PUR council member Klabbers said in his explanation of vote that the revision trajectory of the Bachelor College lacked a broadly shared and supported underlying educational vision and a set of goals right from the outset. In addition, there is too much emphasis in the plan, he said, on the implementation of a new educational concept – Challenge-Based Learning – without a clear indication of its goals. Klabbers: “There was an agile and hip project plan as well, but no mention was made of risk reduction.” The PUR member said that there were “enough reasons to put a halt to the entire revision plan, not so much because of the guidelines as they are currently formulated, but because of the entire process and its justification.”
Klabbers’ explanation of his vote set in motion an unusual and complex sequence of events on Monday afternoon in Atlas, where this academic year’s penultimate university council meeting took place. Since the agenda was packed with talking points, the meeting took just over four and a half hours.
After Klabbers’ acquiescence, which initially received support from eight other council members, rector Frank Baaijens gave his response. He said that he was surprised and disappointed with the acquiescence. Baaijens believed that these guidelines for the new Bachelor College were the result of “much hard work from a lot of people,” and that the council should vote on the document and not on the process leading up to it.
Baaijens and vice-president Nicole Ummelen certainly didn’t consider Klabbers’ acquiescence to be a “subtle addition” to the eventual approval of the document, unlike the opinion of Klabbers. “The Executive Board believes that this acquiescence expresses feelings of doubt among members of the University Council with regard to these guidelines. This could have an impact on the implementation of the new Bachelor College,” Baaijens said. “We had counted on the council to express its full support for the plan.”
The decision was then made to temporarily adjourn the meeting. Upon leaving the council hall, dean Ines Lopez Arteaga, who had witnessed the meeting from the public gallery, said that she could not continue with her work on the revision plan unless she had the full support of the University Council. When asked about her statement, she says that it wasn’t her intention to resign as dean or to put pressure on the council. “I wanted to make clear that this acquiescence would lead to doubts concerning the plan and consequently to a delay, since it would cause us to return to the drawing board,” Lopez Arteaga says.
After a fifteen-minute adjournment, the meeting resumed without PUR member Klabbers. During a roll call vote, the remaining seventeen council members eventually all voted in favor of the guidelines. The acquiescence wasn't on the table anymore. Before Klabbers had given his explanation of vote student member Koen de Nooij had given a positive advice on the guidelines on behalf of the UC commission that had to give advice to the other UC members about it, accompanied by a set of recommendations for the Executive Board.
Before the vote, student member De Nooij said that dean Lopez Arteaga’s statement upon leaving the hall did not influence the final decision of the seventeen council members. The reason behind Klabbers’ decision not to return to the council hall after the adjournment also had nothing to do with Lopez Arteaga’s statement, he said. “The University Council’s statues and rules and regulations say that you can’t abstain from voting, which is why I decided to go out for some fresh air during the voting round,” Klabbers said.
Learning from mistakes
Incidentally, Klabbers would have agreed to the proposed guidelines. “I wanted to send a message with my acquiescence and make it clear that mistakes were made during the entire process from which we can hopefully learn. That is a message we try to convey to the students and staff members at this institution: learn from your mistakes. And we at the top of the university’s structure should lead by example. Administrative and participatory bodies need to try and forge and retain a connection with the people on the work floor who will have to carry out these revisions. And we need to show that we understand any concerns they might have with regard to this matter. I hoped that this acquiescence would contribute to that.” He adds that he by no means wanted to express any criticism concerning the performance of dean Lopez Arteaga. “I admire her for what she has managed to achieve, and I vote in favor of the plan and the guidelines in their current guise.”
Lopez Arteaga says that she wants to meet with the university’s participatory body after the summer break to reflect on the past period and to evaluate it. “The people who need to carry out these new guidelines are my first priority too. We need to assess what went well and what didn’t go well, and that could certainly result in best practices for others to use during the implementation of similar large-scale processes in the future. The implementation of the new Bachelor College, which is set for September 2023, is really just beginning. I’m willing to discuss it with everyone: tell us what problems you run into, what can we do to improve things? Those discussions need to function as the lubricant oil that makes everything run smoothly. We are going to need everyone in that process, lecturers and members of the support staff, because it’s a highly complex structure.”