Geert ten Dam, the new president of the Executive Board and Karen Maex, the new rector magnificus of the UvA member of the UvA-AUAS Executive Board, introduced themselves to around 200 students and staff. The event was streamed live and can be viewed on YouTube.
How are the new board members planning on narrowing the divide between university management, on the one hand, and students and staff? That was how moderator Altan Erdogan, chief editor of Folia, opened the conversation. Ten Dam replied by saying that her email address and telephone number are easy to find. Ten Dam: 'I have a good bike, so I can come to students and staff and meet them in their own environment.' Maex adds that a cultural change needs to take place throughout the whole organisation. 'Talk to each other and look for solutions together, thinking outside the box. And if we can do that together with students and combine it with a drink and a bite to eat, why not?'
Student engagement with the Board and its role was evident from the gifts offered to Ten Dam and Maex by the ASVA Student Union: an airbed for a comfortable stay at the Maagdenhuis, yoga mats for a flexible attitude (also a reference to the calls for a contemplation room at the AUAS) and a megaphone to make their voice heard. This wasn’t just meant as a joke by the students. They want to know whether the two new Board members will be carrying out the policy set out by the government in The Hague, or representing the interests of the AUAS and UvA and the higher education sector in general. Ten Dam wants to be a firm advocate of the UvA’s and AUAS’s interests, and to really hang in there to achieve consensus. Maex: 'We will look for the right path to reach our objectives. If that means going to the Hague together with students and staff, that is what we will do.'
Staff members also joined the conversation, either in person or via social media. They asked questions about excessive bureaucracy, the vision on staff and student participation, how to foster engagement with the organisation in both older and younger staff members, greater diversity and the allocation of the budget.
Ten Dam and Maex want to continue the Q&A sessions started by Dymph van den Boom (the former rector magnificus of the UvA) to establish and keep in contact with staff and students. They’ll have to see where these will take place, but it won’t necessarily be at the Maagdenhuis. Ten Dam asks people not to order flowers especially for a visit by the Executive Board. 'We like to see the actual situation students and staff experience on a daily basis.'