10 New Year wishes for Tilburg University
After popping our leftover fireworks and sweating off the extra calories from eating oliebollen, it’s time to look to the future. What are Univers’ wishes for Tilburg University in 2018? The editorial team got together and wrote up a wishlist. These are our ten New Year wishes for a better 2018.
1 PERMANENT CONTRACTS FOR YOUNG ACADEMICS
Kicking back at work? Not if your office is on campus. Last year, the Dutch Trade Union Confederation (FNV) reported that the workload of academic staff is harmfully high: early-career scientists are afraid to call in sick, fearing they may risk their temporary appointment. In addition, they work on weekends and during holidays. Stress, depressions and burn-outs are the consequence. Increased job security for young academics is a necessity, not a luxury. After all, with a bunged-up head bursting with worries and flu particles, the euroka-moment will remain far out of reach.
2 EXPANSION OF PATERNITY LEAVE
The days when mom stayed home with the baby while dad made the money are long gone. The national expansion of paternity leave won’t go into effect until 2019, but several major banks and companies are taking a head start on the new paternity leave rules. Wouldn’t it grace the university to do the same, in light of its efforts to promote gender equality? The university should take a leading role in supporting young families to care for a newborn child as well as possible during those exhausting first weeks. Who knows, perhaps the new Einstein is lying in a crib somewhere.
3 MORE FEMALE PROFESSORS
When it comes to the number of professorships held by women, Dutch universities have been at the bottom of international rankings for years now. And we don’t seem to be moving up the ranks. Last year, the Dutch Network of Women Professors reported that the national growth percentage of female professorships is 1,2 percent. If we stay on that pace, half of all professors will be women in 2051. Meanwhile, the number of female university graduates is higher than the number of male university graduates. So where on the road to the academic top does it go wrong? Thankfully, Tilburg University is not blind to the academic gender gap on campus. The university makes funds available for female academics in top positions through Philip Eijlander Fellowships. A good initiative, but there is more to be done. Please don’t let it be 2051 before gender equality becomes a fact.
4 A PLAN FOR CODE RED
When it snows heavily, the Dutch railway operator adjusts its train schedule. But what does Tilburg University do in case of extreme weather conditions? That remained a mystery when Tilburg transformed into a winter wonderland towards the end of 2017. Buses were cancelled, roads were slippery, and students panicked. Because what do you do when a snowstorm prevents you from getting to your exam in time? Univers editor Yannick Maas bravely went out to find an answer to precisely that question, but nobody seemed to be able to tell him whether exams were cancelled or not. The uncertainty lasted for hours. Meanwhile, the internet showed that other universities operated according to an orderly plan. Tilburg University finally announced that all exams after 15:30pm were cancelled, thirty minutes prior to the planned starting time of the exams. That’s a little late. When the next snowstorm hits, a plan d’action would be nice.
5 MORE TEACHERS
Heavy workloads, packed lecture halls and growing student numbers. And, also: a charming introduction to the Tilburg Educational Profile, which envisions teachers and students jointly realizing small group teaching. Ah! Small-scale education, which leaves room for every student to receive personal attention and a pat on the head. We all want that. But is it achievable? How can small group teaching be realized when student numbers continue to grow incessantly? There’s only one solution to such a problem, which can be summed up as follows: ‘More students? More teachers!’ So start putting out job vacancies, Tilburg University, and bolster your teaching staff. Before all of our teachers become burned-out.
6 MORE STUDY SPOTS FOR STUDENTS
Students often study more effectively at the university library than at home. Still, studying on campus is easier said than done. Try and find an empty spot! The library is packed, fist fights over a desk and a chair are on the verge of breaking out. And other places on campus are also often more crowded than Lloret del Mar’s boulevard on a hot night in August. With the opening of the new Education and Self-Study Center (OZC), lots of new study spots will become available. Will it be enough? Failing to plan is planning to fail, so here’s our advice: keep building!
7 LESS PRESSURE ON SCIENTISTS TO PUBLISH
The publish-or-perish culture at universities has been under fire for years. To build a good résumé, academics must list as many scientific publications on their CV as possible. But good research takes time and doesn’t always yield the expected results. And then we’re not even taking into account that writing a grant application generally takes as much time as preparing 267.947 honeyed beef stews with laurel leaves. Nonetheless, the pressure to publish waits for no one. And sometimes it causes scientists to cut corners, so that they won’t fall behind their colleagues. Let’s not just take our time for slow cooking, therefore, but for slow science too.
8 PAY SALARIES IN CRYPTOCURRENCIES
Remember the Dutch guilder? Until 1 January 2002, it was costumary to pay the salaries of employees in the currency that right-wing politician Geert Wilders so desperately longs back to. Since that day, it has been just as common to pay salaries in the European currency, known as the euro. In 2018, traditional coins issued by governments may lose relevance and value. The currency of the future is cryptocurrency. These cryptographically secured digital coins no longer require you to bite them in order to determine whether they’re genuine. The network takes care of everything. In the future, you’ll need to carry cryptocurrencies in your digital wallet if you want to get somewhere. Tilburg University wants to advance the Digital Society. Well then, let’s do the math: from now on, (partly) pay the salaries of employees in Bitcoin, Ethereum or another cryptocurrency. Perhaps that will even make employees rich.
9 DELIVER EXCELLENT DATA NERDS
Data nerds have always been ‘the good guys’. Or at least they were always perceived as harmless. But that image is quickly changing. Astonishing amounts of data are being collected to make us buy more, to keep track of our behavior, and to manipulate us. It’s not just large companies like Facebook that are in on it, but governments too. Whereas data-cowboys used to keep an eye on those in power, data science is now being used to keep an eye on us. The latest in a series of blows is the ‘Sleepwet’, a controversial law that will extend the powers of the General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD) and the Military Intelligence and Security Service (MIVD). Data science is one of Tilburg University’s main strategic priorities. Our hope is that the university will deliver excellent data scientists who will protect the rights of citizens. We don’t need more algorithms that generate personalized advertisements – we already have plenty of those.
10 A BICYCLE PATH ON CAMPUS
A red stroke that runs from one side of the campus to the other, how difficult could it be? The results of a poll posted on Universonline.nl showed that 58% of voters believe the situation on campus to be life-threathening. That may be somewhat of an exaggeration, but it’s definitely chaotic. And with all those zigzagging bicycle riders amidst pedestrians staring at their smartphones, it’s a matter of time before an accident happens. A bicycle road would solve a lot of problems. Surely we could spare a few buckets of red paint?