14,000 couldn’t log on: system malfunction fixed (UPDATE)

14,000 couldn’t log on: system malfunction fixed

A technical malfunction meant that 14,000 people at the RUG were having trouble logging on to their RUG accounts on Tuesday.
14 January om 12:27 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 15 January 2020
om 11:26 uur.
January 14 at 12:27 PM.
Last modified on January 15, 2020
at 11:26 AM.

René Hoogschagen

Door René Hoogschagen

14 January om 12:27 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 15 January 2020
om 11:26 uur.
René Hoogschagen

By René Hoogschagen

January 14 at 12:27 PM.
Last modified on January 15, 2020
at 11:26 AM.

The malfunction took place on Monday night and continued into Tuesday morning, when mainly staff accounts were still affected, which meant staff members had trouble logging in.

The CIT had initially hoped to fix the problem over the course of the morning , but later said the problems would likely persist throughout the day.

They have since found the cause of the system malfunction, but they can’t comment on it.

RUG spokesperson Jorien Bakker has nothing to do with the implementation of the new university-wide software program.

No data has been lost, says Bakker. ‘The problem only pertains to the login system.’

‘I always tell them good morning’

Sjoerd Veenstra has been an animal handler for fifty years

‘I always tell them good morning’

Animal handler Sjoerd Veenstra has been working with mice, tarantulas, and zebra finches for fifty years. He’s never wanted to do anything else. ‘I wouldn’t want to be stuck in a basement somewhere.’
By René Hoogschagen / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen / Photo Reyer Boxem
21 October om 15:20 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 22 October 2019
om 9:27 uur.
October 21 at 15:20 PM.
Last modified on October 22, 2019
at 9:27 AM.

‘Oh my God, I’m going home’, Sjoerd Veenstra said in his thick Groningen accent when he spotted the decorations on his desk. ‘Is that today? Is it my fiftieth anniversary working here?’

Absolutely. It’s been fifty years. He started on October 14, 1969, when he was just fifteen years old. Imagine that: working for the same company for fifty years. Doing the same work every day, for fifty years. He is now sixty-five years old. He won’t retire for another year.

There’s no way he would escape the celebrations. His fellow animal handlers at the RUG put an inflatable gate near the entrance with an Abraham doll, streamers, and balloons. The number fifty was everywhere, from the main entrance to the aquarium rooms. All his colleagues dropped by, even the ones that weren’t working that day.

Gratitude

It was a great gesture, he says, making a face. ‘Much better than a party in a big room with lots of speeches.’ Everyone singing his praises? No, thank you. His wife and colleague Roelie Wiegman nods. ‘We’d rather have a little bit of gratitude every day than everything at the end.’

Sjoerd, a grey-haired man with a deep voice and a single silver earring, isn’t lacking in gratitude, though. His name is mentioned in numerous PhD theses. The academics thank him for taking care of their research animals, for his company, for the great conversations they’ve had. They even visited him at home. ‘It’s too bad I have to say goodbye to them every four years’, says Veenstra.

We only discuss work on the way home, and that’s it

One person he never said goodbye to was his fellow animal handler Roelie Wiegman. Veenstra had been working at the RUG for twenty years at the Biological Centra in Haren, when Wegman joined in 1989. ‘We gave it a lot of thought’, Veenstra says, serious. Wiegman nods. A relationship with a colleague can be a risky venture. What do you do if it all goes wrong?

‘But our love was stronger’, he says. And it’s still going strong. Although they’re not obvious about it. Wiegman is still using her maiden name, she works with different animals, and they keep their work and private lives separate. ‘We don’t want to bother our other co-workers’, says Wiegman. What about at home? Do they ever discuss work there? ‘No’, Veenstra says resolutely. ‘For a little bit on the way home’, Wiegman adds, ‘but that’s it.’

When work got hard because of a personnel shortage in the nineties it was nice to have a partner for a colleague, says Veenstra. They’d come home exhausted, fall asleep on the couch, and then still had to make dinner. They had a hard time keeping the house clean. ‘I don’t think anyone else would have put up with that.’

Hard work

Has he ever considered changing careers? He shrugs? ‘I wouldn’t want to be stuck in a basement somewhere…’ He’s content taking care of the animals and the researchers. These days, fish are his only charges. It’s a good job, and ‘the fish team is great’. As long as he doesn’t have to kneel. ‘I can’t get back up anymore.’

After fifty years of hard work, he physically no longer at his peak. He’s been declared partially unfit to work and only works in the mornings. ‘We didn’t have labour laws when I was young’, Sjoerd says as an explanation for why his limbs are so stiff. Taking care of the animals was much harder work than it is now. ‘I carried all these heavy buckets, walked through that came up to my ankles, on uneven ground. Now they check everything, like if you’re lifting stuff right.’

The students used to come by for a chat. Now they don’t have the time

Another thing that’s changed is the social contacts he has. Before, when he was still working in Haren, people would simply stop by and chat to the animal handlers. ‘They knew the coffee was always hot and they actually had time for a chat. These days, the students don’t have as much time.’ Today, the animals are at Zernike, and Sjoerd doesn’t know half the people working in the same hallway. ‘We’re at the very end of the hallway and everyone just passes us by.’  

While Veenstra currently takes care of the fish, he used to take care of gulls, mice, guinea pigs, rabbits, oystercatchers, and zebra finches. The tarantulas were the trickiest. The round jars they live in sometimes had to be cleaned. ‘I’d hold the jar they were in at the bottom and put a clean one on upside down.’ He holds his muscular arms aloft, as though he’s holding two jars. ‘The spider would have to go into the other jar. But sometimes I’d drop the jar and then the spider was on the ground.’ And then what? ‘You’d better get a jar over that spider real quick.’

Animal testing

He used to be able to take animals home after a study was done, but that’s no longer allowed, Veenstra says as he walks through the aquarium room. Machinery hums, air bubbles rise up, the fish swim. Some of them are alone, others in groups. ‘If they get aggressive, I separate them’, Veenstra explains. They’re not the kind of animals you can pet, but he likes them. ‘I always tell them good morning’, he says, laughing, ‘but they never answer me.’

Animal testing is still a sore subject. One of Wiegman’s friends is opposed to the whole thing. ‘So we just don’t talk about it anymore’, says Wiegman, resigned. They don’t perform any of the animal tests. They only take care of the animals, make sure they get fed every day, that they’re happy. 

Animal testing will probably always be necessary

These days, it’s not that easy to just do research that involves animal testing. First, a committee has to decide whether it’s truly necessary. The animal handlers themselves keep an eye on things as well; if they see something that’s not right, they speak up. ‘But I think we’ll always need animal testing’, says Veenstra.

In the photo for this article, he’s looking at the fish that will be used for research. Some people can get really angry at that. Veenstra shrugs. ‘I’m almost done anyway.’ Just one more year until retirement.

Groningen solar car nabs third place in World Solar Challenge

Team RUG/Hanze does surprisingly well

Groningen solar car nabs third place in World Solar Challenge

After 635 kilometres under the scorching Australian sun, the TopDutch solar team consisting of RUG and Hanze students has surprisingly reached third place during the World Solar Challenge. They have more than two thousand kilometres still to go.
By René Hoogschagen / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen
14 October om 13:51 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 14 October 2019
om 16:34 uur.
October 14 at 13:51 PM.
Last modified on October 14, 2019
at 16:34 PM.

‘It went really well’, says RUG student Friso Resink when he talks about TopDutch solar team’s first day of the World Solar Challenge in Australia. It was ‘super hot’, though; temperatures reached 41 degrees Celsius. Their current position: third place, with a time right behind the team in second.

‘We’ve driven 635 kilometres’, says Friso over the static in his satellite phone. TopDutch was only thirty seconds behind the Delft team and just ahead of Belgian team Agoria from KU Leuven.

Currently in the lead is a team from Twente, who managed to drive an extra fifty kilometres. ‘It was a great day. And the mood is good’, says Friso.

Monitoring

Friso doesn’t drive Green Lightning, which is what TopDutch named their solar car. He’s in the ‘chase’, a car decked out with equipment which monitors whether Green Lightning is doing everything it should and keeps an eye on the weather.

Friso, a physics student, worked together with another team member to design a program that calculates how fast or slow the driver has to go to make the best time.

‘I’m just staring at screens that display data all the time. I’m not even looking at the car itself.’ Was he nervous? Only at the start of the day, he says. ‘We didn’t have a lot of time to test the models, but after a while, everything just fell into place.’

Landslide victory

The real start of the race was on Saturday, when the qualifying rounds were held at the Quorn circuit in south-east Australia. To everyone’s surprise, the Groningen team won in a landslide victory: they had the best time of any solar car ever. This was an especially great feat for a newcomer and earned them the starting spot on Sunday.

‘We’re at the same camp site with the other teams’, says Friso. You’d think all those students would have a great time together. Sitting around a fire with a guitar and a didgeridoo. But no, says the RUG student. ‘It’s seven thirty here right now. After we hang up I’m done, I’m going to bed. We have to get up at five in the morning.’

The Groningen team has another 2092 kilometres to go before they get to Adelaide. Will the stage be Dutch only? ‘If we’ll get to the stage, you mean?’ Friso asks. ‘The way it’s going now…’ But he’s wary to make a real prediction.  ‘We’ll have to wait and see.’

You can follow the solar races on Bridgestone World Solar Challenge.

Companies demand to be hired by the RUG

A consortium of three installation companies has demanded the RUG hire them to outfit the new Feringa Building. The companies took the RUG to court on Tuesday.
By Rob Siebelink / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

Special consortium UCE had been in the running to build the vibration-free, biochemical laboratories in the RUG’s fancy new building. It will be a large, complex job that estimates say will cost around eighty million euro. Recently, the university notified the consortium that their services would not be required.

According to UCE lawyer Mark Lim, the three companies were rejected for the ‘wrong reasons’ after spending nine months ‘working hard to acquire the job’. On behalf of the companies, Lim said the RUG has not acted in accordance with European tender regulations.

Fudging the numbers

Peter Hoekstra, council for the RUG, disagrees. The consortium’s proposed price (ninety million euro) is more than the university can or is willing to pay. The RUG originally budgeted the project at fifty-six million euro, which was later bumped up to seventy-five million and then again to eighty million. The job was then privately awarded to a third party.

Hoekstra accuses the consortium of driving up the price by ‘fudging numbers and estimations’. He argued in court that UCE estimates unrealistically high prices to make more profit, aided by the tight construction market.

‘Contractors and construction companies think they can just ask any price they want’, the RUG’s lawyer said. ‘UCE didn’t try hard enough to figure out a cheaper option.’

He named the construction site costs as an example, which the three companies estimated at 2.7 million. ‘With that money, they could buy all new materials and install golden toilets in the Porta-Potties.’

Ten million

The consortium says the ninety million euro they quoted was fair and in line with the market. But the university opted for a company that quoted the job at ten million euro less. Hoekstra: ‘Ten million is a substantial difference.’

The consortium claims the RUG wasn’t allowed to do business with the other party in the first place and acted counter to tender regulations. They say the RUG backed itself into a corner through ‘unrealistic cost estimations and raising the wrong expectations’ and that the three companies are now suffering the consequences.

Damage claims

UCE demands that the judge rule in favour of the consortium and award it the job, or they will submit damage claims of up to seven hundred thousand euro. The RUG is willing to discuss compensation but says the proposed sum is much too high.

The parties didn’t reach an agreement on Tuesday. The case will continue at the Groningen court on Monday, June 3.

64,000 square metres, 1,400 students, 850 employees

The Feringa Building, named for RUG Nobel Prize winner Ben Feringa, will be the third new building for the Faculty of Science and Engineering, after the Bernoulliborg and the Linnaeusborg. It’s meant to replace Nijenborgh 4, which is fifty years old.

The new building, which will have 64,000 square metres of floor space and approximately three kilometres of laboratory tables, will be home to 1,400 students and 850 employees. It will be one of the biggest buildings in the Netherlands. The Feringa Building is scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2023.

 

Lift accident victims receive 1000 euro

The RUG will pay thirteen of the people involved in the lift accident that occurred in January 2019 one thousand euro each in compensation.
By Giulia Fabrizi / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

The amount serves as an advance to the eventual claims settlement. ‘Everyone who’s made a liability claim will receive the amount’, says RUG spokesperson Jorien Bakker.

‘The sum is independent of any medical costs or other expenses the students and employees have claimed.’ According to Bakker, thirteen of the fourteen victims have made a liability claim.

The RUG will determine the claims settlement for each individual case.

Lift accident

The lift accident happened in January of 2019 at the medical sciences building at the Antonius Deusinglaan. A lift containing fourteen RUG students and employees, fell from the ninth floor, got stuck between the fifth and six floors because of the emergency brake, and fell all the way down at a speed of approximately thirty kilometres an hour while emergency personnel were trying to rescue people from the lift.

One of the victims was taken to the UMCG after the accident. The university immediately started investigating the possible cause of the accident.

Board president Jouke de Vries said that the victims, in addition to slight physical injuries, had mainly suffered psychological complaints. ’You can imagine what it’s like being in an accident like that. Some people don’t really know whether they can trust this kind of machinery again. They’re not sure whether they can still safely use lifts’, said De Vries when the investigation’s results were announced.

Investigation

The investigation showed that neither the lift’s balance nor its breaks had been properly calibrated. The defect in the brakes had been discovered earlier, but the maintenance company hadn’t fixed it properly, if at all. The balance hadn’t been tested correctly, an independent certification agency determined, which meant the lift cage was heavier than the counterweight.

The eleven other lifts in the building were subsequently checked as well, but they were all in fine working order.

RUG scores 2.4 million in research grants

Three RUG researchers will each receive an 800,000 euro Vidi grant from research financier NWO. NWO has granted 84 out of 443 requests this year.
By Christien Boomsma / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

All three Vidi grants will go to researchers at the Faculty of Science and Engineering. Experienced scientists can use the Vidi grant to develop their own line of research. The grant is intended to reward innovative research projects with real impact.

Researchers

Anastasia Borchevsky, with the Groningen Van Swinderen Institute, will develop new calculation methods as support for experiments on the fundamental characteristics of atoms and molecules.

Giulia Mancini with the Zernike Institute for Advanced Mathematics will be making new, extremely powerful microscopes see how certain materials react to light. This would allow for the creation of new materials for opto-electrics, switches, and sensors.

Mathematician Steffen Müller at the Bernoulli Institute will try to solve an old number theory problem.

Leiden

A fourth Vidi grant was awarded to Sander Wezenberg, who wants to apply the way living organisms communicate to the communication between synthetic molecular systems. But Wezenberg has since left for the University of Leiden, which means they will be the institution to benefit from the research money. Leiden received eight other Vidi grants.

Personnel faction: statement on zero tolerance should be more specific

Casper Albers with the personnel faction on the university council says that the RUG’s statement on zero tolerance should be more specific and defined.
By Rob Siebelink / Photo by Piter Siebenga / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

‘Any allegation of harassment, hate crime, bullying or victimization will be treated seriously, regardless of the seniority of those involved. Anyone found to have behaved unacceptably may be the subject of disciplinary action’, the statement says.

The personnel faction was happy with the statement, but it’s not specific enough, says Albers. He then referred to the case of a professor at the UvA, who has been accused of abuse of power and misconduct, but who was able to keep working while his colleagues and superiors were aware of his behaviour.

‘The statement mentions sanctions. Do these only apply to the perpetrators, or can we also sanction the people who neglected to act when they should have?’ Albers asked.

Victim

The only really specific thing in the statement, the faction says, is the request toward victims to take action. But Albers says that it wouldn’t be fair to put the ball only in victims’ courts.

‘Thanks to many brave women and their #MeToo stories in academia, people have finally realised that something should be done. But it’s the academic community that should step up: we should all make sure that the university is a safe work environment, and not only ask the victims to speak up.’

Preventative

According the Albers, the policy focuses too much on what should be done after transgressive behaviours have taken place. He thinks the university should also focus on preventative action.

‘If something like this happens as much as it does – and the things we know about are only the tip of the iceberg, really – it’s no longer an incidental issue, it’s structural. Over the past few years, we’ve already discussed the cultural change needed at student associations due to the many issues during the hazing period.’

That cultural change is important for the RUG as well, says Albers. ‘We are a team, and this is our joint responsibility. We have to ensure a safe work environment. Inclusivity isn’t just a choice; it’s a requirement.’

Ombudsman

The board of directors say they’re still working on ‘making the statement more specific’. Board president Jouke de Vries says it’s too early to instate an ombudsman, something the personnel faction suggested as well.

The RUG has a confidential adviser and that’s working for people, although De Vries does acknowledge they have less power than an ombudsman would. De Vries wants to wait and see what happens with pilot programmes at other universities. ‘After that, we’ll thoroughly explore the option.’

The full statement can be read here.

Deadly stabbing doesn’t deter RUG people

The deadly stabbing at the Jaagpad near the Zernike campus last week Tuesday doesn’t appear to have scared many RUG staff or students.
By Giulia Fabrizi / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

Both the RUG and the Hanze University of Applied Sciences issued a warning on Monday advising people not to walk or bike alone on or near the Zernike campus. But on Tuesday afternoon around lunch time, many of the people near the ACLO were still walking on the Jaagpad alone.

Warning

International relations student Rachel Koehoorn (20) did hear the warning, but it didn’t scare her. ‘We don’t really know what happened’, she says. ‘For all we know these people knew each other and were having a fight.’ Besides, she says, it’s daylight. ‘It feels safer. I might not walk alone once it gets dark. Not because of what happened, though. I wouldn’t walk alone anyway.’

Some people apparently didn’t even see the universities’ warning. ‘I had no idea’, says a RUG employee who’d like to remain anonymous and who spends her lunch break walking along the Jaagpad alone. She isn’t worried. ‘A lot of people are talking about the incident, but I don’t feel like I’m in danger.’

Fastest route

Cycling along the Jaagpad, student David Staar (22) is distracted by the essay he has to hand in tomorrow. ‘I heard about it, but I didn’t realise that the stabbing took place here until you asked me about it just now’, he says. ‘They haven’t caught the guy yet, right? It would be great if they did sometime soon, but I’m not going to be avoiding this place either. It’s still the fastest route to class.’

On Tuesday evening, May 14, an as yet unknown assailant stabbed and killed 27-year-old Hidde Bergman from Midwolda at the Jaagpad near the Zernike campus. Bergman was jogging there when he was attacked.

Tips

The police haven’t commented on the motive for the stabbing. On Sunday, they released a composite sketch of the possible perpetrator. This sketch led to 76 tips on top of the one hundred tips the police had already received.

On Tuesday night, television programme Opsporing Verzocht focused on the stabbing.

Is he skipping class? Travelling to conferences? Where is Doerak?!

Professor doctor Doerak won the hearts of students and staff at the Harmonie building this year. But it looks like he’s been skipping class lately. What’s going on?
By Joas de Jong / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

‘Doerak has entered his twilight years’, Ekko Ros, Doerak’s butler, explains. Doerak is a half Persian, half Maine Coon; both breeds are fairly susceptible to diseases. At nine years old, the university cat is no spring chicken. These days he prefers to stay at home sleeping, up to twenty hours a day. When he is awake, he prefers to hang out with his young companion, Tukkie.

Earlier this academic year, Doerak became an actual Instagram influencer. The account @university amassed seven thousand followers. In November, he was given his own RUG card so he could copy his paw prints for free.

Just like his fellow professors, Doerak is now a published author; his book Our campus, Their world, came out in February.

‘I’ll ask him some mornings if he shouldn’t be going to uni, but he just stares at me’, says Ros, laughing. ‘I asked him why he’s not going to class as much, and he responded that he’s retired. He’s learned everything there is to learn, so now he’s teaching Tukkie.’

In his nine years, Doerak has used up about eight of his nine lives: four because he kept falling off the roof. ‘Normal cats can turn around mid-air, but Doerak seems too lazy for that.’ Once he fell asleep under the hood of a car, and the driver didn’t realise until he was halfway to Haren.

Heyday

The poofy professor attended all kinds of classes in his heyday. He learned alongside history students about the adventures of the Persian Persians. In art history class, he got to analyse artwork depicting his fellow felines. He usually just slept through his cat lit classes.

Earlier this year, Doerak found comfort in RUG students after his friend Mickey died. He used to play with Mickey in the parking lot behind the Harmonie building. ‘He’s really relaxed over the past eight months; we’re really grateful to the students for helping him. We unfortunately weren’t able to quit our jobs to take care of him’, says Ros.

But they realised the university cat was in need of a new friend. And since they got Tukkie, Doerak has really rallied. Ros and his wife hope that Doerak occasionally returns to the Harmonie building to say hi to the students who helped his through his period of mourning.

Vegan at the RUG: no cheese or bitterballen, unless you ask for it

Should RUG catering go vegan? The Faculty of Philosophy is already trying it. If it proves successful, other faculties might follow.
By Jelmer Buit / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

Cheese sandwiches, satay, soup with meatballs: RUG caterers do not offer a particularly vegan-friendly range of food options. But because meat production is so hard on the environment, the Faculty of Philosophy is now trying to shift the status quo by only offering plant-based foods. If people like it, the other faculties might follow suit.

‘Philosophy currently only offers plant-based foods’, says student Yorick Karseboom. ‘That doesn’t mean meat will disappear. Our basic range will be plant-based food. Anyone who wants meat needs to specifically ask for it.’

Yorick worked with lecturer Andrea Sangiacomo to switch the faculty catering to plant-based food. They organised an informal meeting, he says, and ‘tried to show that plant-based foods are the best option.’

Sustainable food

Sangiacomo points to the online campaign #PlantPoweredCommunity ‘I used it to jumpstart the initiative at the Faculty of Philosophy’, he says. ‘We want to raise awareness of sustainable food in public spaces.’

The pair tried to avoid using the word ‘vegan’ in their campaign. ‘People interpret the term in all kinds of ways’, says Sangiacomo. ‘We prefer the term plant-based, because it signifies that the essential nutrients in the food comes from plants.’

Karseboom agrees. ‘It’s such a controversial topic. But we haven’t made all that many changes. We’re just trying to raise awareness. Veganism can be such a trigger word. People think we’re trying to indoctrinate them and take their food from them.’

Positive

‘We like it’, says professor John Hoeks, was also closely involved in the plant-based plan and liaises with the catering company, Beijk. ‘We talked to Beijk about vegan catering as early as last summer. We put a lot of effort into this. We even organised a vegan sandwich tasting. We’re very positive about the whole thing.’

There’s no proper plan for the rest of the university to turn to only plant-based foods, says RUG spokesperson Jorien Bakker. ‘But our catering company offers a broad range. They have meat, fish, and vegan products. That’s important to us. The Faculty of Philosophy is a pioneer. We’re interested to see how it works out, and based on that we’ll re-evaluate. We have to wait and see.’

SOG, Calimero, win council elections

SOG and Lijst Calimero were the clear student winners of the university council elections last week. Both parties won five seats. As for the staff section of the council: the science faction stole a seat from the personnel faction.
By Giulia Fabrizi / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

The announcement was made on Monday afternoon in Restaurant Academia in the Academy building, where students – mainly from the student faction – showed up to hear the results and, in some cases, celebrate them.

The Democratic Academy Groningen (DAG) lost a seat, going from two to one. De Vrije Student (DVS) retained its single seat. International Platform, Matej Pop-Duchev’s one-man party that came on the scene about a week before the elections, did not secure a seat. One Man Gang, currently on the council with one seat, didn’t participate in the elections.

This is what the student section in the university council will look like:

Turnout

The staff section of the council changed as well. The science faction won an extra seat, to the detriment of the personnel faction. This means next year, the personnel section will have eight seats, while the science faction will have four.

Turnout for the election was up this year from last year: from 30.7 percent to 36.1 percent. Unfortunately, fewer students voted: the percentage dropped from 26 to 24.9.

Largest party

‘Calimero is the largest party!’ Calimero member Matthias Luijks says. Like SOG, the party went from four seats to five. ‘How do I feel? Happy and joyful’, Luijks said on Monday afternoon after the results were announced.

De Vrije Student was moderately happy. ‘I’m glad we managed to retain our seat’, said Jasper van der Aa. ‘Although I was hoping we’d win one. But in the end I’m glad we still have a say in the council.’

Faculty turnout

The RUG also announced the results from the elections for the faculty and employee councils. After a steady decline in voting turnout across faculties over the past several years, this year saw finally saw that downward trend start to rise.

25 percent dip in Vidi applications? Check.

In 2018, research financier NWO received more than 25 percent fewer applications for a Vidi grant (for experienced researchers). And that’s exactly what they wanted.
By Christien Boomsma / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

In 2017, NWO received 589 applications, but only 443 in 2018. This means they reached the objective of their embedding guarantee. NWO wanted to reduce the number of applications to give researchers a better chance of their applications being approved. To that end, NWO instated a new condition: researchers would have to include an embedding guarantee from their institute in their application. That is, the institution would have to guarantee the winner of a Vidi a permanent contract.

Some people feared this would exclude certain research institutes, but this fear turned out to be unfounded. But there have been more applications from researchers with a permanent contract: 42 percent in 2017 versus 54 percent in 2018. But, NWO says, ‘the 22 percent of applicants who don’t have a permanent position now have a shot at it because of the embedding guarantee’.

‘Insiders’

The Young Academy, the association of young talented scientists at the KNAW criticised the measure. They feared the embedding guarantee will mean that only ‘insiders’ with a permanent contract will get grants. They also worried that young researchers from abroad wouldn’t stand a chance anymore.

NWO wouldn’t say whether this is true. The Vidi applications have been submitted, but there is no news yet on how they will be divided.

The embedding guarantee also applies to 2019.  Next year, NWO will appraise the measure to see if it stays in place.

Redistribution of government funding will cost the RUG 9 million euro

The RUG’s budget will be cut by nine million euro, which will be redistributed to other Dutch universities, according to the Van Rijn committee report published on Wednesday morning.
By Giulia Fabrizi / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

In October 2018, education minister Ingrid van Engelshoven (D66) instructed the Van Rijn committee to investigate the funding of Dutch higher education. There was one condition: no extra funding would be made available, so universities had to make do with their existing budgets.

The committee’s final advice is clear: if we want Dutch higher education to survive, the money has to be redistributed.

Advice

According to the committee, the government has consider four pillars when redistributing the money:

The committee proposes changing the remuneration per student to lessen the incentive to attract as many students as possible. They also want to spend more on the science and technical faculties to bridge the gap with the labour market.

‘Unacceptable’

To make the redistribution possible, the RUG will have to return 2.22 percent of their annual government earnings over a period of two years. On Wednesday morning, the RUG said this proposal is ‘unacceptable’. ‘This proposed shift to benefit science and technology is to the detriment of the arts, gamma sciences, and medical sciences.’

‘If we follow the committee’s advice exactly, we’d have a dramatic inter-faculty shift of funds in 2020’, says rector magnificus Elmer Sterken. ‘Should she decide to follow the committee’s advice, the RUG calls upon the minister to make extra funds available to compensate for the damage the proposed measures would cause.’

The Lower House will discuss the report and how to implement a definitive proposal on July 1.

RUG limits flying (a little)

RUG employees are no longer allowed to fly for work if their destination can be reached by train within six hours or is less than five hundred kilometres away.
By Rob Siebelink / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

The university wants to limit work trips by plane. Employees can only deviate from the new rule if they have good reason.

Between 2016 and 2018, RUG employees racked up a total of 95 million kilometres in the air, at approximately 31 to 32 million per year, according to figures requested by the UKrant.

Every year, approximately 5,500 hundred employees board a plane for research trips, meetings, conferences, and symposiums. Almost 70 percent travel within Europe, but only a few of their destinations are within the limit of five hundred kilometres.

Not feasible

The Green Office, which focuses on sustainability at the university, would have preferred the limit to be seven hundred kilometres rather than five.

As it is, destinations lik Paris, London, and Berlin are exempt from the no-flying rule, says Green Office programme manager Dick Jager. ‘That’s a shame. If we really want to make a difference, we have to change as well.’

One point of discussion is whether Groningen or the employee’s place of residence should be seen as the point of departure. There are researchers connected to the RUG who live in the Randstad rather than in Groningen.

Travel time

The RUG is following the example of the University of Ghent, which instated a similar rule. Ghent employees are prohibited from flying to places that could be reached by bus or train in under six hours, or if the train journey is shorter than a plane trip – including check-in.

In terms of pollution, flying is the worst way to travel. According to the sustainability organisation Milieu Centraal, a plane trip is seven to eleven times as bad for the environment as the same journey would be by train.

In 2018, CO2 exhaust from work trips accounted for 16 percent of the RUG’s total carbon footprint.

Skype

RUG employees who need to travel farther will be strongly advised to look for alternative means of communication, such as Skype or videoconferencing. ‘We want everyone to ask themselves whether flying is truly necessary’, says the university.

For the first time ever, the RUG is in the top 10 of the GreenMetric Ranking, which ranks the seven hundred most sustainable universities in the world (coming in at number 7). The top spot went to Wageningen University & Research.

Later this year, the RUG will unveil plans to compensate for their CO2 emissions, in part by planting forests and investing in solar or wind parks.

Next week, UKrant will publish an in-depth article about flying at the RUG.

This week 31.000 students and 6000 employees can vote

The elections for the university council, the various faculty councils, and the employee councils started on Monday morning. Approximately 31,000 students and 6,000 employees can vote from Monday to Friday.
By Rob Siebelink / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

There are two employee parties in the university council (the personnel faction and the science faction) and five student parties (SOG, Lijst Calimero, DAG, De Vrije Student, and the recently founded International Platform, which represents the more than 7,000 international students at the RUG).

The Groninger Student Union (GSb) has set up a voting aid to help students figure out who to vote for. By answering nine statements (about topics such as housing, Anglicisation, and flexible studying), students will be able to narrow down their choices.

Decision

‘We know from experience that very few students actually read the party programmes’, says GSb president Jolien Bruinewoud. ‘The voting aid should help people gain insight into the party’s various viewpoints so they can make a proper decision’.

The past few years, approximately 30 percent of students and staff at the RUG voted in the elections. The GSb hopes the voting aid will give students insight into the views of the various parties and recommend the best fit.

The new party International Platform, which didn’t hit the scene until last week, is not included in the voting aid.

Slogans

At the Harmonie quad in the city centre, anonymous persons sprayed slogans on the ground overnight on Sunday. They mainly protest the university as a business. ‘Managers get out, we know what you are all about’ and, in Dutch, ‘CVB, weg er-’.

That final slogan was left unfinished, possibly because the persons responsible ran out of paint or because they were about to be caught. An empty spray can was later found near the quad.

The RUG has reported the incident as vandalism. The election stands that were stationed on the quad on Monday will probably move to the other side of the arches to allow for the cleaning of the quad.

RUG books Gerard Joling for anniversary celebration

Gerard Joling will be the opening act for the RUG anniversary gala at the Martiniplaza on June 13. The RUG has also secured the services of DJ Joost van Bellen.
By René Hoogschagen / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

The university will celebrate its 405th anniversary from June 5 until June 15. The anniversary organisers write: ‘Using the motto “All Inclusive”, we’re serving up a diverse and exciting programme for everyone’.

The musical Totally Shifted will kick off the festivities on Wednesday June 5 at the Grand Theatre; the play will be performed with the audience sitting in the middle of the stage.

On Thursday and Friday, the RUG will organise a conference, Growing together: celebrating diversity and fostering inclusion. Kate Zernike, granddaughter of Groningen Nobel Prize winner and inventor of the phase-contrast microscope Frits Zernike, will attend the conference.

Heel Holland Bakt

Also on Friday: the Great Grunneger Cake Off – a baking contest judged by, RUG alumna Sarena Solari, who won Heel Holland Bakt (the Dutch version of the Great British Bake Off) in 2015.

The Night of Arts and Sciences will return, including lectures, debates, and performances by Rico, Roxeanne Haze, and Greg Shapiro. The RUG is organising a sports day with a dragon boat race on the pond in front of the Duisenberg building and a pub quiz in the Academy building.

The gala with Gerard Joling will take place at the Martiniplaza. Dress code: The Nineties. Tickets are 17.50 euro.

The anniversary celebrations will conclude with an alumni day on Saturday, June 15.

For more information, go to www.rug.nl/lustrum

Battling bad neighbours? RUG experts tell you how

Have you enough of your neighbour’s foul smells and loud noises? What can you even do about it? The RUG will give you free legal advice online.
By Giulia Fabrizi / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

Legal experts at the RUG have set up a website where anyone suffering from annoying neighbours can get free legal advice. The site was created by professor of public law Michel Vols and lecturer and IT law researcher Laurent Jensma.

The CBS Safety Monitor and the national resident survey both show that 29 percent of tenants and homeowners suffer from obnoxious neighbours – and the number of incidents is increasing.

Personal

People often don’t know what to do when the behaviour of their neighbours disrupts their lives,  but the website will you give you advice tailored to your specific circumstances.

You can describe your situation through a series of questions without supplying any personal information. ‘It’s really advanced and a good website’, says Jensma, who helped develop the website. ‘It offers more than six hundred possible permutations.’ When recourse is appropriate, it will point you to the right authority.

Individual questions

Co-creator Vols specialises in disputes between neighbours; people often come to him for advice.  ‘But I simply don’t have time to answer everyone individually’, he says – so the website is a ‘tool that truly helps society’.