TU/e’s first ombudsperson starts in December

On December 1, Anna Soedira will take up her duties as TU/e’s first ombudsperson. This was announced by vice-president Nicole Ummelen during yesterday afternoon’s University Council meeting. Soedira has been working in the same capacity at Maastricht University for two days a week since February 2019. She obtained a law degree at Radboud University and founded her own agency for mediation and legal advice.

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In December 2019, Anna Soedira told Maastricht University newspaper Observant that she is “biased to both sides. I try to find reasonable solutions with the two parties involved.” Last year, she presented her first annual report in Maastricht, which concerned 85 cases she had handled between February 2019 and August 2020. These cases involved instances of poor or no communication, ill-equipped managers who weren’t up to the task, and incidents of inappropriate behavior. All this doesn’t contribute to a safe and pleasant working environment, Soedira concluded in her report. Many cases concerned (impending) conflicts with managers or supervisors. PhD candidates in particular are frequently faced with such problems, she said.


Soedira doesn’t want to respond at this point to Cursor’s request for a comment on her appointment at TU/e. She said the following in Observant about her method in Maastricht: first, she sits down with the person who reached out to her, then – if that person agrees – she meets with other parties involved. She does so in order to get a clear picture of the problem, and to determine whether the situation can be de-escalated and whether mediation is an option. She held no fewer than 385 meetings at the Limburg institution between February 2019 and February 2020.

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The majority of the 85 people who turned to Soedira in Maastricht were women (58), and many of the problems concerned conflicts with managers or supervisors. Soedira: “I see a lack of conscious leadership at Maastricht University: you need to know yourself first before you can become a successful leader; you need to know your own shortcomings and vulnerabilities.” Effective leadership requires more training, Soedira believes. Focus should be on the ability to listen carefully to the other person, on a productive and professional response to criticism and feedback, on the ability to provide feedback in an effective way, on dealing with conflicts of interests productively, and on strengthening the sense of solidarity. In her report, Soedira also referred to the ‘system’ at Maastricht University whereby someone who performs well at a certain job automatically moves on to a position of leadership. The one does not guarantee the other, she warned.

Mariska Brzözek, director of Human Resource Management, says that in principle, Soedira will start with her work as ombudsperson at TU/e for three days a week as of December 1, and that she will not combine her function in Eindhoven with her current job at Maastricht University.

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