The report by the committee Democratization & Decentralization (D&D) has come about because students and staff came together in 2014-2015 to make a fist towards structural mismanagement and the lack of transparency and participation in decision-making at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). From the very beginning the various action groups and worried individuals expressed concerns, among other things, about: workload, work stress, educational quality, research quality, the too strong focus on quantitative output, the top-down management, the need for decolonization and social justice when striving for an inclusive University, little professional autonomy, little trust and too many rules. We’ve demanded more autonomy for teachers and students, less top-down management, and an end to “rendementsdenken” and output-based financing. The recent report by the committee D&D has stipulated problems that have been articulated by the academic community again and again for decades, but have been ignored by the minister of education and the university board till now. In fact a large part of the D&D report is a problem analysis in which many problems at the UvA – whether reported by students, academic staff, PhD-candidates, or supporting staff – are formulated.
The report also presents steps toward a solution for these problems. And in every case, the solution is more democratization and more decentralization. Those actually involved should have the power to decide, which is why the university needs less top-down management and more inclusive decision-making. In accordance with one of our demands, for less output-based funding, the working group that is drafting a new allocation model should keep in mind the recommendations of both the committee D&D and the financial commission for more “vaste voet”.
The large problem-analysis explains why the status quo is untenable. Whatever happens after the referendum, these problems need to be addressed and the university system needs to be fundamentally changed. It is important for a university to always keep moving forward, always keeping up with current events and wishes. The UvA must do justice to this report and adjust to the new situation and demands of the academic community and society as a whole.
By referendum the university community – everyone involved at the university including cleaners and security staff – can now vote on these matters. We’d like to move toward a self-organising university, where there’s trust in the capabilities of the students and staff to come up with forms of education and research that are suited for their field. We recognize the committee’s concerns that some students and staff don’t want to be involved, and they don’t have to. However, less administrative rules, fewer regulations, and less rigid study programs are to the benefit of everyone. It’s for the benefit of both the staff member that wants autonomy over their work and the one that can’t be bothered. It’s the benefit of every student who wants to deviate from the set path be it for problems, the desire to do more, or the desire to go one step slower, and of every researcher who does not want to spend most of their time applying for grants, reviewing articles by colleagues, or otherwise not being able to actually do their research. It’s for the benefit of the security staff, the cleaners and the catering employees who want to decide for themselves where they want to work – being bound to a certain location, seeing the same people creates a sense of community that is important for both the university community and the individual staff-members themselves. The best option to resolve the problems in the analysis, is in our eyes the green governance model for a self-organising university, with a broad senate and a charter in which basic values for the university are secured. The senate and charter are, even without the green governance model, very important in light of diversity and decolonialisation of the university. As decolonisation is important for the university’s democratic values in which everyone is able to participate and be heard. The report by the Diversity committee is, therefore, a significant move towards a better and more inclusive university; a diversity unit that will work together with the senate to ensure the basic values of the university is for instance a great tool to make the university more inclusive.
More so than with student council elections or workers council elections, this is a great chance to really change the university. The referendum is binding for the executive board and we will do everything possible to make sure the outcome will be enforced. Now is the time to vote.
De Nieuwe Universiteit
University of Colour
Vakbond Actie Comité
read the report by the committee here: commissiedd.nl/eindrapport