Katya Ivanova, Independents: ‘Our colleagues should be able to flourish’

Katya Ivanova, Independents: ‘Our colleagues should be able to flourish’

University employees need to be in good shape and have time to do their jobs. And during major changes, everyone must be able to keep up. This is what the employee party Independents is all about during the upcoming elections. Party leader Katya Ivanova: ‘We do not want to overlook anything.’

Katya Ivanova. Beeld: Dolph Cantrijn

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What should be different about Tilburg University?

‘The University faces a lot of challenges. We have to think about how to prepare students for a job market that uses artificial intelligence. There is political pressure to reduce the internationalization of education, which has led to unrest among our international colleagues. It is difficult to attract and retain staff.

The party leaders

It’s almost election time on campus again. From faculty council and division committee to university council: from April 16 to 18, students and employees will choose who will represent their interests in the participation councils of Tilburg University.

In the run-up to the election week, Univers publishes interviews with the party leaders of the participation parties. Who are they and what do they stand for? And how will the parties help the university and its students and employees move forward?

‘We are a large organization, and decisions are made that not everyone agrees with. Some dissatisfaction is inevitable, this is how democratic organizations work. But people must be able to understand why certain decisions were made. We have to be able to explain it on the work floor. That doesn’t always go well yet.’

What is going well?

‘What is cool about science, how can science contribute to society? This usually involves the exact sciences. When we talk about climate change, for example, it is often about technological solutions. While the knowledge we produce here is also very relevant to major societal problems.

‘Polarization and inequality is not something you solve with technology. You need the social and behavioral sciences and humanities for that. At Tilburg University, we have an explicit focus on this. In this we are unique.’

What will the Independents work on in the coming period?

‘We need staff who are in good shape. Physically, mentally, and in terms of satisfaction. We want to keep everyone involved. When changes or new projects are proposed, we as a party always want to be mindful of the staff. How does this solve problems that we know are there, such as work pressure. What do our colleagues need to flourish?

‘For someone like me, a migrant, it’s very stressful now. Must we all start lecturing in Dutch or not? Then we have to learn yet another language. Where do we find the time? Everything in our work is a matter of time. It is essential to make sure that any changes do not adversely affect anyone in our community—not those who may need to acquire a new skill, but also their colleagues.’

What have you accomplished so far for employees?

‘We demand more clarity and transparency in decision-making. We showed this when discussing the University’s budget in the December University Council. We are also making a case for a discussion about the ius promovendi. Tilburg Young Academy (TYA) asked us if we wanted to submit an official initiative for this, which we did.

‘To serve the community, we need the community’

‘The TYA wants assistant and associate professors to have the right to confer a PhD as well. This is a topic about which we want to have an open discussion. Do the existing rules serve the community, do they reflect the current reality in the workplace, or the reality of 50 years ago?’

Why should employees vote for you?

‘The diversity on our electoral list is clearly our strength. We have immigrants, assistant professors, support staff from LIS and communications, people who have served on School Councils before… We represent not just academics or support staff, but everyone. That enriches our discussions. The hope is that we won’t overlook anything as a result.’

There are thousands of staff members at this University. How do you stay connected with the voters? And how can they find you?

‘If we need information, we approach people around us. We do the same with School Council members; in those Councils, decisions that affect lecturers are usually made. The University Council provides general direction, Schools implement policies.

‘We do need to become more visible. As a party, but also as a University Council. Although people often find us. They approach us with questions or concerns. That is important. We sometimes have to hear it from the people themselves in order to know what is going on. They mustn’t be afraid to speak out. To serve the community, we need the community.’

What exactly is your role in the University Council as a party?

‘Above all, we have the right to advise on what the Executive Board submits to us. That amounts to asking constructive, critical questions. Our goal is not to be critical for the sake of being critical. Sometimes it may be perceived that way.

‘There are frustrations, people can get defensive in the Council. But that is normal when there are important discussions. We ask questions to understand the logic behind decisions. Otherwise, we can’t explain it.’

Translated by Language Center, Riet Bettonviel


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