UR | Fighting for a seat
This past week the walls of the TU/e buildings were once again covered with the photos of students standing for election to a co-determination council. A great many photos, because every faction had enough candidates. If only we had that luxury, we think somewhat jealously at PUR, the staff delegation on the University Council. Few and far between would be one way to describe our supply of available candidates. Sometimes elections aren't even needed. Many Departmental Councils and the Services Council are struggling with the same problem. This needs to change.
We, the employee representatives involved in the university's participation bodies - thus at PUR, on the Departmental Councils and on the Services Council - who are elected once every two years, are finding it increasingly difficult to fill our candidate lists. For us there's no battle between parties like ‘The Ambitious Co-worker’, ‘Group A’, or the ‘Eindhoven Co-worker Council’. Nor are there election debates or give-away campaigns involving coffee, cake, pens or mini lights designed to win souls. Sometimes there aren't any elections at all, because the shortage of candidates makes them completely unnecessary.
How do students manage to find enough volunteers time and again, while for PUR and these other councils it is always such a struggle every two years? The average TU/e co-worker isn't lacking a sense of involvement. All the employees I know apply themselves with heart and soul for ‘their university’. It has always been this way; in the past you were hugely proud to work at the technical university, for the best employer, in the most interesting work environment, with many good, young people around you. That pride may perhaps have dimmed a little, but we still feel involved; we make sure that despite the heavy work pressure, the education, the research and the support services remain top notch.
Perhaps the difference can be explained partly by the fact that holding a seat on a co-determination council looks good on a student's résumé, something that cannot always be taken for granted for employees. But then the latter group does tend to overlook how much useful experience a person can gain as a member of a co-determination council. You can see from the inside how TU/e or your department works, discover the reasons for and background to certain decisions, find out more about the policy and decision-making processes. Undoubtedly your appreciation for the university will grow.
Conversely, employees who participate in the co-determination process do not seem to enjoy the same level of appreciation throughout the university. Many managers are particularly concerned about the amount of time it takes and your colleagues don't feel it's normal that you should keep popping off on a Monday to fulfill your responsibility. While TU/e is compensating you financially, you are still going to have to stick to your guns to carve out time for co-determination as far as both your manager and your colleagues are concerned. For the average employee, such strong headwind does nothing to build their enthusiasm.
Our scientists have four domains in which they need to develop their abilities: education, research, valorization and organization. For auxiliary staff the relevant category is the last-mentioned one. It's also referred to as business operations, or as ‘governance and management', an even better term. If the knowledge and skills acquired through participating in co-determination were also to be counted as personal development in that field, employees would get a note on their record that looks good on their résumé.
I dream of a university where the practice of co-determination is taken for granted and is valued by both the co-worker who participates and their manager. Not only because it is well organized on paper, but also because participating on a council is thought of as career boosting. In my dream I see, this time next year, when the elections for the staff faction on the University Council and for the Departmental Councils and Services Council are held, countless candidates standing, all of them almost elbowing each other out of the way to gain a coveted seat.