A civil servant in corona times


Corona is scary. It was a doom scenario that was not supposed to happen and still it did. In the early days of the lockdown, fear for my personal health and that of my family and friends dominated my thoughts. But as the weeks rolled by another unexpected realization began to occupy my mind.

I have had the luck to come to the Netherlands to spend my postdoctoral years. I was even luckier to have the late professor Harm Dorren as my supervisor and mentor in those early years and thanks to hard work and circumstances I was offered a tenure track in the Department of Electrical Engineering. Time flies and as of September 2020 I will be working for the TU/e for 14 years.

Academia is a wonderful place to work in. Yes, we often complain about the pay or the work load but in the end if you ask most academics they will admit that the freedom they experience to define their own activity and working hours is irreplaceable.

The realization which was never on my mind before, but became ever more prominent in these crazy corona days, is how fortunate I and my TU/e colleagues are to enjoy stability and job security. While the world outside the TU/e has seen an alarming rise in unemployment and the media outlets compete in predicting the scope of the expected recession, my monthly salary kept arriving on time and I could continue to work on my research and educational tasks.

How different must living with corona be for those who cannot work and earn money based on their training and education? How different is it for the children of those who have lost their jobs and cannot afford to fund the basic needs of their children? Will these children, already falling behind, have the chance to catch up?

When I learned that on top of my stable financial situation I have been given a pay raise in July 2020, I thought that this was a good opportunity to give something back to society. Stichting Leergeld (Foundation Tuition) raises donations to give children in Eindhoven who come from poorer families a chance to catch up and enjoy culture and sports and increase their chance for study success. I believe that if we all donate part (or all) of the pay raise we got in July; we can help many children overcome some of the enormous damage the corona crisis has inflicted on them. Or maybe we can all donate a vacation day to this cause? I hope someone in the Executive Board will read this column and help me promote this initiative. Together we can really make a change!

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