News of the week: 26 August – 3 September
‘Education must change’
Education at the RUG must change. ‘We have to teach students how to value information, manage projects and prepare themselves for an international career’, vice chancellor Elmer Sterken said during the academic year opening ceremony. He mentioned ‘flipping the classroom’, meaning students study material online instead of sitting through endless lectures. ‘I know this will be a culture shock, both for students and staff’, he says.
There was also some confusion: for the first time, the ceremony was entirely in English, but Minister of Foreign Affairs Frans Timmermans gave his speech in Dutch. A misunderstanding, according to RUG spokesperson Gernant Deekens.
RUG management salaries decreasing
Next year, Minister of the Interior Ronald Plasterk wants salaries of managers in the semi-public sector – in other words, university leaders – to be brought in line with salaries of government ministers. Currently, university heads earn 230,000 euros on average, whereas ministers earn 170,000.
According to university union VSNU, salary decreases could have consequences. They worry that with less attractive salaries, it will be difficult to attract new personnel. RUG President Sibrand Poppema’s salary has been the subject of discussion for years: in 2013, the university had to pay a 12,000 euro fine because he earned too much.
Students battle broker costs
Groningen student parties are going after exorbitant broker costs. The Groningen Student Union (GSb), the Lodgers Consultancy (KAB) and Students Organisation Groningen (SOG) have collaborated and set up a support centre where students can receive free assistance in reclaiming excessive costs from housing brokers.
‘There are many examples of students who have to pay brokers fees even if they find their room through a friend. The brokering agency only has to provide a standard contract, but students still have to pay them 400 euros’, according to a spokesperson.
Viral Dutch stereotypes map
Groningen student Victor van Werkhooven had the idea for a map of the stereotypes of Dutch cities and provinces a couple of months ago, and last week, it became so popular that national media covered it. After posting it to Reddit, it spread – quickly.
On the map, Amsterdam is ‘arrogant schmucks’, Den Helder thinks ‘at least we’ve got a naval base’ and ‘Train Delay Central’ is an excellent description for Utrecht Centraal. But the Belgians are understandably unhappy with being described as ‘Dumb people, great beer (also: fix your highways, we need them to get to France)’.
Student assailant sentenced
A 26-year-old man has been sentenced to four years in jail after being charged with assaulting and raping several female students last October. The public prosecutor had recommended six years for the suspect who had a prior rape conviction.
He followed students home by bike and sexually assaulted them. The students were deeply traumatized – at least one dropped out of the university as a result. The suspect’s lawyer said he should go to an addiction clinic instead of jail, and implied that the victims’ accounts were unverifiable: ‘They had all been drinking and that has an influence on their witness statements.’