AcademieKus prize for struggle against exploitation

Professor Ingrid Robeyns committed heart and soul to WOinActie and dared to be open about her own struggle with academic workload pressure. That’s why she has been honoured by the teacher’s union AOb with its Valentine’s Day ‘AcademieKus’ (Academy Kiss) prize.

photo Roman_Samborskyi / Shutterstock

Until just recently, Robeyns was a driving force behind the protest movement WOinActie. With co-authors Professor Rens Bod (University of Amsterdam) and Professor Remco Breuker (Leiden University) she has written a book, 40 stellingen over de wetenschap, which addresses the problems of crushing workload pressure and systemic overtime at universities.

Last year, WOinActie reported the “systematic exploitation” to the labour inspectorate, in conjunction with the unions. The movement collected more than 700 reports of researchers and lecturers experiencing work overload. Their stories were completely familiar, Robeyns said at the time. “I work about 55 hours a week, which I know because I kept track of it for a certain period.”

Last month, the Professor of Ethics at Utrecht announced on Twitter that she had to abandon her work for WOinActie because of health problems, partially the results of being overworked. There was a storm of messages saying thank you and get well soon from lecturers, researchers and administrators.

Quickly settled

The decision to award Robeyns the AcademieKus was quickly settled and unanimous, jury member and AOb board member Marijtje Jongsma said. Robeyns stood head and shoulders above the other nominees. “And not just people who were already involved in WOinActie.”

Robeyns deserves praise not only for her work with the protest movement, Jongsma said. Her willingness to be open on Twitter also shows that she really cares about academic culture. “It’s about having the courage to put a problem on the agenda that lecturers and co-workers also encounter in the workplace.”

Corona proof

The AcademieKus was awarded completely corona proof on Zoom. Instead of the other nominees, this year the people who had proposed Ingrid Robeyns were “present” at the ceremony.

It is not the first time that the jury for the AcademieKus rewarded the campaigners from WOinActie. In 2018 leader Rens Bod was chosen to accept the prize on behalf of the entire movement. Other former recipients are SP MP Jasper van Dijk (2017), University of Amsterdam and VU Amsterdam chairs Geert ten Dam and Mirjam van Praag (2019), and gender researcher Marijke Naezer (2020).

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