups feel comfortable’, HR writes.

Actions

The results still need a thorough analysis. This analysis will be done for each separate department.

Based on the preliminary results, the university has expanded the laptop scheme and allowed people to borrow furniture from the office to use at home. The UG has also hired a vitality coach and published tips on how to ergonomically work from home. 

UG invests 5.5 million in online education

Additional staff and improved software

UG invests 5.5 million in online education

Over the next two years, the UG will invest 5.5 million euros in improving online education. Half of the money will be spent on 22 FTE in support staff, and another 1.5 million will be invested in software and equipment.
7 September om 13:30 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 22 November 2020
om 16:21 uur.
September 7 at 13:30 PM.
Last modified on November 22, 2020
at 16:21 PM.


Door René Hoogschagen

7 September om 13:30 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 22 November 2020
om 16:21 uur.

By René Hoogschagen

September 7 at 13:30 PM.
Last modified on November 22, 2020
at 16:21 PM.

René Hoogschagen

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The investment is meant to capitalise on what the UG has learned about online education because of the corona crisis. ‘Students and lecturers currently feel that the quality of online education pales in comparison to on campus education’, the board of directors writes in its Educational Action Plan. The investments are explicitly meant to have ‘long-term relevance for the UG strategy’. 

The plan revolves around the concept of blended learning, where classes will be taught both online and on campus, with some students attending in person while others take the class at home. The UG also wants to make sure students can easily switch between online and on campus education.

Implementation

The university will hire student assistants and experts to help lecturers set up online classes and tests. The UG is also spending 800,000 euros on better software.

Additional classrooms will be made available for recording and live-streaming classes. The UG has ordered the build of 125 carts that come equipped with a large screen and other necessary equipment. The university will employ people to help work these polycom systems.

Exams that cannot be administered online will take place in the Aletta Jacobs hall. The planning will take corona measures into account. The university will focus on getting students in and out of the hall as quickly as possible. 

Facilities

The UG will provide facilities to teach students and lecturers to navigate the online environment. They’ll be creating a digital platform where people can talk about their experience, offer webinars, and creates online education and testing modules.

People already have access to help for online testing. The facilities for recording and streaming classes should be available by the second semester. Lecturer support, the website, and webinars will be functional in block 3. The deadline to implement all the other facilities is the end of this academic year. 

IT multi-annual plan

Another 800,000 euros has been set aside for any new measures in the second year. 

The money for the plan partially originates from the quality agreements for housing and lecturers support for next year. These are now almost entirely depleted. The biggest part, more than four million, will be taken from the IT multi-annual plan from the previous period and the coming one.

Who absconded with the ornament off the Academy building’s facade?

Who absconded with the Academy building ornament?

‘I think the handwriting is a man’s’, says University Museum director Arjen Dijkstra. He picks up the box that contained the returned ornament and shows us the note that came with it. The thief clearly wants to stay anonymous. But can they?

1 September om 12:35 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 22 November 2020
om 16:21 uur.
September 1 at 12:35 PM.
Last modified on November 22, 2020
at 16:21 PM.


Door René Hoogschagen

1 September om 12:35 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 22 November 2020
om 16:21 uur.

By René Hoogschagen

September 1 at 12:35 PM.
Last modified on November 22, 2020
at 16:21 PM.

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The package we’re talking about is the same one that rector magnificus Cisca Wijmenga recently tweeted about, thanking the sender, who wrote that twenty years ago, they’d accidentally broken an ornamental piece off the Academy building’s facade. They were now returning it, with their apologies.

Pigeon food

The handwriting does look masculine: angular and messy. The thief writes that they were a student in the year 2000, which would make them in their late thirties or early forties. However, they refer to the UG as RUG rather than RuG, which is how it was written back then. Could that mean they worked at the university after they’d graduated, or that they were connected in some other way?

Let’s look at the box the ornament was shipped in. An old label reveals it once contained pigeon food, specifically for turtledoves. A different label says the package was shipped at 11:34 a.m. on July 17. It took another month before Wijmenga got around to opening it, since she wasn’t in her office because of the pandemic and because it was the summer holiday. The date doesn’t tell us much, unfortunately; pretty much everyone had time to clean out their attic in the middle of summer.

The ornament itself is made of heavy iron. ‘These things don’t just come off by themselves. It takes some doing’, says Dijkstra. The leaves and the protrusion in the middle are bent. Dijkstra says the thief’s claim that the ornament simply broke off when they were swinging from it is nonsense.

Renovation

Last year, it was discovered that the Minerva statue on the Academy building was holding a broom instead of a spear and that Mathematica was missing her gold compass. It’s entirely possible these things were stolen during the same renovations in 2000. Perhaps the thieves will return those, as well. ‘That would be great’, says Dijkstra. ‘I’d love to have them back.’

The museum director doesn’t really know how to feel about the whole thing. Recreating the ornament probably cost at least a thousand euros, he thinks. ‘Then again, it’s just one of those things that happen in a student town.’ It’s a little funny, he supposes. ‘We don’t all have to be goody two shoes, obviously. But I don’t encourage this kind of behaviour.’

Dijkstra saw an opportunity for an exhibition. The ornament will be displayed in the University Museum’s window, together with Minerva’s broom, among other items.

Have you ever stolen anything from the uni? Bring your object to the UKrant offices and tell us all about it!

The note

Dear sir/madam,

When I was a student at the UG around the year 2000, I did something very stupid: the Academy building was being renovated and one night I climbed the scaffolding (I was following a drunken friend in an attempt to save him from certain death). At the top, I somehow thought it was a good idea to swing from an iron ornament. The thing broke off and I was so scared that I took it home with me. The next day, I woke up with the ornament next to my pillow. I felt so guilty that I kept it for the past 20 years. I am now returning it to you. I’m sorry for the inconvenience…

Best wishes, 

An Alumnus

Corona halts coffee deal

Coronavirus halts UG coffee deal

Two large coffee dealers, including Douwe Egberts (DE), have withdrawn from the tender process for coffee machines at the UG because of corona. The university has withdrawn the tender for now.
22 June om 13:53 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 22 November 2020
om 16:21 uur.
June 22 at 13:53 PM.
Last modified on November 22, 2020
at 16:21 PM.


Door René Hoogschagen

22 June om 13:53 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 22 November 2020
om 16:21 uur.

By René Hoogschagen

June 22 at 13:53 PM.
Last modified on November 22, 2020
at 16:21 PM.

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The previous tender process, which expired earlier, and the current one were both based purely on volume. But now that there are far fewer people allowed in the buildings, the UG can no longer guarantee big sales. Right now, half of the 160 coffee machines in the university buildings are shut down. Some of the DE staff are out of work.

Feddie Nicolai, UG contract manager, says a new tender process is underway. The new tender will differentiate between the fixed and variable costs for the supplier. ‘There will be a price for each machine and a price for what that machine produces.’

This means that, should the buildings go in lockdown again, the coffee dealers aren’t stuck paying for machines that don’t make any money.

Smaller machine

‘That also means we have to start thinking more about the capacity of the machines’, says Nicolai. If people at a certain location only drink a few cups a day, perhaps that location would be better served by a smaller machine. ‘Or perhaps those people will have to go to a different machine a little farther away.’

The new tender is still for sustainably produced coffee like Fairtrade and wants to improve the quality of the coffee. ‘Instant coffee will be replaced by ground bean coffee.’

As long as there is no new deal in place, Douwe Egberts will continue to be the UG’s supplier. Nicolai hopes to finish the tender administration before the board of directors leaves for a six-week holiday. ‘We have to put it out there as quickly as possible. After all, we do want good coffee.’

UG researcher happy with dead pill bug

A picture of the fossil, taken with a light microscope. Photo: Mario Schädel and Joachim Haug, Bulletin of Geosciences

Fossil gives insight into evolution

UG researcher happy with dead pill bug

UG evolutionary biologist Timo van Eldijk is really happy with a pill bug. Even though it’s dead. That’s because the isopod is 245 million years old and that’s pretty rare.

26 May om 19:11 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 22 November 2020
om 16:20 uur.
May 26 at 19:11 PM.
Last modified on November 22, 2020
at 16:20 PM.


Door René Hoogschagen

26 May om 19:11 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 22 November 2020
om 16:20 uur.

By René Hoogschagen

May 26 at 19:11 PM.
Last modified on November 22, 2020
at 16:20 PM.

René Hoogschagen

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Hobbyist palaeontologist Herman Winkelvorst found the petrified isopod in a quarry in Winterswijk and sent a picture of it to Van Eldijk, who immediately realised how valuable the discovery was. ‘Everything there is older than even the oldest dinosaur’, he says. 

He forwarded the photo to experts in Munich, who were just as enthusiastic as he was. A complete isopod from the Triassic era, which lasted fifty million years, is extremely rare, says Van Eldijk. On top of that, this one is a new species.

Rock

After he’d received the picture, Van Eldijk went to Winterswijk to pick up the rock containing the fossil. ‘Next, I took a train to Munich. I had the rock in my lap. It’s been cut down by now, but back then it was a pretty big rock still.’

The German experts were astonished with how intact the fossil was. Only nine isopods from the Triassic period were previously known, but since this fossil is in such good condition, it is definitely number ten.

The ancient pill bug has been named after its discovery site in the province of Gelderland: Gelrincola Winterswijkensis. That’s because, as Van Eldijk says, ‘Winterswijk is a unique place.’ 

Tidal flat

In the Triassic era, the area was a tidal flat. ‘Kind of like the Wadden Sea, except with chalky sediment.’ This means the erstwhile Muschelkalkzee contains fossils of both terrestrial and aquatic animals. This isopod lived in the water and probably was carnivorous, says Van Eldijk.

The discovery of the creature is another piece of the puzzle to what life was like back then. It also gives insight into the evolutionary history of isopods, says Van Eldijk.

Van Eldijk and his fellow researchers from Munich and Utrecht recently published an article on the find in the Bulletin of Geosciences. The pill bug will be on display in the Naturalis museum in Leiden from July 1 onwards. 

Students ‘mildly’ punished for cheating

‘Most of them were remorseful’

Students ‘mildly’ punished for cheating

The twenty-three psychology students who cheated on their Statistics 1b and 2 exams last month will be allowed to retake the exams.
8 May om 11:27 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 22 November 2020
om 16:20 uur.
May 8 at 11:27 AM.
Last modified on November 22, 2020
at 16:20 PM.


Door René Hoogschagen

8 May om 11:27 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 22 November 2020
om 16:20 uur.

By René Hoogschagen

May 8 at 11:27 AM.
Last modified on November 22, 2020
at 16:20 PM.

René Hoogschagen

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The students were allowed to turn themselves in to the exam committee. Fifteen of the twenty-three came forward. Their current grade will be deleted, and they will have two new chances to retake the exam next year, just like other students. 

The eight students who didn’t come forward will receive a harsher punishment: they will only have one chance to retake the exam next year. They’ll also get a note in their file, which means they won’t be able to graduate with honours.

It turned out one suspected student hadn’t cheated after all; they will not be punished.

Lenient

‘We were lenient’, says Maarten Derksen, head of the exam committee. ‘We took the special circumstances the students were in into account.’ Although, he emphasises, that’s no excuse to cheat.

During a multiple-choice exam, students discussed the answers in WhatsApp group chats. Some of their fellow students were so upset with this that they reported it to the exam committee.

Remorse

The committee asked sixteen students this week for an explanation. The others had already explained their actions in a long email.

‘Most of them were extremely remorseful’, says Derksen. ‘They said the exams were difficult. Most of them just panicked and asked a few questions in the group chat. But others were online the whole time, discussing everything extensively.’

Derksen says the incident shows that multiple-choice exams are not a suitable option for online testing. ‘But this was an emergency. We’d have to postpone the exams otherwise, and neither the faculty nor the board of directors was in favour of that.’

Law faculty will make up exams before summer holidays

Law faculty will make up exams before summer holidays

All the law exams that were postponed due to the corona measures will be made up before the start of the summer holidays. The exam period will be extended by one week.
29 April om 12:09 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 22 November 2020
om 16:20 uur.
April 29 at 12:09 PM.
Last modified on November 22, 2020
at 16:20 PM.


Door René Hoogschagen

29 April om 12:09 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 22 November 2020
om 16:20 uur.

By René Hoogschagen

April 29 at 12:09 PM.
Last modified on November 22, 2020
at 16:20 PM.

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Inquiries made by UKrant showed that the faculty council has agreed to the plan proposed by the faculty board. 

The current schedule will be changed. First, students will sit the exams for block four, and then the exams for block three. There will be at least a five-day break between the blocks, and exams will be held every other day. Unfortunately, the schedule will not apply to all exams.

The faculty council is especially happy that this will allow students to move on to the next year without suffering any delays. The council members did point to the importance of things like technical support. They feel this proposal is the most feasible one and further discussion will only cause delays. ‘We have to make do with what we’ve got’, says Riëlle van der Velde with Progressief Rechten. 

Only option

Dean Jan Berend Wezeman said this was the only feasible option during the faculty council meeting last week when he announced the plan.

If exams were to be rescheduled for after the current exam period, it would take lecturers until mid-August to grade everything. ‘Then we’d still be doing online teaching in September’, Wezeman predicted. ‘We don’t think that’s a good idea.’

This schedule means everyone can still have a proper break in August. Lecturers who grade quickly can start relaxing as soon as mid-July. ‘That’s important, especially for lecturers who have kids’, said Wezeman, referring to the elementary school holiday, which ends mid-August.

One condition: all lecturers have to stick to the schedule. ‘We can’t have anyone saying they can’t make it because they have a wedding to attend or anything like that. We can’t take that into account, as it’ll mess everything up.’ 

Psych department tracking down students for cheating in online exams

Twenty students suspected

Psych department investigates cheating in online exams

The psychology department’s exam committee is investigating purported cheating during the online resits for statistics I.b and statistics II, which took place last week. They suspect approximately twenty students.
22 April om 11:16 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 22 November 2020
om 16:20 uur.
April 22 at 11:16 AM.
Last modified on November 22, 2020
at 16:20 PM.


Door René Hoogschagen

22 April om 11:16 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 22 November 2020
om 16:20 uur.

By René Hoogschagen

April 22 at 11:16 AM.
Last modified on November 22, 2020
at 16:20 PM.

René Hoogschagen

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‘We have proof that students were discussing the questions and their answers in WhatsApp group chats during the exam’, says Maarten Derksen, the exam committee chair. Other students in the group chats sounded the alarm.

They call upon any students who were part of the group chats to come forward to the committee. They have until the end of the afternoon on Wednesday. Derksen says they’re also approaching individual students. ‘Next, we want to decide what to do with the cheaters.’

Kicked out

They’ll go easy on the students who come forward themselves, he says. Anyone who doesn’t come forward and is proved to be guilty of cheating will most likely be kicked out of the course. ‘We’re not fully committed to that course of action just yet, but it’s likely.’

The English-language statistics II exam was administered to approximately three hundred students last Thursday, while statistics I.b was administered last Friday. Due to the corona measures in place, the exams were online, open-book exams. 

No proctoring software, which allows lecturers to keep an eye on students through their microphone and webcam, was used during the exams. Two weeks ago, the university ran a test using proctoring software during a different statistics exam.

Evaluation

The cheating incident will be taken into consideration in the evaluation of online exams. ‘We’ll evaluate not just the cheating, but also the technology’, says Derksen. He doesn’t think this will lead to any big changes. ‘It’s an emergency solution.’ 

Measures were taken to make cheating harder, and students have to promise not to cheat before taking an exam, but it’s difficult to monitor it all, he says. ‘Everyone knows that online exams are a nightmare.’

UKrant is doing a survey on students’ experiences with digital exams and alternative assignments. You can take it here.

The first online PhD ceremony concludes with a Zoom party

Photo UG

The first online PhD ceremony concludes with a Zoom party

The corona crisis has put a stop to all regular PhD ceremonies, which meant the UG had to come up with an alternative. On Monday, the first online PhD ceremony was held for medical toxicologist Danial Afsharzadeh.

7 April om 17:44 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 22 November 2020
om 16:19 uur.
April 7 at 17:44 PM.
Last modified on November 22, 2020
at 16:19 PM.


Door René Hoogschagen

7 April om 17:44 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 22 November 2020
om 16:19 uur.

By René Hoogschagen

April 7 at 17:44 PM.
Last modified on November 22, 2020
at 16:19 PM.

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‘It’s weird’, says Danial Afsharzadeh. ‘I’ve been to various PhD ceremonies over the years, and they always involved all these people in the auditorium of the Academy building.’ But he found himself in an empty room, apart from the beadle and the UG rector. Everyone else attended the ceremony at home, in front of a computer screen. Even his girlfriend. ‘My family was supposed to come over from Canada as a surprise, but that didn’t happen.’

The ceremony itself, where he defended his research into potential treatment for liver damage, went fine, he says. ‘The sound was good, the connection was great, and every time someone said something, they were clearly visible on screen.’ He was in the usual spot PhD candidates are in, facing the screen. ‘There’s no need to worry about the official part’, he says when asked if he has any tips for others. ‘It’s all taken care of.’

Congratulations over livestream

But it’s not much of a party. While the PhD candidates are usually accompanied by their paranymphs when the committee retreats to the senate room to confer, Afsharzadeh had to leave the room on his own. He didn’t have any friends with him to help calm his nerves. 

He did graduate. From a distance, his supervisor Klaas Nico Faber gave a speech about his days in Groningen. His friends, colleagues, and family congratulated him from their respective houses during the livestream. He posed for pictures on the stairs with the rector. ‘Don’t worry, we were five feet away from each other.’ 

Shock

‘It was a bit of a shock at the end’, he says. ‘Leaving the building with the degree under my arm, all alone.’ At home, his paranymphs and his supervisor had organised a Zoom party to celebrate. ‘I’ll definitely have a real party once the corona crisis is over.’

Right now, he needs to go visit the reason he couldn’t postpone his graduation: his prematurely born son Oscar, who will hopefully be able to leave the hospital soon. On the afternoon that his father defended his PhD, Oscar was taken off ventilation.

Ten tips to survive quarantine

From Netflix to studying

Ten tips to survive quarantine

Maybe you’re not ill, but your brother or your girlfriend or that weird student that sat next to you in class last week has corona and now you have to quarantine yourself in your room for two weeks. How will you spend the time? Here are ten time killers.
13 March om 17:16 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 22 November 2020
om 16:19 uur.
March 13 at 17:16 PM.
Last modified on November 22, 2020
at 16:19 PM.

1. Get cookin’

You might be in quarantine, but you still need to eat. And if your neighbour doesn’t show up every day with soup and a sandwich, it’s tempting to just order in. Unfortunately, that’s unhealthy and expensive, so why not try your hand at some recipes yourself? Order your groceries online at the supermarket, Ekonoom, or Groentebroer, and they’ll deliver your vegetables straight to your door.

There are plenty of recipes online, ranging from simple to complicated. Try the historical recipes at The Historical Cookery Page

2. Binge something

Eight seasons of Game of Thrones will tide you over nicely.

The easiest way to get through the day is to watch the shows that everyone’s always talking about and you never got around to, like Game of Thrones, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Wire, Westworld, or House.

If you’re looking for something more current: Ziggo/HBO will start airing The Plot Against America on Tuesday, which centres around the question: what if the US hadn’t done anything to stop Hitler? The six-hour miniseries should keep you entertained for a while.

If you’ve got Netflix, here’s a tip: the German detective series Babylon Berlin, about Nazis, communists, and prostitutes, set in 1929. Season three has just come out; there are a total of twenty-eight episodes, each forty-five minutes long. You can do your own maths on how many hours that is in total. It’s not like you’ve got anything better to do.

If you’re a real nerd, you need to watch all 279 episodes of The Big Bang Theory. That’ll keep you occupied for two weeks.

3. Declutter your room

Turn on Marie Kondo on Netflix, or better yet, read her books, and get rid of all your old crap. Don’t forget to thank whatever you throw away.

Since you won’t be able to leave your house, literally getting rid of your stuff will have to wait, but as long as you’re not throwing out anything perishable you can just leave it in the hallway.

Larger stuff does pose a problem, unfortunately. While taking it to the dump yourself is free in Groningen, the city does charge for coming to get it: at least 47.30 euros. You could hire someone through voordeligvervoerd, which would cost you forty bucks. Maybe it’s a better idea to keep your old couch around for a while.

Kondo’s latest book could prove helpful for UG employees whose desks are overflowing: Joy at Work. It’ll help you continue your decluttering journey when you get back to work.

4. A thousand pieces

That’ll keep you busy.

Puzzles. Apparently, they’re hip again. Before you go on lockdown, drop by the Mamamini for an extra large box, or order some online. It’ll keep you busy for hours and it’s nice and zen. Add in a little podcast (see next tip), and doing nothing has never been more fun.

Once your quarantine is over, you can join the old people in the nearest care home. Don’t forget to disinfect your hands before you enter, though.

5. Podcasts

Put on a podcast to help you get through cleaning or doing that puzzle. Like Radiolab, which focuses on scientific and philosophical questions. If you’re more into crime, you can try Serial, which has been called the best podcast in the world.

If you want something a little juicy, we recommend Thirst Aid Kit, a podcast about celebrity lust and sexual desire. In their season one finale, they interview Chris Evans himself.

It may seem a little old-fashioned, but radio plays are still popular. Try the British radio play Home Front: the 617 episodes, each lasting fifteen minutes, will make the two weeks fly by. Finally, an oldie but a goodie: The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.

6. Stay fit

You obviously stocked up on snack foods before going into quarantine. Yeah, you can’t keep a secret from us. Restrain yourself! Try to stay fit. It’s not easy, but you can do it in the confines of your student room, through a thing called convict conditioning.

It was developed by a prisoner, which is apt, since you’re currently a prisoner in your own home.

The idea is to use your own bodyweight. You need no weights or dumbbells. Just yourself, two chairs, and a table. If you want to get everything out of the training, you’d need to lock yourself away for six years or more, but at the end you’d be able to do a one-arm handstand push up!

There’s also plenty of cardio to do at home. Check out Chris Heria’s cardio video. You do need a bit of space, as well as an open window to get rid of the smell of your sweat.

You could also connect your old Wii and play a round of Wii Sports.

7. Use your imagination

Bingeing a show is well and good, but using your own imagination is even better. That’s right, we’re talking about reading. We know all that mandatory reading has turned you off it, but trust us, there is a lot of good stuff out there.

If you don’t have an e-reader and prefer to read paper books, there are other solutions. You can also read e-books on your laptop.

But what to read? Tip: ask your local booksellers. That’s currently a bit tricky, but Goodreads has done the work for you. Here are their lists for the best books of 2019.

8. Be a smartypants

You know a lot. After all, you’re a university student. This is the ideal moment to share your knowledge with the world. You can do so on Wikipedia. It’s super easy and your audience is much larger than the people who read anything you wrote or will write in uni.

The only problem is that no one will ever quote you, since your work ends up in a heap with everyone else’s. Think of it like academic volunteering.

9. Study

You’ll be all caught up when classes start again.

Our most sensible tip: study. If you have a hard time studying by yourself, just get an online study buddy. Take a gander at the Study with Me livestream on YouTube and you’ll find one in no time. Or click here.

10. Call someone

It’s old-fashioned, but that fancy smartphone actually has a function that allows you to talk to people. Live. So give your parents a ring. Or maybe your aunt? I’m sure they’ll appreciate it.

If you enjoy talking to people and you want put some love out into the world: call an elderly person. A great uncle, your elderly neighbour, or a random person in a nursing home. No one is visiting them because of this darned virus, and there are plenty of people who need someone to talk to. They’ll be able to patch you through at reception.

Tip: have them tell you about the diseases of yore. Now those were scary.

Law students want online classes

Fear of coronavirus: law students want online classes

A group of international law students is worried about getting the coronavirus at the university. They’re asking the faculty board to make classes available online.
4 March om 10:56 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 22 November 2020
om 16:19 uur.
March 4 at 10:56 AM.
Last modified on November 22, 2020
at 16:19 PM.


Door René Hoogschagen

4 March om 10:56 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 22 November 2020
om 16:19 uur.

By René Hoogschagen

March 4 at 10:56 AM.
Last modified on November 22, 2020
at 16:19 PM.

René Hoogschagen

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The fifteen students, who for the most part attend the Honours College, sent the International Office an e-mail on Monday asking for access to online classes for everyone. 

Vindicat

The students are worried they could catch the virus at the RUG from anyone who travelled to infected areas, like the Vindicat members who are currently on a skiing trip in northern Italy. They also think that sick students would be more likely to come to class if there’s no alternative where they can stay home.

The initiators say putting the videos online wouldn’t be much trouble, since ‘most classes are being recorded anyway’. Michaela Stavridou, one of the students, says the law faculty has been promising to put the videos online since the first academic year. ‘We’ve been told this in various classes, but we never got access. Only European law gave us access, but their videos were wrong.’

No recordings

Kirsten Wolkotte, the law faculty’s International Office coordinator, has not seen the e-mail yet, but can answer the question: ‘We never recorded any of the classes in the English-language programme, so there’s nothing to be put online.’ Only the part-time programme records classes.

Wolkotte also says it’s not as easy to arrange as the students think. ‘It would take an immense amount of work. I don’t even know if any of the classes are in rooms with recording equipment. We could find out of course, but there have been no infections in Groningen yet.’ 

She therefore sees no need to start recording classes, or to cancel any. ‘If the situation changes, we’ll reassess.’

Wolkotte pointed to the ‘need-to-know’ messages on Nestor, saying the students should read them. They contain information about the measures taken against the virus, and what people can do to protect themselves.