Conflict at Nijmegen School of Management escalates: ‘No more faith in this Board’
The participational bodies of the Nijmegen School of Management have lost faith with the Faculty Board; the upcoming joint meeting has been cancelled. ‘Faculty employees have not been offered perspective.’
In an email that was sent out on Thursday of last week, the Representative Council (OC) of the Nijmegen School of Management expressed their complete loss of faith in the Faculty Board. ‘We doubt whether the current Board can steer the faculty through these difficult times’, OC Chair Paul Driessen told Vox.
The management faculty has been in rough financial waters for some time. Several crisis measures had to be taken in order to avoid a 9-million euro deficit; one of the measures was a vacancy freeze. The situation has worsened relations between the Faculty Board and the participational bodies over the past few months.
The email was addressed to the current Faculty Board, which will be going through some changes in the near future (see insert, eds.). Michiel Kompier will remain Interim Dean until January 31st; he will be succeeded by Saskia Lavrijssen, starting March 1st. ‘We made a conscious decision to make this announcement at the present time, because the Interim Dean played an integral part in the faculty dialogue’, according to Driessen. ‘Since his appointment, the issues have deteriorated.’
In their capacity as Vice Deans, Professors Anna van der Vleuten and Jan-Kees Helderman are also a part of the Faculty Board. And yet, the members of the OC have not called for their resignations. ‘That is something they will need to consider for themselves’, as stated by Gaard Kets, the OC Vice Chair.
Earlier, the participational bodies requested a mediation track, intended to solve two ongoing arguments. One argument concerned the HR policy, while the other was about the new management structure. The structure was supposed to take care of the tasks and responsibilities of the Faculty Board, the directors, and the departmental heads. The Faculty Joint Assembly feels that they should have a say in both matters, or should be allowed to advise at the very least; the Faculty Board feels otherwise. In a ruling on the subject, the Executive Board mainly sided with the Faculty Board. The Faculty Joint Assembly disagreed with the ruling and has hired legal representation.
‘The mediation suggestion was one final attempt to stave off a legal struggle’
According to OC Chair Driessen, ‘the mediation suggestion was one final attempt to stave off a legal struggle. It is a shame that the Board disagreed because this may be exhausting for all involved. Mediation might have led to better understanding, which would have also prompted the OC to look inwards.’
In an email sent to all faculty employees yesterday, vice deans Anna van der Vleuten and Jan-Kees Helderman wrote that the Faculty Board, too, was worried about the cooperation with the participational bodies; the Board wants to make an effort to improve relations. However, considering the forthcoming Board changes, “the Faculty Board wishes to leave the time and shape of any potential mediation track up to the Board’s new configuration.”
That will be too late, according to Vice Chair Kets. ‘I think that conversation should take place right now. It will be better for the new dean and the new Director of Operations (see insert, eds.) to start in an organisation where the Board and the particpational bodies are not at odds. ‘But because that mediation track did not materialise, the OC has given up faith in the Board.’
There are several other factors at play besides the two main disagreements. The participational bodies are worried about the lack of planning to counter the financial crisis. ‘We were promised that we would be involved at an early stage, but that has yet to happen’, Kets sighs. ‘The Board’s defence is that the Director of Operations is sick at home. That is a tricky situation, but the people at the faculty are frustrated and lacking perspective.’
Various members of the participational bodies have also indicated that they do not feel safe in the performance of their tasks. ‘Some OC members feel that they can no longer function in the day-to-day work, concerning interactions with the Faculty Board or the directors’, Driessen states. ‘The validity of that sentiment has yet to be determined, but that is the prevailing feeling.’
‘Not knowing what you will be able to do for the next few years when it comes to research or education is a bad feeling’
The lack of perspective has not improved the overall mood at the faculty. ‘Not knowing what you will be able to do for the next few years when it comes to research or education is a bad feeling. Because we cannot hire externally anymore, many people will have to teach more hours for the foreseeable future. That can be done, provided people are offered some perspective, but that perspective is not forthcoming. That is another reason why we sent out this signal.’
For now, the future at the Elinor Ostrom building is like reading tealeaves. The OC has cancelled the upcoming joint meeting in February. It is not yet clear what conditions the OC has for participation in the meeting scheduled for March. ‘That is something we will have to discuss’, as stated by Driessen.
‘Ideally, we will first have informal talks with the new Board on the participational structure’, Kets adds. ‘Hopefully we can soon meet up with the new Dean and the new Director of Operations.’
Interim Dean Michiel Kompier was unavailable for comment.
Michiel Kompier will remain Interim Dean of the Nijmegen School of Management until January 31st. He will be succeeded by the new Dean, Saskia Lavrijssen, on March 1st. Additionally, Jolle Landman will start as the management faculty’s Director of Operations on February 1st, his current posting at the Faculty of Arts. His predecessor started last year but has spent the majority of it sick at home.