Culture of distrust

Employees of the RUG state in an open letter that they want reform at the University. 'After all, the administration is there for the academic community, and not the other way around.'

Open letter to the Board of the University and the academic community of Groningen University

We are asking everyone who is concerned about the future of academic education and research to sign this letter. In this way, we signal our concern to our directors, and initiate a process of reforming the university. Sign the letter by sending a message to, and note your name and faculty.

The protest and occupations of the University of Amsterdam did not escape our attention in Groningen. These protests incited a national debate about how a university should be organized and managed. Such debates also questioned how the quality of research and education should be measured while remaining innovative. Finally, these debates asked how the prime role of universities can and should be guaranteed in the future. Critical voices are heard in universities throughout the country, as well as worldwide, and in our own university, about the limited participation of academic faculty, about the one-sided emphasis on ‘Output’ and about the burden of excessive bureaucracy. We welcome the fact that those problems that, until recently, had only been discussed in private circles, are now part of the public agenda. This discussion should be conducted in our university too, in order to stimulate the improvement of the situation.

Many of the problems approached by the Maagdenhuis occupiers and Rethink initiatives in other universities are also relevant in Groningen. We too, as employees of The University of Groningen, have the feeling that the university veers increasingly away from a ‘community of scholars’ with a stimulating work and study environment. Also in Groningen, the administrative culture prevails in which students are treated as clients who must be kept happy, or as products that must be delivered as quickly as possible. Also in Groningen, we feel the results of an ever-growing bureaucratic micro-management of educational activities. This creates a culture of distrust, in which one is not taken seriously as a teacher or creative professional, and on which we are increasingly required to waste time; this hinders the expertize and autonomy of our teaching and research. Also in Groningen, the work load has increased exponentially, among other things, because departments must constantly accommodate more and more students, and are therefore forced to undertake more teaching tasks (honors, minors, introduction days). Also in Groningen, uneven relations have developed between tenured and temporary staff, where the latter administer essential work without receiving the assurances for improved career perspectives. Also in Groningen, academic staff must compete in the rat-race to acquire research money, while the chances of acquiring such research grants are ridiculously small. Adding to this, the performance of researchers is measured solely in the number of publications in so-called ‘high impact’ journals. The fundamentals of good science – diversity of output and carefully executed long-term research – which is perhaps less ‘sexy’ is no longer valued. Such challenging research is even penalized for not cohering to the status quo (with negative rankings). Research themes, e.g. what is deemed ‘relevant’, is codified in marketing slogans. These meaningless platitudes become important indicators for financers. Adding insult to injury lobbyists now drive the economic importance attached to particular themes. Research, which is socially relevant, appears beneficial, but it is very doubtful whether it can be achieved by bureaucratization or the commercialization of research.

We have the impression that the above-mentioned problems are not sufficiently seen nor recognized by the Board of the University, Deans, and some of the governing bodies that represent university workers. Even more, the current culture of university management even contributes to these problems with excessive top-down policies. All initiatives come from a managerial body whereby staff is not heard even though such policies directly concern their work. Concerning the accountability, assessment and calculation of work performance, it seems that such review processes generally concern staff and rarely are applied to management or supervisors. These imbalances result in part from dictates of the University Supervisory Board, an eminently non-democratic and opaque organization.

Considering these considerable problems, we are now calling for more democratization and a decentralization of the university. Instead of constantly implementing policies against our will, and in which we have no say, we, the academic staff, desire a role in designing our educational and research activities. After all, the administration is there for the academic community, and not the other way around. Further, we request that the Board of the University, together with the boards of other universities, will not hesitate to go further in rejecting processes that are beyond the scope of this university, such as in The Hague as well as dictated by European bodies, which negatively impact the academic community and culture of all Dutch universities.

We call upon the staff and managers of the University of Groningen to think collectively about the future of academic education and research, about the conditions that will enable the university to gain a renewed and critical role in society, and that the administrative organization once again supports the university as a ‘community of scholars’. We call upon the candidates of the upcoming university and faculty elections to make sure that the above mentioned issues are part of their agenda, and to put pressure on the university directors to do something about them. We call upon you to think collectively about a ‘university constitution’ in which the values and goals of our university will be articulated. And to that end, we call upon the University Board and the University Counsel to react to this letter.

We ask the staff of the University of Groningen to support this process by signing this letter, by thinking about a New University and to work together to make it a reality.

Rethink RuG

If you want to stay informed about activities and developments or Rethink RuG, and/or want to join the discussions about reforming the university, please subscribe to the mailing list in the following link.


Signed by (in random order):

1. Dr. mr. Matthieu Paapst
2. Dr. Stefan Couperus
3. Jilles Hazenberg MA
4. Prof. dr. Jan-Willem Romeijn
5. Prof. dr. Barend van Heusden
6. Dr. Michel Doortmont
7. Dr. Quirijn van den Hoogen
8. Prof. dr. Annie van den Oever
9. Dr. Joost Krijnen
10. Dr. Annelies van Noortwijk
11. Dr. Daan Evers
12. Dr. Allard Tamminga
13. Prof. dr. Henk van Veen
14. Anahita Arian MA
15. Prof. dr. Wout van Bekkum
16. Lucia van Heteren MA
17. Prof. dr. Liesbeth Korthals Altes
18. Prof. dr. Maarten Duijvendak
19. Dr. mr. Joris Kocken
20. Dr. Sander Brouwer
21. Prof. dr. Jacques Zeelen
22. Dr. Petra Broomans
23. Dr. Jeanette den Toonder
24. Dr. ir. Menno Kamminga
25. Dr. Marc Pauly
26. Prof. dr. Mineke Bosch
27. Dr. Hans Harbers
28. Dr. Sjaak Swart
29. Dr. Kristin McGee
30. Dr. Thijs Lijster
31. Dr. Ronit Nikolsky
32. Dr. Pieter Boele van Hensbroek
33. Dr. Titus Stahl
34. Daan Brandenbarg MSc
35. Dr. Margriet van der Waal
36. Ritzo ten Cate MA
37. Prof. dr. Trudy Dehue
38. Dr. Eddo Evink
39. Dr. Miklós Kiss
40. Gerdientje Oggel MA
41. Kiki Santing MA
42. Dr. Stella Linn
43. Prof. dr. Pascal Gielen
44. Dr. Julian Hanich
45. Prof. dr. Rafael Wittek
46. Dr. Clemens Six
47. Dr. Amanda Gilroy
48. Dr. Joop Koopmans
49. Dr. Tity de Vries
50. Prof. dr. Andrej Zwitter
51. Dr. Reinbert Krol
52. Dr. Tobias Nowak
53. Dr. Gerda van Roozendaal
54. Prof. dr. Antoon de Baets
55. Dr. Boudewijn Smits
56. Dr. Clemens Lutz
57. Dr. Sipke de Hoop
58. Dr. Maarten Zwiers
59. Dr. Eric Rietzschel
60. Prof. dr. Michael Foley
61. Willem Verhoeven MA
62. Dr. Casper Albers
63. Dr. Emar Maier
64. Dr. Michael Stevenson
65. Dr. Frank Harbers
66. Remco Roffel MA
67. Frank Elsdijk MSc
68. Ari Purnama MA
69. Prof. dr. Olaf Scholten
70. Dr. Peter van der Meer
71. Prof. dr. Dirk Strijker
72. Dr. Arie Glebbeek
73. Dr. Hans Jansen
74. Dr. Femke Kramer
75. Mathijs Eskes
76. Suzan Christiaanse MSc
77. Dr. Justin Kroesen
78. Dr. Theo van Dellen
79. Johann Schuur
80. Johan Hardeman
81. Dr. Barbara Henkes
82. Prof. dr. Petra Hendriks
83. Dr. Frank Steyvers
84. Guido van Hengel MA
85. Prof. dr. Nicolai Petkov
86. Jikkina Holtman MSc
87. Dr. Susan Aasman
88. Dr. Tialda Haartsen
89. Dr. Rasmus Steinkrauss
90. Dr. Cornelia Lahmann
91. Dick Toering MSc
92. Dr. Jan de Jong
93. Dr. Mónica López López
94. Lottie Lane LLM
95. Prof. dr. Hans Renders
96. Dr. Justin Beaumont
97. Drs. Miriam Brugmans-Nieman namens de faculteitsraad Ruimtelijke Wetenschappen
98. Koen Salemink MSc
99. Dr. Stefan van der Poel
100. Prof dr. Tom Snijders
101. Dr. Saskia Kunnen
102. Dr. Marijtje van Duijn
103. Drs. Pieter Molenaar
104. Dr. Anja Schüppert
105. Dr. Jelte Olthof
106. Dr. Tim Jelfs
107. Dr. Dirk Akkermans
108. Dr. Nynke Schuiling-Veninga
109. Philippe Hanna MSc
110. Dr. Alwin Stegeman
111. Dr. Jennifer Spenader
112. Prof. dr. Goffe Jensma
113. Drs. Kim Pilon
114. Dr. Marja Cantell
115. Dr. Rie Bosman
116. Drs. Pilar Garcia Jiménez
117. Prof. dr. Michael Biehl
118. Prof. dr. ir. Marco Aiello
119. Dr. Nicole Zeegers
120. Dr. Elisa Kupers
121. Prof. dr. Jaap Top
122. Prof. dr. Aernout van Enter
123. Dr. Marja van Tilburg
124. Prof. dr. Ingrid Molema
125. Dr. Jacob Dijkstra
126. Dr. Alwin van Dijk
127. Dr. Chris Peters
128. Dr. Rita Smaniotto
129. Jonne Harmsma MA
130. Ryanne Keltjens MA
131. Dr. Erwin Karel
132. Dr. Mark Huisman
133. Dr. Frans Sijtsma
134. Renske Ria de Leeuw MSc
135. Theo van Mourik MSc
136. Krina Huisman MA
137. Prof. dr. Charlotte Hemelrijk
138. Prof. dr. Henk Broer
139. Dr. Dagmar Reichardt
140. Dr. Kim Joostens
141. Dr. Peter de Ruiter
142. Prof. dr. Hans Grietens
143. Dr. Hinke Haisma
144. Dr. Bettina van Hoven
145. Dr. Maarten Derksen
146. Drs. ing. Sieger Vreeling
147. Niké Wentholt MSc
148. Simone Koster MA

Ondersteunend personeel / administrative staff
149. Dorina Antoons MA
150. Fré Moorrees
151. Carina Santing MA