Lustrum celebration showcased UG’s shortcomings

Op-ed: Manuel Reyes

Lustrum celebration showcased UG’s shortcomings

The lustrum celebration, with its theme of inclusion, should have gone for a less loaded theme, the evaluation committee concluded. Manuel Reyes, faction chair for DAG in the university council and former member of the lustrum team, disagrees.
By Manuel Reyes
30 March om 16:25 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 30 March 2020
om 16:41 uur.
March 30 at 16:25 PM.
Last modified on March 30, 2020
at 16:41 PM.

The evaluation of the lustrum rightly points out that the university was not prepared for such a loaded topic for a lustrum theme. But that does not mean that we shouldn’t try it again. Perhaps it did lead to protests rather than parties, but is that really a bad thing?

In these politically heated times, we don’t need to celebrate our fears away but take a strong stance. The lustrum provided a fresh breeze of good, inclusive change in this centuries-old institution.

Thinking back of the involvement of the team, I would have to agree that the enthusiasm with which us student assistants approached the subject was spurted by a sense of activism. Not so much because we had a political agenda, but because we felt a sense of possibility.

Making arrangements with caterers to make sure we would have a low carbon footprint, talking to suppliers about socially conscious labor conditions (such as the goodie bags provided by Vanhulley, a company that makes clothes out of used fabric and invests into the education of its employed women), or talking to experts on accessibility of our buildings – all of this inspired us to finally make swift changes in an institute that moves disappointingly slow.

We were inspired to make swift changes in an institute that moves disappointingly slow

Furthermore, if the topic of diversity caused controversy, it’s probably because it was long overdue. Many issues, such as accessibility, equality or inclusion, are demands not of this decade but of the previous one.

The horrendously inaccessible academic building or the continuously low number of female professors are issues that should have been dealt with long ago. In our collaborations with private organisations that participated in the lustrum, we learned not only of their desire to know how they can be more inclusive, we also found out that in many areas they are far ahead of us. The lustrum celebration exposed the many shortcomings of our university in these areas.

It also brought to light that the UG needs to improve its internal communication. The lack of visibility and exchange between the departments that are already working on inclusion was a big point of debate. For instance, Human Resources would lament that we did not involve them earlier, while other departments were surprised that HR was working on inclusion at all. It exposed an inefficiency that is not necessarily inherent to our decentralised university, but simply badly coordinated.

One important aspect that seems to not have been mentioned at all, is the immense academic success of the lustrum. Our conference boasted with names of huge names in the field: Glenn Adams, Philomena Essed and Kimberlé Crenshaw.

Kimberlé Crenshaw! At the 30-year anniversary of her groundbreaking paper where she coined the term ‘intersectionality’, Crenshaw gave an important speech at this university. Intersectionality has been a lens through which social scientists and humanities scholars now study the different, overlapping mechanisms of exclusion. The report does not mention how big of a success it is to arrange a keynote from a scholar of such importance.

HR lamented that we did not involve them, while other departments were surprised that HR was working on inclusion at all

Finally, the lustrum and its theme offered a view of what this university of the north could be: a leading institution of change. Many of our researchers that participated in the conference brought to light the mechanics of exclusion and disadvantaging, both within the UG and outside.

The panel discussions offered hands-on solutions to improve inclusion and facilitate change. It offered channels for many voices that are not heard in everyday life. Even the UKrant devoted articles to opinions that are barely listened to at this university.

Overall, it is the daring and forward-thinking nature of this lustrum’s topic that made it an excellent theme, not a bad one. We should not be ashamed of this theme or hold back from controversy but proudly embrace how brave it was. We should have more courage.

Manuel Reyes was part of the lustrum team. Based on his experiences, he decided to join student party DAG. He currently represents them on the university council.

On privilege, productivity, (old) parents, and a pandemic

Slums in Mumbai, India

Op-ed: Esha Mendiratta

On privilege, productivity, (old) parents, and a pandemic

Assistent professor Esha Mendiratta (India) is acutely aware of the tremendous economic privilege she enjoys at this moment when many people are losing their jobs due to the coronavirus. But, like many other internationals at the UG, she is deeply concerned about her homeland and her parents.
By Esha Mendiratta
27 March om 16:52 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 27 March 2020
om 21:49 uur.
March 27 at 16:52 PM.
Last modified on March 27, 2020
at 21:49 PM.

There is nothing like a global pandemic to make you think of your privilege, or how #blessed you are, as my students say. I write this from an apartment that I have been able to afford on a single income in the Netherlands, a country with one of the best public healthcare systems in the world.

I live alone and have fortunately not had to start a new career as a school teacher to kids staying at home because of a pandemic. I spend hundreds of euros buying coffee every month and eat out far more often than I should, all without batting an eye.

I know that I have luxuries that many around me can only dream of in normal circumstances, let alone in the time of a pandemic. I am acutely aware of the tremendous economic privilege I enjoy at this moment when many people are losing their source of income, and when many of our students are unable to afford their rent. But you see, I also live away from home. I was born and raised in India and I live here in my adopted home of the Netherlands.

As I sip the lactose-free cappuccino I just bought from a take-away café, I worry about what is going to happen in India. I just spent hours doing the numbers to analyse how hard this virus might come down on my country, my childhood friends, and my family.

Official projections seem too scary to be real, so I decide to be arrogant about my academic training and prove the epidemiologists wrong and reassure myself. Hours of analysis later, I realise that the epidemiologists and public health officials are obviously right, as they usually are (side note to the people being yolo about the whole thing and partying on my block a week ago – listen to them already!).

India might indeed have a staggering 300-500 million people infected by the coronavirus in the next four months if the government does not adopt any meaningful public health measures immediately. At least once a day, I think about what would happen if my old parents got sick. Who will look after them? How will I see them if I need to with the borders closed and no flights going between the Netherlands and India in the near future? Will they get a hospital bed if they need one?

Who will look after my parents? How will I see them if I need to with the borders closed and no flights going?

In theory, I have everything I really need and I should be using this time of selfisolation to focus on my research. I have also seen hundreds of videos and tweets on how to remain productive during these times. Surely I couldn’t be so much worse than everyone else and try to implement at least of some of their advice.

Maintain a routine, separate my office and living space, get proper sleep and exercise, ‘schedule’ social time with friends and family, make a to-do list… The list goes on.

Yet, sleep, exercise, routine, or productivity is the last thing on my mind. My mind is miles away, with my parents, wondering, once again, what will happen if they get sick. A black swan event like this sure has a way of generating unanswerable questions, and making you touch your face, a lot (seriously, everyone: stop touching your face, and wash your hands again while you’re at it!).

My face-touching gets worse knowing that most preventive measures suggested by experts to slow down the spread of this virus or to flatten the curve are laughable for the majority of India. Social distancing is almost impossible in a country of 1.3 billion people, where more than a hundred million are crammed into slums and entire families live in one-room apartments.

Maintaining hygiene seems ambitious for the 75 million people who don’t even have access to clean water. Where the luxury of clean water and space is available to Indians (like it is to my parents), social structures where generations of families live together make implementation of social distancing complicated and put the elderly at a higher risk.

Combine all this with the economic costs of a lockdown, and you are not only looking at a public health crisis, but also an ‘economic tsunami’ for the poor, as prominent Belgian-Indian social activist Jean Dreze recently called it.

Social distancing is impossible in a country of 1.3 billion people, where more than a 100 million are crammed into slums

Every now and then, the concept of privilege comes up in my classroom. I discuss its multidimensional and relative nature with my students. I tell them that while they might be privileged in some ways relative to some groups, they may not be in others.

Now, more than ever, I should remind myself of that and focus on the economic privileges and good health I enjoy. However, as it turns out, during a global pandemic, I am conflicted.

Somehow, at this specific moment, privilege feels unequivocally unidimensional and absolute – the only thing that seems to matter is that there is a higher than average chance of my parents getting sick and a zero chance of me being able to see them if they do, lactose-free cappuccino in hand or not.

Esha Mendiratta is an assistant professor at the Faculty of Economics and Business

Last goodbye

Last goodbye

By Niall Torris
23 March om 11:42 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 23 March 2020
om 16:28 uur.
March 23 at 11:42 AM.
Last modified on March 23, 2020
at 16:28 PM.

This week, instead of knuckling down into studying for a stats resit, the final exam required to pass my pre-master, I found myself distracted by world events.

The psychology pre-master Whatsapp slowly turned from talk of statistics reports to news that exams were either postponed or going online with the UG to close until April 10. Days later the UG announced that all physical exams and lectures are off until August 31 at the earliest. It’s hard to deny how serious this pandemic is given that decision.

As talk of social distancing, self-isolation, quarantines, and testing centres got louder, everything was either cancelled or postponed with no idea when any of it might return. It seems selfish, but I think it’s okay to feel a bit shit about nights out, football games and meeting with friends being cancelled. Yet it all seems small now in the grander scheme of things. There’s still no date for that resit either.

It seems selfish, but I think it’s okay to feel a bit shit about nights out, football games and meeting with friends being cancelled

And so, with no idea when my exam might take place, I permitted myself some time away from studying to plan my next move. Like most internationals, my decision to remain in the Netherlands or move back home has been pushed along heavily by the fact that there will be no physical lectures or exams taking place here.

I’m sure that some international students might stay here in Groningen, but I’ll definitely be heading back to Ireland for a bit to wait for all of this to blow over. Besides, it won’t be too bad, really. I’m sure the university will figure out how to assess me for my last exam eventually. I’m hopeful that they’ll give us plenty of time to study and adapt to the changes in assessment conditions, too.

After that, I’ll be back in Groningen, sitting in the library, lectures, and exam halls eventually. So what is there to worry about, aside from the coronavirus? Then it struck me: I’ll be back, but many won’t. A lot of those in their final year, or sitting their masters now, have waved their last goodbye to their classmates, lecturers and to the UG this month, and they didn’t even know it at the time.

To those of you who are looking to finish your time at the UG online, my heart goes out to you all. To all of us, stay safe, wash your hands, and stay the fuck away from each other.

Now especially, news editors have to work harder than ever

Now especially, news editors have to work harder than ever

16 March om 15:51 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 16 March 2020
om 15:51 uur.
March 16 at 15:51 PM.
Last modified on March 16, 2020
at 15:51 PM.


Rob Siebelink

Door Rob Siebelink

16 March om 15:51 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 16 March 2020
om 15:51 uur.
Rob Siebelink

By Rob Siebelink

March 16 at 15:51 PM.
Last modified on March 16, 2020
at 15:51 PM.
Rob Siebelink

Rob Siebelink

Hoofdredacteur
Volledig bio
Editor-in-chief
Full bio

Every day, the editorial staff at the UKrant wonders: What are we writing about, why are we writing about it, and how are we writing about it? ‘At the UKrant’, an irregular column, we take a look behind the scenes.

It was somewhere in late January when I first read an article on a new, SARS-like virus that was spreading in a Chinese town I’d never heard of. I remember thinking that it sounded nasty, but that I was sure everything would work out.

A month and a half later, all the UG buildings are on lockdown. There are no physical classes, all the buildings are closed, and everyone is working from home. Anyone predicting this situation at the end of January would probably have been called defeatist.

Naturally, the UKrant editors are following the UG guidelines. We’re mainly working from home, are blowing up each other’s phones through WhatsApp, and have our morning editorial meetings through video conferencing. Some of us have been working together for years but have only now seen the art on each other’s walls.

However, if we want to report on everything happening, or as is currently the case, not happening at the UG, we’ll need to leave the safety of our kitchen tables. UKrant reporters will be out and about. We will be reporting any developments at the UG as quickly as possible, both in Dutch and in English.

We’re working on landing page where we’ll collect all the articles related to the virus 

We’re writing background stories, reporting the news, and we’re trying to find the answers to the questions many people have. What about the exams? Will students be able to take them at a later time? What about any current scientific research? What should you do or stop doing if you’re in one of the at-risk groups? Will the summer holidays be cut down to make up for lost time? What about the jobs that students depend on for extra cash?

These are just a few of the subjects we’ll be talking about. I can’t guarantee we’ll be able to answer every single question immediately, but at times like these, news editors are working harder than ever to provide our readers with the information they need.

We’ll keep you posted through our website, but also check our accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. We’re also working on a landing page on the site, where we’ll collect all the articles and news pieces related to the virus, so readers have a good overview of what’s happening as it relates to the university.

If you’re tired of reading about corona and wondering if the UKrant has anything else to say: yes, we do. Check out our magazine article ‘Studying with your mirror image’, about twins at the UG. Although I suspect that articles like that will be in the minority for at least the rest of this week.

Rob Siebelink, editor-in-chief UKrant

All UG buildings on lockdown

UG takes extra measures against corona

All UG buildings on lockdown

In order to curtail the spread of the coronavirus, all the UG buildings in the city centre and Zernike campus will be shutting down.
15 March om 21:58 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 16 March 2020
om 20:46 uur.
March 15 at 21:58 PM.
Last modified on March 16, 2020
at 20:46 PM.


Rob Siebelink

Door Rob Siebelink

15 March om 21:58 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 16 March 2020
om 20:46 uur.
Rob Siebelink

By Rob Siebelink

March 15 at 21:58 PM.
Last modified on March 16, 2020
at 20:46 PM.
Rob Siebelink

Rob Siebelink

Hoofdredacteur
Volledig bio
Editor-in-chief
Full bio

Only the most essential departments will continue to operate. Faculty boards and department directors will issue further instructions.

This measure comes after an earlier announcement late last week that all classes and meetings were cancelled. ‘This is unfortunate, but it’s in line with the most recent measures affecting universities from the government’, the board of directors said on Sunday evening.

The lockdown goes into effect on Monday, March 16 and will last until April 10. The board said it wants to limit all activities as much as they can.

No PhD ceremonies

The lockdown means that all PhD and graduation ceremonies have been cancelled until April 10, even when the number of attendees is limited. The UB building itself closed down last week, and its services will now also be limited. Working at the uni is only allowed when absolutely necessary.

UG students and staff who are currently abroad and having trouble returning to the Netherlands due to, for instance, the decrease in available flights, can call on the UG for support.

The ministry of Foreign Affairs has set up an emergency hotline, which is available 24/7: +31 247 247 247.

Video: The university has become a ghost town

Empty bike racks, locked classrooms

Video: The university has become a ghost town

On Thursday, the UG decided to cancel all physical classes in an effort to curtail the spread of the coronavirus. On Friday, the university was practically empty.
14 March om 15:40 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 16 March 2020
om 14:42 uur.
March 14 at 15:40 PM.
Last modified on March 16, 2020
at 14:42 PM.


Rob Siebelink

Door Rob Siebelink

14 March om 15:40 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 16 March 2020
om 14:42 uur.
Rob Siebelink

By Rob Siebelink

March 14 at 15:40 PM.
Last modified on March 16, 2020
at 14:42 PM.
Rob Siebelink

Rob Siebelink

Hoofdredacteur
Volledig bio
Editor-in-chief
Full bio

The bike racks in front of the Academy building were empty, the UB was blocked with red-and-white caution tape, there were no traffic jams along the Zernike route, and the buses going to the campus are practically empty.

There are no lectures and no seminars. No graduation ceremonies. No thesis counselling sessions, no study information sessions.

No extracurricular activities or career events. No hot food in the Harmonie cafeteria.

PhD ceremonies and speeches have been cancelled, as have meetings. The Central Medical Library is closes, as is Studium Generale, USVA, the University museum, and the ACLO. 

There will be no Master Day, and the Office of Student Affairs cannot be visited. There are no tutorials, and no one-on-one meetings. Finally, anyone who is able to work from home does so. 

The university, which is normally so lively, has become a ghost town.

UG, do something, do anything

UKrant poll about actions taken to combat virus

UG, do something, do anything

The UG should do more than just follow the RIVM guidelines, a large majority of the university feels. Especially internationals say the UG should take extra measures and be more proactive.
By Giulia Fabrizi and Rob Siebelink
13 March om 10:02 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 13 March 2020
om 17:17 uur.
March 13 at 10:02 AM.
Last modified on March 13, 2020
at 17:17 PM.

These are the results from an online survey the UKrant held on Thursday afternoon. A total of 519 people participated in the survey, of which 328 were Dutch and 191 were internationals.

Approximately 53 percent of all respondents are seriously worried about the spread of the coronavirus in Groningen, while 35 percent are somewhat worried, and 12 percent says they aren’t concerned at all.

Interestingly enough, internationals seem to be more concerned than Dutch people. Almost seven out of ten internationals are wary about the developments of the past few weeks, as opposed to 44 percent of Dutch respondents.

‘Not very proactive’

Half of the internationals is dissatisfied with the UG’s information service, which they say is spars, difficult to find, and ‘not very proactive’. More than 30 percent of Dutch respondents agree, while half says the university has been responding adequately.

When asked for clarification, it turned out that respondents who are able to understand the Dutch news have fewer complaints about the UG’s information.

‘It’s much easier to inform Dutch students about the outbreak and the situation in the Netherlands, but the information the UG offers to internationals is scant, unorganised, and not always up do date’, one Dutch student writes.

Actions

Internationals and Dutch respondents agree on the question of whether the UG is doing enough to combat the spread of the virus. A vast majority (92 percent of internationals and 73 percent of Dutch respondents) feels the actions taken so far are insufficient or criticise the lack of actions.

Both internationals and Dutch respondents frequently referred to countries such as Italy, where all universities have closed down. Both also repeatedly say the UG is being too passive.

‘Very few employees actually know the university has a crisis response team’, a dissatisfied Dutch staff member writes. ‘Most updates are way too late and staff asking questions barely get a response.’

No plan

People are also unhappy with the apparent lack of plan of attack by the UG. Even the people who understand the UG is just following national guidelines write that the university should still communicate about potential scenarios. What will happen if the university has to close down? What about the exams.

So which measures should the UG take? Most people think online classes are the best option (more than 70 percent), while others think the university should ban gatherings of more than thirty people (60 percent), or that the UG should provide hygiene products like hand sanitiser (60 percent). Many respondents remarked that the UG announced this last measure, but no one has actually seen the promised hand sanitiser appear anywhere.

Close the buildings

Other suggestions from respondents were to close all UG buildings, requiring people to work from home, cancelling exams, and continual cleaning of doorknobs in communal spaces (like cafeterias and the UB).

A few people suggested ‘an end to the scaremongering’ as a solution, as well as the slightly more apocalyptic ‘do nothing, we can’t stop the virus anyway’.

Changed behaviour

Almost every respondent said they’d changed their behaviour in the past few weeks (only fifty people said they hadn’t done anything), with the internationals once again in the majority.

Most people mentioned frequently washing their hands (74 percent of Dutch respondents and 89 percent of internationals), coughing and sneezing into their elbow (68 percent in both groups), avoiding physical contact with others (both groups approximately 60 percent), and avoiding large gatherings (40 percent and 64 percent).

One in ten Dutch respondents said they wouldn’t be attending classes in the near future, while one in five internationals said the same.

This poll was held a few hours before the UG announced drastic actions to combat further spreading of the coronavirus.

Petition by UG students

UG students have started a petition calling on the university to take stricter measures combating the coronavirus. The students are asking the board of directors to no longer wait and to take action now.

In the petition, the students say that so far, the UG has been ‘passive and reactive’.

UG shuts down: No classes, exams, or meetings

UG shuts down to curtail coronavirus

No classes, exams, or meetings

All physical classes and exams at the UG are cancelled from March 13 to at least April 10. Whenever possible, classes and exams will be put online.
12 March om 21:23 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 14 March 2020
om 15:42 uur.
March 12 at 21:23 PM.
Last modified on March 14, 2020
at 15:42 PM.


Rob Siebelink

Door Rob Siebelink

12 March om 21:23 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 14 March 2020
om 15:42 uur.
Rob Siebelink

By Rob Siebelink

March 12 at 21:23 PM.
Last modified on March 14, 2020
at 15:42 PM.
Rob Siebelink

Rob Siebelink

Hoofdredacteur
Volledig bio
Editor-in-chief
Full bio

The university says it probably won’t be able to put all classes online. On Friday, March 13, the UG will create an intranet page for lecturers. Scientific research will continue as much as possible.

‘It’s a tense time for our academic community and we’re aware of the impact of our decisions. The UG will do its absolute best to limit the negative consequences for students and staff as much as possible’, the board of director said on Thursday evening.

UB closes down

All the study rooms at the University library (both in the city centre and at Zernike), the Central Medical Library, and all faculties will close down on Friday. Studium Generale, USVA, the University museum, and the ACLO sport centre will also close down.

All events where more than one hundred people will gather have been cancelled or postponed (including speeches and PhD ceremonies). The same rules apply to faculties and departments that organise events. All external events with more than one hundred visitors or participants taking place in UG buildings have been cancelled.

Working from home

Staff have been advised that whenever possible, they should work from home. Employees should discuss this with their direct supervisors. Unless absolutely necessary, business trips are no longer allowed.

Employees suffering from symptoms like a cold, coughing, or fever should definitely stay home and call in sick if necessary.

Should the UG cancel classes due to the corona virus?

UKrant survey

Should the UG cancel classes due to the corona virus?

Do you worry about the corona virus? Should all classes be cancelled, should the UB and canteens be closed? Let UKrant know by filling out the survey.
12 March om 12:00 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 12 March 2020
om 21:24 uur.
March 12 at 12:00 PM.
Last modified on March 12, 2020
at 21:24 PM.

Don’t shake hands, wash your hands regularly and sneeze and cough in your elbow. These are just a handful of advisory warnings the UG has given to prevent spreading the corona virus.

But is this enough? Should the university take more drastic measures? Fill out the UKrant survey here and let us know what you think should happen.

I regret what I said. Remove my name from the article

I regret what I said. Remove my name from the article

Today, in the irregular column ‘At the UKrant’: How do editors handle requests to remove names from our archives?
11 March om 10:20 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 11 March 2020
om 10:21 uur.
March 11 at 10:20 AM.
Last modified on March 11, 2020
at 10:21 AM.


Rob Siebelink

Door Rob Siebelink

11 March om 10:20 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 11 March 2020
om 10:21 uur.
Rob Siebelink

By Rob Siebelink

March 11 at 10:20 AM.
Last modified on March 11, 2020
at 10:21 AM.
Rob Siebelink

Rob Siebelink

Hoofdredacteur
Volledig bio
Editor-in-chief
Full bio

Every day, the editorial staff at the UKrant wonders: What are we writing about, why are we writing about it, and how are we writing about it? In the irregular column ‘At the UKrant’, we take a look behind the scenes.

‘I once talked to the UKrant during the KEI week and told them about how I kissed my KEI group leader. I’m applying for jobs and I’m worried it might get used against me. Can you guys remove my name from the article?’

‘In an interview with you I said some critical things about the quality of education. I still feel the same way, but it’s getting in the way of me getting certain jobs. I’d like you to change my name.’

The UKrant regularly gets requests, often from people who’ve just graduated, to remove, change, or anonymise their names from our archives. These requests often come years after the original publication; one of the most recent ones pertained to an article published in the spring of 2014.

Serious

It usually involves innocent little articles, like the one about the KEI kiss, but sometimes it’s about something more serious. Not too long ago, an international student asked the editors to remove his name from an article.

Every time he googled himself, he was confronted with the UKrant article where he talked about how he’d seen his parents murdered before his eyes, during the civil war in his home country. After all these years, he was eager to leave the painful past behind and look to the future.

What to do? In principle, the integrity of our archives comes first, which means that we deny requests to remove, change, or anonymise names, even if the articles they appear seem ‘small’ or ‘innocent’.

First draft

There’s a good reason for this. It’s been said that journalism is the ‘first draft of history’. Changing journalism archives willy-nilly basically amounts to manipulating history.

Each incident is unique; there are no concrete rules about removing names

In this case, the UKrant refers to, among others, a judgement by the Press Council, which says: ‘Society benefits from functioning, complete, and reliable archives whose contents cannot be changed.’

An innocent kiss during KEI week or a critical remark are therefore not enough to change articles. Nevertheless, there are cases where an editor-in-chief might decide to make a change.

As each incident is unique, there are no concrete rules on how to deal with it. Generally speaking, however, we make exception for sources who might get in serious trouble or for people who are haunted by a traumatic experience.

Denied

In the cases of the KEI kiss and the remarks on the quality of education, the editor-in-chief has denied the requests. However, we did honour the request from the person whose parents were murdered. A small change ensured that he would no longer find the horrible story whenever he searched for his name.

Together with the UKrant editorial council, which consists of people from the university and journalism community, the editors have set up a couple of rules when it comes to removing names from articles.

One important rule is that if the editor-in-chief denies a request, the person who made the request can appeal to the council, who will look into the matter and pass judgement. The editor-in-chief considers this judgement binding and will obey it.

Rob Siebelink, editor-in-chief UKrant

Self-isolation

Photo Reyer Boxem

Self-isolation

By Niall Torris
9 March om 9:29 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 9 March 2020
om 15:50 uur.
March 9 at 9:29 AM.
Last modified on March 9, 2020
at 15:50 PM.

As coronavirus panic sets in around the world, it seems I’m getting a little bit of paranoia delivered right to my doorstep.

Personally, I’d love to have the privilege of a skiing trip to break up the semester, but unfortunately, I’m just not lucky enough to have access to such things. Normally I’d be delighted to get a gift from such an exotic destination, but when I heard Vindicat were coming home early, I crossed my fingers and hoped that they wouldn’t have time to pick up any souvenirs.

It would be easy to keep piling misery onto the Vindicats. I mean really easy, incredibly easy… but I’d imagine that the possibility of having contracted the virus is hard for our colleagues. On top of that they also had to worry about international headlines and getting their pictures taken to be spread across the world as they hopped off a bus to get tested on Saturday. I don’t I envy them for that.

I was genuinely glad to read that the four students who reported feeling unwell when they returned to Groningen were cleared when tested for the virus. But the whole skiing trip incident has really shown me that the hysteria is getting very real. It seems the only thing growing faster than the cases of the virus are the news reports on them and when I open social media, I just see panic there too.

The whole Vindicat’s skiing trip incident has really shown me that the hysteria is getting very real

In Ireland, the government’s handling of the outbreak has been astoundingly bad. A rugby match against Italy was cancelled this weekend over concerns about visiting fans coming from at-risk zones. Sounds good, but the flights carrying the fans weren’t cancelled, so they spent the weekend in Dublin anyway.

The St. Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin brings half a million people to the city from every corner of the globe and it’s still going ahead too. Sure, what could possibly go wrong there?

By comparison, the Dutch government and UG are incredibly proactive. They’re providing plenty of information, weighing up options for online classes and working with the GGD to keep up to date. It’s a much more sensible approach and I regularly read the updates on Nestor to keep informed. Such sensible approaches are less common in Ireland, so it’s a breath of fresh air.

But in all honesty, two weeks of self-isolation might not be the worst thing to happen. There are a few bottles of whiskey here that could do with some testing… maybe I’ll start now, just to be extra safe.

‘Will my daughter have a hospital bed should she need one?’

Op-ed: A mother’s concern

‘Will my daughter have a hospital bed should she need one?’

As mother of an international student at the University College Groningen, Stephanie Cunningham from Cortona, Italy, is concerned with the way the university handles the corona crisis. There’s hardly any information for internationals, the university does not appear to have a plan. And now there’s the students from Vindicat returning from an ‘orange zone’.
BY STEPHANIE CUNNINGHAM
7 March om 18:08 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 7 March 2020
om 20:33 uur.
March 7 at 18:08 PM.
Last modified on March 7, 2020
at 20:33 PM.

It takes exceptional circumstances for a mother to get involved in a university student’s education. Its not natural at this age, unless there is a profound problem. My daughter is studying Global Challenges at University College Groningen (UCG) where tools to create a livable future are to be developed.

She and her fellow students are facing an immediate global challenge with next to no presence or guidance from UCG or the larger University of Groningen community. I was happy to see that on March 5th finally a little more information has been added to UCG’s site.

To what my daughter describes, just about all of her companions are uninformed and in denial about the crisis that is at their doorstep. The ins and outs of basic hygiene measures to take, the necessity to stock food and basic necessities for either a self-quarantine, a bad local outbreak, or eventual supply chain disruptions, basic information as to what to do in the case of illness or the illness of roommates as students are living in community and these issues are delicate and complex and merit forethought.

Planning

Planning and preparation are everything in emergency. Would it not make sense to plan in advance while authorities are available and not under the pressure of managing a crisis or sick themselves?

This lack of information and planning astounds me, particularly because a lot of students are foreign and without family support

This lack of information and planning astounds me, particularly because a lot of students are foreign and without family support nor the capacity to understand Dutch TV or radio that perhaps Dutch adults take for granted. Clearly the students need to become aware and need presence and guidance from adults in the community (well beyond the recent information posted on the above site).

The trajectory of this virus has been clear since mid-January when the CDC and WHO announced such. In the meantime, there has been zero interaction on the issue at UCG until recently when I reached out to a professor, who immediately took it upon himself to organize an info session.

Widespread ignorance

However, few students showed to this ‘non-official’ event and there remains widespread ignorance amongst the study body. I would think it sensible for example that a nurse teaches the moral issues of why to self-isolate should even the mildest symptoms appear, the ins and outs of proper handwashing (the necessity of getting all corners and a long rinse, technique that is not to be taken for granted being our primariy defence), go through and answer the many queries about what if I or a roommate fall ill?

In a town of so many highly educated people, did no one find the courage to raise their voice before the 900 Vindicat fraternity students departed for Norther Italy?

Practical help such as the availability of delivery from the local supermarket, internet sites with English options for ordering food, supplies and nonprescription drugs.

Does the UCG have a plan? What about the larger University of Groningen?

Psychological theory illustrates that young adults take their cues from adults to understand reality and develop adult skills. It seems the cue is passiveness and maintaining the status quo, despite cases just over the border in Germany and growing numbers daily in Holland.

Supercarriers

In a town of so many highly educated people, did no one find the courage to raise their voice in the name of community safety before the 900 Vindicat fraternity students departed for Norther Italy?

Is it acceptable that they return from a Corona Virus ‘Orange Zone’ and not attend classes for ‘some time’ pending attendance requirements and take no committent to distance themselves from public life in Groningen with the scientific knowledge available on how many cases in Europe originated in Italy and in light of how the epidemic is progressing there (from where I write this).

From what we know about super-spreaders, (those that transmit the virus at an exponentially higher rate than average) the young may very well be ‘supercarriers’ and spread it extensively. What does this mean to the weaker and elder population of Groningen?

I would hope that the university of Groningen, would be ahead of the curve in both communication/awareness building with the students, as well as playing a role as a primary stakeholder in safeguarding the local community. There is much talk in education about community learning and global challenges, this crisis certainly spearheads both.

Disruptive containment

Additionally, I would hope that a highly educated community in a vibrant town like Groningen would weigh in the national public health domain that have a very conservative testing protocol, inviting the risk that the health care system collapse in a matter of weeks, which could in turn ex-post require drastic and disruptive containment measures such as those now being implemented in Italy.

Will her roommates understand the seriousness of the situation and begin to take any hygiene measures?

What does all this mean to a mother located in the epicentre of the Corona virus crisis in Europe? My daughter understands that this situation will be long, and is determined to continue her life and studies in Groningen, a city and life she loves but the odds are stacking up against her.

She has an autoimmune condition for which she must take immune suppressing drugs, so I ask myself, when will her roommates understand the seriousness of the situation and begin to take any hygiene measures?

Global challenge

Will they shop for food in crowded supermarkets once the virus is circulating in Groningen? What are the chances that Groningen will not have a violent outbreak if 900 young people coming from an Orange zone in Northern Italy are freely circulating town? Will my daughter find a hospital bed should she need one?

If we adults are not willing to model the principles we teach our youth, apply the science that we know and hold our democracies accountable, what is the purpose of higher education? Now is the time to show them the resilience of community and how to face a real global challenge. Because this is one.

Stephanie Cunningham is the mother of a student at the University College Groningen. She lives in Cortona, Italy, about 50 kilometers southeast of Florence.

Home(sick)

Foto Reyer Boxem

Home(sick)

By Niall Torris
26 February om 9:42 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 4 March 2020
om 11:06 uur.
February 26 at 9:42 AM.
Last modified on March 4, 2020
at 11:06 AM.

Sometimes I feel a little guilty about being a student at UG. I don’t just mean all the normal student guilt how much I’m studying or how much money I spent on cans this weekend. I’m well used to wrestling with all of that by now. There’s something that makes me feel a little guilty about just being an international student.

Sometimes I worry that I’m not doing enough with my time here. I spend most of it studying, partying and chatting with friends; all of which I enjoy. I don’t plan on giving any of that up anytime soon either. But sometimes I feel like I should be doing something more with my two years studying abroad. This feeling became more intense when I made the trip home recently.

Ireland doesn’t give us the option of a postal vote, so after block 1B exams finished I headed home to vote in the general elections and to see my friends and family. But while I was back in Ireland, I realised that I’m not doing a whole lot different with my life since coming to UG. The only obvious differences are that the rent is a little cheaper in Groningen and it’s dramatically safer to cycle here too. But…

I know my friends back home support me, but I can’t help feeling selfish for just deciding to leave them

I still have this battle going on inside my head. On the one hand I was happy with my life in Dublin and I miss my friends back home, but on the other hand I’m making new friends and memories in Groningen too. I know my friends back home support me, but I can’t help feeling selfish for just deciding to leave them for the next two years.

It sounds a bit stupid to be so “woe is me, I’m studying in the Netherlands and I’m worried I should be having an even better time than I’m having already” and that’s because it is stupid. I’m hardly a martyr here, in fairness, but emotion is a funny thing. I think it’s okay to feel great about studying abroad, while also feeling shitty for leaving my life and friendships behind me to do it.

But more than just leaving my friends behind and worrying that I should be doing something more with my time, I sometimes feel guilty for enjoying being here more than being at home. I will move back to Ireland eventually, so the best thing to do is to enjoy my time at UG and be less hard on myself.

Easier said than done.

Five Vici grants for Groningen researchers

Five Vici grants for Groningen researchers

Five academics from the RUG and UMCG have each been awarded a 1.5 million euro Vici grant.
24 February om 14:11 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 25 February 2020
om 9:44 uur.
February 24 at 14:11 PM.
Last modified on February 25, 2020
at 9:44 AM.

Rob Siebelink

Door Rob Siebelink

24 February om 14:11 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 25 February 2020
om 9:44 uur.
Rob Siebelink

By Rob Siebelink

February 24 at 14:11 PM.
Last modified on February 25, 2020
at 9:44 AM.

The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) has awarded a total of 32 researchers a Vici grant. The grant will enable them to develop innovative research over the next five years.

Vici is one of the largest personal academic subsidies in the Netherlands and is awarded to senior researchers who have the freedom to submit their own research projects for financing.

The 2019 Groningen laureates are professor of psychosomatic medicine Judith Rosmalen and associate professor of cell biology Liesbeth Veenhoff, both with the Faculty of Medical Sciences/UMCG, professor of molecular systems biology and associate professor molecular biology Giovanni Maglia, both with the Faculty of Science and Engineering, and associate professor of demographics Fanny Janssen with the Faculty of Spatial Sciences.

Miss out

Last year, NWO also awarded 32 Vici grants, but the RUG missed out, as none were awarded to Groningen researchers. According to rector magnificus Cisca Wijmenga ‘the five awarded grants make up for this, and we’re especially happy three of the laureates are female’.

‘I know from personal experience how important it is to receive funding from NWO. A Vici grant enables people to expand and consolidate their own research group’, she says.

For this Vici round, a total of 242 researchers submitted their projects for funding. The Vici grant is one of three types of funding in the NWO Talent Scheme. The two other types are the Veni grant (for people who’ve obtained their PhD in the last three years) and the Vidi grant (for experienced post-docs who obtained their PhD in the last eight years).

What kind of researchers will the grantees be doing?

Matthias Heinemann: Metabolism and cell division are an essential part of life, but we don’t yet understand the interaction between these processes. Matthias Heinemann will be deciphering the mechanism responsible for the clock-like dynamic behaviour metabolism displays during the cell division in eukaryotes. This will unlock important information for the fields of biomedical sciences and biotechnology.

Fanny Janssen: Socio-economic differences in death are an important societal issue, but no one knows how these differences will continue to develop realistically. Fanny Janssen’s research is developing an advanced prediction model of death inequality, using new insights into the influence of smoking, obesity, and alcohol. It will also determine the potential effects of (preventative) health policies.

Giovanni Maglia: Cells can’t function without proteins. The concentration, expression, and chemical modifications in proteins can accurately predict many diseases. In his project, Giovanna Maglia is developing a cheap and fast technology to detect and analyse proteins, in an effort to improve home diagnostics.

Judith Rosmalen: Judith Rosmalen has been doing research into psychosomatic medicine for years. She will use her Vici grant to study how childhood experiences influence people’s physical symptoms. Earlier research has shown that the degree to which people suffer physical symptoms can vary greatly. This is potentially due to congenital differences, but also to earlier experiences of physical complaints. Rosmalen will study how these differences develop based on childhood experiences.

Liesbeth Veenhoff: Liesbeth Veenhoff wants to know how and why cells change as they age. Her research focuses on nuclear core complexes; the gatekeepers of the cells. Nuclear core complexes play a central role in biology; to create new molecules, information in the DNA has to leave the core. Veenhoff wants to which quality control mechanisms are in place to ensure the nuclear core processes function properly. These processes don’t always; they go wrong during the ageing process as well as in various neurodegenerative diseases. Veenhoff hopes that activating the control mechanisms can serve as a new way to prepare old or sick cells.

RUG ecologists: Romantic drama in flycatcher community

PhD candidate Koosje Lamers in the midst of her research. Photo: RUG

RUG ecologists: Romantic drama in flycatcher community

Female songbirds don’t have it easy when it comes to love. In some species, like the European pied flycatcher, male birds will try to hook a second female when they already have a mate.
17 February om 14:34 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 17 February 2020
om 14:34 uur.
February 17 at 14:34 PM.
Last modified on February 17, 2020
at 14:34 PM.


Rob Siebelink

Door Rob Siebelink

17 February om 14:34 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 17 February 2020
om 14:34 uur.
Rob Siebelink

By Rob Siebelink

February 17 at 14:34 PM.
Last modified on February 17, 2020
at 14:34 PM.
Rob Siebelink

Rob Siebelink

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Other male birds are also two-timing their ladies, but it was always assumed that the first female partners weren’t negatively affected by this, since the males would mainly work to support their primary brood.

PhD researcher Koosje Lamers and professor Christiaan Both at the RUG discovered that this is not, in fact, the case. Females who are forced to share their mate with another female have lower survival chances and tend to die more often in spring.

Monogamous

For twelve years, the ecologists studied a large population of European pied flycatchers brooding in nest boxes in Drenthe. The majority of the population is monogamous, but some males were entertaining multiple females.

These males leave the nest as the female is brooding, flying over to another nest box to visit another female. Lamers and Both concluded that especially females who lay their eggs early in the season have to contend with their mate having a second female.

Earlier brooding

In one experiment, the researchers moved Dutch pied flycatcher females to Sweden, where they brood earlier than in the Netherlands. The males these females had as mates also hit the road more often to get themselves a second mate.

Early brooding can result in a female having to share her mate, with considerably negative effects. ‘Not for her young so much as for herself’, says Lamers.

Survival

In their research, which was recently published in the Journal of Avian Biology, the researchers write that the number of young who survive their first year is not dependent on whether their father is monogamous. The females, however, are affected. Those who had to share their mate had a much harder time surviving until the next year.

Lamers and Both suspect that females get less support from their mates if the latter is two-timing her. As she most likely takes on a larger part of the care of her young, this is at the expense of her own health and future.

The best time of my life

Foto Reyer Boxem

The best time of my life

By Niall Torris
11 February om 9:55 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 11 February 2020
om 10:02 uur.
February 11 at 9:55 AM.
Last modified on February 11, 2020
at 10:02 AM.

I think I must be doing something wrong, or maybe someone has been lying to me. According to a lot of people university is supposed to be the best years of my life. Now call me crazy, but exams every six or seven weeks, numerous articles to read and enough essays to publish my own (shoddy) journal just don’t seem like good material for a lifetime highlight reel.

Now, I’m no stranger to a few beers and I’ve definitely been spotted leaving Warhol well after sunrise a few times. But there’s always a lecture or some assessment to leave me with a pain in my head and a whole pile of lost hours from my life instead of a night out. What’s worse is that when it comes to college work even a few cans of Guinness and a big breakfast won’t solve the problem (and believe me, I’ve tried).

In psychology we have the ‘positivity effect’. In a nutshell it says that older people tend to remember more positive information associated with memories. So, on average, the further we get from the time a memory is made, the more we focus on the positive elements of it. Which explains why my dad thinks coming to RUG to sit in the library all week typing, reading and figuring out a scientific calculator is actually a laugh riot.

What’s worse is that when it comes to college work even a few cans of Guinness and a big breakfast won’t solve the problem

It’s probably important to mention that the same research shows that younger people tend to focus more on negative information when using memory. I know that seems like a really important piece of information, but it’s really not.

I fail to see what positive information I’m supposed to focus on about trying (and failing) to study yet another statistical method. All any of that has taught me is how to calculate the probability of me passing the module. Trust me, the outlook is not good.

But I’ll spare a thought for my future self. Maybe one day I’ll be telling my own kids and their friends that college is going to be the best years of their life. But then I’ll remember this piece and ruin it for them all… or maybe I’ll look back and see look how well I did despite all the negativity… or I’ll just remember how much I enjoy writing.

Who knows? For now, all I can say is it looks pretty negative to me. Give it time.

Student victimised by new exam schedule

Op-ed: Student victimised by new exam schedule

The RUG has decided to stick to the new exam times for the next several years. Law student Jaap Scholtens argues this decision is incomprehensible.
By Jaap Scholtens
10 February om 13:38 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 11 February 2020
om 9:45 uur.
February 10 at 13:38 PM.
Last modified on February 11, 2020
at 9:45 AM.

The office of the university, aided by various parties, has written a perfectly fine evaluation report on the implementation of the new exam schedule. The university will be administering four exams a day instead of three.

This new schedule solves the capacity dilemma for the exam periods this year. The argument that it’s needed because of a lack of capacity becomes void when, next year, the number of seats in the Aletta Jacobs hall increases from 1,200 to 1,792. That would solve the issue of capacity for the next few years.

Focus

The new exam times will have mainly negative effects. First of all, the exams start earlier and last longer. This is detrimental to the students’ focus. It also makes them feel unsafe when exams end late at night, especially when the streetlights around the hall aren’t working, like they did last exam period.

The main problem is when one exam ends and the next one starts. Students who are finishing up, especially students who need extra time, are negatively affected by the students who are waiting outside in the hall for their exam.

These students make noise. Even more annoying are the examiners who are already setting up for the next exam, while students with extra time are still working on theirs.

Noise

Because there is less time between exams, examiners, especially those who oversee large written exams, have much less time to prepare their exams on site. Students who need extra time to finish don’t get much out of this time due to other students leaving, the noise coming through whenever someone opens the door, and stressed-out examiners working on the next exam.

The report also doesn’t focus on safety issues. Because of the shorter times between exams, there are many more people in the hall than is allowed. The stairs are crowded, there’s no room to move around, and the lines in front of the ladies’ room are impossible.

This is not just annoying, but a safety risk as well. A crowd like this would be trapped in case of an incident or fire. The air quality is also affected by the large number of people. The air treatment system in the Aletta Jacobs hall can’t keep up, which leads to higher temperatures and bad air quality. This can especially lead to problems during the summer, which I don’t think would help with people’s focus.

Reconsider

The argument that it would be too difficult to switch back to the old schedule after the summer and that it would therefore be best to stick with this new one for the next few years is nonsense. The new schedule might be a necessary evil this year, but since there will be no capacity issues over the next few years, sticking to it victimises an entire generation of students.

Dear board of directors, for the sake of the students and the examiners, reconsider this decision. If not for them, at least do it for the numbers, statistics, evaluations, and reviews that universities hold in such high esteem these days. It’s inevitable that this new schedule will lead to worse results.

Jaap Scholtens is a student of law and history