It has been a long haul, but last Friday reorganization program BEST received a positive recommendation from the U-council. At least, the stripped down version of the strategic policy choice on which the reorganization program is based, did. As Tjits Roselaar, Independent faction, puts it: “There’s not much to look at anymore.”
There isn’t much left of the original strategic policy choice or the intention to reorganize. The fractions eagerly summed it up: BEST’s results are now somewhere between the four and five and a half million instead of the fixed 5.5 million the Board of Governors had previously proposed. (Incidentally, Chairman of the Board Becking said that the board is unrelentingly pursuing the upper limit.) The number of FTEs (58) that were initially to be saved has been abandoned and will be determined at a later stage of the reorganization plan. The funds that have been freed up will be invested in education and research. In earlier documents this would have resulted in appointing 90 FTEs (university) teachers and teaching assistants. Now the FTEs aren’t mentioned anymore. The results are balanced.
The Board cited three reasons for an additional cutback (1 million in comparison to the strategic plan): these have also disappeared. It lacked a solid base, the representative body stated. The contested WP-OBP ratio was one of the first things to be trashed. BEST’s steering group was disbanded after their concept for the new organization was annihilated by the representative body. By disbanding the steering group, “the chairman [Koen Becking] has linked his fate to the reorganization”, the Abvakabo fraction stated today. ‘Better control of the process’ was another of the representative body’s wishes. Becking is assuming greater ownership and he’s taking full responsibility.
Another contested point was the representative body’s set-up in the proposed, new organization: one body means one council. Is that such a good idea? The board promised to look into it in concert with the existing representative body and with the possibility of hiring external expertise. The combining of all the bodies – one of Front’s and TiU-international’s points – has also been withdrawn. The current formulation leaves more room for variation. Booking quality improvements is leading.
Drawing up the balance
The smoke is clearing and the balance is being drawn up:“What has this period brought us?” Roselaar wonders. Amongst others: “a lot of unrest”, is her grim assessment of her seven hundred colleagues who started their Christmas break in uncertainty. Where did it all go wrong? TiU-International’s Tobias Klein knows. BEST was backed by thirteen workgroup reports. Employees in thirteen different fields of work wrote down what they considered to be up for improvement on the work floor. But in the transition from these reports to the final proposal something went haywire. It’s telling, says Roselaar, that the steering group managed to distill these five hundred pages into the contested steer group recommendation, including the concept organization, in two days time. Klein: “That’s when it started to go off track.”
Abvakabo’s Verhagen wonders why the Board never apologized to its employees, who were ‘wrong-footed during three separate road shows’. He repeated once again that this is the ‘worst organized reorganization’ that he has ever witnessed. Front and SAM made a stance for communication in their discourse: both towards the involved employees and the students who are, after all, also ‘customers’ of Tilburg University’s support services. Front was worried that not a single student was involved in BEST anymore – student Lawrence Bolte had been a member of the steering group. Becking suggested involving two students in ‘the quartermaker’s working atmosphere’. Verhagen torpedoed this proposal and even threatened to retract his positive recommendation. Of Becking’s proposal he said: “It nearly went well until just before the end.” Verhagen concluded that Front’s point was basically about communication. The communication towards students would improve, Becking promised.
To Abvakabo’s demand of an apology, Becking carefully answered: “We could have handled that better.” Verhagen took it for an apology, he puts Becking’s actual phrasing down to a difference in style between the chairman of the Board and himself.
Recommendation and follow-up
Inevitably, chairman of the University Council, Rien Wijnhoven, asked the fractions for a recommendation of the plans. Roselaar tried to give it a twist: “We don’t give negative recommendations. We positively recommend the follow-up but we’re negative about the burden of proof.” But Wijnhoven was unremitting. So Roselaar gave a positive recommendation. The other fractions followed suit. Then there was an open debate on BEST. Verhagen: “We’re glad to finally address the content.”
With the approval of the strategic policy choice, phase two starts for BEST. BEST’s quartermakers – Hans Dieteren and Marc Bosma – will organize ‘studios’ in which they’ll collect input. Next, the reorganization plan will be written. The plan will return to the University Council in July for a recommendation. In the meantime, the set-up of the new organization will be discussed in the University Council. A staff plan and a social plan will be drawn up in fall. In 2016, the new supportive organization gets started.