University Council adds its voice to calls for ombudsperson

The University Council is keen to see an ombudsperson appointed at TU/e before the year is out. At the end of last year Marjo van der Valk, TU/e's spokesperson for the unions, reported that the unions have been calling for this for the past fifteen years. At yesterday's University Council meeting, Nicole Ummelen, vice president of TU/e, wished to make no definite commitment, but said she was awaiting the results of a national pilot currently underway at four other universities.

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In yesterday's University Council meeting with the Executive Board, Martijn Klabbers, a member of the staff faction PUR, wished to receive an answer to the question whether the Executive Board has already decided to appoint an ombudsperson for TU/e. According to Klabbers, this is an office that TU/e needs and one that would be a real addition to the fiduciaries already working at TU/e.

Marjo van der Valk of the trade unions spoke on the topic in the same terms shortly before the Christmas vacation: “An ombudsperson of this kind operates independently, will investigate thoroughly, will read documents, talk with people, and thus for the Executive Board this step means giving away some of the control. The ombudsperson has much more power than the fiduciary with which the university currently works. I can imagine that in the past some people were fearful of this prospect.” 

Pilot projects

An ombudsperson is currently being piloted in projects running at four Dutch universities, namely the University of Twente, TU Delft, Erasmus University Rotterdam, and Maastricht University. The VU Amsterdam and the University of Amsterdam already have an ombudsperson.

At the end of January Minister of Education Ingrid van Engelshoven said that until this experiment is completed, she did not wish to compel universities to appoint an ombudsperson. The PvdA and governing party D66 have been calling for some time for this job function to be anchored in law. Van Engelshoven did say, however, that she wished to discuss the role of fiduciaries.

Nicole Ummelen told the University Council that TU/e is working on a strategic plan designed to increase public safety, and said she was receptive to an ombudsperson helping the university in this area. But she also said that she was not yet convinced that the appointment of this kind of officer is the only solution in this regard. “There are further aspects to the new strategy we are developing to ensure public safety. And therefore we are awaiting the results of the ombudsperson pilot currently underway.”

In April an interim evaluation will provide initial results. Ummelen is keen to reach a decision before the summer vacation.

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