Internal strife over shorter lunch break

The reduction of the lunch break from 75 to 60 minutes in the 10-hour timetable proposed by the Executive Board gave rise yesterday to a clear difference of opinion with the student factions on the University Council. These groups are firmly in favor of a 75-minute break as, they believe, this is the only timeframe in which companies can hold good lunchtime sessions. These, they argue, are very important to students' career options.


In what capacity was the recommendation of the Timetable steering group submitted yesterday to the members of the University Council? The latter group thought the various documents were intended to inform them of the current situation, but the Executive Board was keen to see a decision taken that very afternoon, so that preparations for the timetable's introduction in the coming academic year could get underway.

But when the shortening of the lunch break from 75 to 60 minutes as part of a 10-hour timetable was addressed, a difference of opinion arose between the student members of the University Council and the Executive Board. Erik van Heijst of Groep-één mentioned as the primary argument against the loss of 15 minutes that many lunchtime sessions currently offered by industry in the lunch break would run the risk of being moved to an evening slot.

According to Van Heijst, a survey among a large group of companies had shown that they find an hour too short to deliver a high-quality session. And, said the member of the Groep-één faction, that could have detrimental consequences for students' career options. At sessions like this, he argued, the first contacts are made between company and student. Moving the sessions to the evening hours would be undesirable for both companies and students. For this reason, Van Heijst insisted that further consultation on this matter be held with the Executive Board.


Board President Jan Mengelers said he felt surprised by the argument he was now hearing from the University Council. “Nor can I recall this argument having been raised previously by one of the groups and committees that have been consulted,” he stated. He did, however, let it be known immediately that an interim consultation would do little to change the standpoint of the Executive Board on the matter of shortening the lunch break. At which point it was decided to adjourn the meeting briefly so that University Council members could reconsider their standpoint.

After the adjournment, Mengelers said immediately that he had not intended his last remark as some kind of power play, but also emphasized that the decision-making on this subject needed to be concluded quickly, and that an additional meeting would need to be convened for this purpose in the very near future.

The meeting was subsequently adjourned once again, but once it resumed the student factions, supported by the staff faction PUR, stuck to their guns and insisted on having another consultation on this matter with the Executive Board. Mengelers conceded to this request, but went on to remark that in that case the proposal for a 10-hour timetable would not necessarily be the starting point for that discussion. “In that case, in principle everything is up for discussion, including the possibility of introducing a 12-hour timetable,” he announced.

In making its recommendation, however, the Timetable steering group had already remarked that the introduction of this option would do little to improve long-term the timetabling problems the university is likely to face. According to the steering group, these can be resolved within a 10-hour timetable, provided good accompanying policies are adopted. These would include such changes as the increased streaming of lectures, greater supervision of the planning process, and the appointment of an air traffic controller of sorts to oversee the timetabling process. The redistribution of courses into the new time slots will also need to be addressed going forward.

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