‘Valuable prospects leave science’

News | by Janneke Adema

July 11, 2022 † Due to the rotten work culture at universities, young academics are leaving science. Because of fears for their careers, only a few of them speak out. In the podcast ‘The Reasonable Means’, Annelot Prins, Dennis Jansen and Ilse Lazaroms discuss the constant struggle to bring abuse to the university.

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Lazaroms took part in the episode ‘Class struggle at university’ in response to her essay ‘Nothing personal’. In it, she tells what it is like to work as a single mother at university. “I have long walked around with the idea that I want to say something about this. I have been a scientist for almost twenty years now; I have traveled a lot and experienced a lot. ” With his essay, Lazaroms wants to interpret and draw attention to the structural problems in the work culture at the university. “I also work with gender research, where awareness of abuse and injustice is a huge motivation, with the irony that one would rather not apply this to one’s own university.”

Valuable perspectives are leaving science

An important factor contributing to the rotten work culture is the limited number of positions available to academics. “These jobs have become so few,” Lazaroms says. “There are many more PhD students than jobs. The hope is, of course, that if you do it well enough – you probably take on extra tasks, such as coordinating tasks or extra publishing – that if you sacrifice all your free time on it, then you might get a steady job opportunity. There are so many people who want it, twenty others for you, that you can no longer say ‘no’. ”

According to Lazaroms, this is one of the reasons why academics talk too little about abuse at university. “It’s scary that you can’t really say and think what you want more, for fear of never getting a job you don’t have anyway.” For example, the work culture at universities threatens academic freedom. “People with very valuable perspectives are leaving science. It is, in fact, certain people who are leaving science; those who sit well are often established male professors or people without caring responsibilities, handicap or vulnerabilities. What’s left? A very limited science. ”

Sorry

Action Group 0.7 seeks to improve the work culture. Jansen is obviously associated with this, but not all members dare to say so. “I am one of the four public members; people who are quoted by name as being members of 0.7, ”he says. “Our members are afraid to speak out openly. That is why so many members are anonymous; it is very uncertain to say no. They fear that a colleague or supervisor will see that they have so-called ‘radical ideas’, such as to be paid for the work they do. ”

The name of the action group is a reference to the contracts of 0.7 FTE that temporary lecturers receive at Utrecht University. “The problem is that it is an education contract,” says Jansen. “Due to a lot of overtime, because education takes much more time than you think in advance, 0.7 man-years is often a full-time job in practice. But you do not get paid full time. ” According to Jansen, this is due to general policy in the Netherlands. “The policy at Dutch universities is that they only give permanent contracts to people who both teach and research. It is their excuse to say, ‘all the temporary contracts are pure training contracts, and we pay a maximum of 0.7 man-years for that’.

Prince says from experience that it is difficult to have a conversation about abuse and reforms at the university. Some academics do not believe that the university is the right place to talk about rules of conduct and inequality. “You usually have the constant struggle with older, white men. I notice – certainly among coloreds and women – that it’s a reason not to want to work there anymore. Because you get tired of constantly explaining, and because you are constantly in minority, you feel out of place and there is no room for your caring responsibilities. ”

Disappointed by agreement

There are a number of unions that represent teachers in higher education, Jansen explains. AOb (Algemene Onderwijsbond) has now set up a hotline for contract inflation. With contract inflation, you are going to do things at the university that are not allowed at all under your contract. For example, substitute teachers will coordinate courses where they determine a syllabus. However, many temporary teachers do not yet have a PhD. they are not allowed to coordinate courses at all, and they are not paid for that. ”

During the recent collective bargaining negotiations, 0.7 protested against the flex culture at the universities. “Temporary contracts for construction work are illegal,” Jansen explains. He refers to the lawsuits of Marijn Scholtes and Arnout van Rees against Utrecht University and Leiden University respectively. Jansen is disappointed that, despite the demonstrations, it has only been agreed that an investigation should be made into the extent of the problem.

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Jansen hopes to achieve this with more strikes. In April, nine UvA departments participated in a so-called ‘marking strike’, in which teachers continued to teach but refused to check what their students were handing out. Due to the great influence of students and the rest of the university, UvA changed its contract policy; Temporary contracts can now also be full-time and last four years by default. Jansen notes that other universities have also begun to think more about their policies as a result. “We have them by the way.”

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