The University of Tilburg chooses: Mirjam Siesling, Independents group

This week, Tilburg University staff will select members of the new University Council. In it, employee factions help decide on university policy. Mirjam Siesling, MindLabs program manager, is the leader of one of two political groups that can be elected: the Independents. He talks about the action points and results of his group and his personal motivations.

Miriam Siesling. Image: Ton Toemen

What problems are there at the University of Tilburg?

“What worries me is the level of involvement between the workplace and university management. I wonder more and more what employees experience in their daily work as a result of what the board decides. College likes to pretend everyone is happy with projects and talking to everyone, then I think: is that correct?

“If you ask a random colleague at the coffee machine: what do you know about our strategy, how do you think about it, do you want to contribute, do you live it in your daily work? So I really wonder if he’s alive. And if employees experience the space to delve into this. I notice that it is not very popular, especially among the scientific staff. Or people find it interesting but don’t want or can’t get rid of it.

“I also put my hand in my pocket because we represent the workshop. Our job is to have eyes and ears everywhere and to engage employees. But I also appeal to the board of directors: the council cannot be the only channel for contacting employees, it would be too scarce “.

I think it’s good that this council is trying to innovate.

What exactly is going well?

“I have noticed that this council is doing its best to actively involve faculties in political plans. For example, by allowing faculty strategy plans to run parallel to university strategy. And by entrusting the deans to elaborate some strategic themes.

“I also think it’s good that this council is trying to innovate. They have the courage to put a signature. For example from digital science for society as a main theme and to offer a core subject to all students in the field of artificial intelligence and digitization. Choosing to work with academic workplaces is also a good example. Obviously you always have pros and cons, but I think it’s good that people choose to go in one direction ”.

You begin a fourth term on the university council, of which a second as party president. What are your personal motivations for doing this job?

“There is a mix of reasons for doing another round. We have recently had some changes in our group and I am the most experienced colleague. While it’s nice to have new faces and voices every now and then, I didn’t want to leave them alone now.

“Also, I really enjoy the job. The college is relatively new, I can’t wait to work on it for a few more years. It’s also nice that I can now reap the rewards of the routine I’ve built. “

Young teachers who have to leave after a few years; this is a real destruction of capital.

What will the Independents engage in in the near future?

“We focus on four different themes. First, education has long been a theme in our group. Good educators should receive as much career credit as good researchers. We also believe that the well-being of teachers is very important. Sometimes the emphasis is heavily on student welfare, but there is no student welfare without teacher welfare.

“Doing research is a team effort, this is another important point. You must avoid letting individual star researchers into a department that all credits and privileges go to. There is no such thing as an individual that generates an individual scholarship. So you have to appreciate and encourage him in a different way.

“Then there is the issue of Human Resources and employees. We think it’s important that our human resources department is really available to the employee and not so much as a university management consultant. A helpdesk for employees with questions about career development or salary negotiations. We also find the position of people on temporary assignments important. Young teachers who have to leave after a few years; this is a real destruction of capital. I recently spoke to a nearly 50-year-old teacher at Tilburg University who has never held a permanent position in his entire professional career. Can you imagine what this does to life choices?

“Finally, we want the university to participate in society and be a good neighbor and fellow citizen. Whether it’s sustainability, student housing or the recruitment of students for whom it is not taken for granted that they go to study. The university has a social responsibility “.

Then I got the feeling that employee participation was working as it should.

What are the most important results of the last period? What are Independents proud of?

“What makes me very happy is the outcome of a discussion that broke out last summer in response to an article on the Catholic identity of the University of Tilburg. Colleagues called us, sent us an email and a text message and said: what is this? Did you discuss it in the council? I don’t feel at home here.

“There was a small storm of protest and we expressed it in the council meeting. The council listened to the noises coming from the workshop, even though they were contrary to the wishes of the council. At the time, I felt that employee participation was working as it should. “

Why should employees vote for independents?

“We are a group that wants to represent the entire University. Woman, man, elderly, young, management, scientific staff, international contract, Dutch, fixed term or permanent contract.

“We want employee participation to be accessible to all. Participation should not be elitist. Every vote matters, no matter how many titles you have before your name. “

A personal question to close with. What’s your favorite spot on campus?

“Good question! I work as a program manager at MindLabs and my workplace is Spoorzone. This is also my favorite spot on campus. It’s kind of crazy to be off campus, but I’m a huge fan of the train zone. As MindLabs we now operate from the Deprez building, in the summer we will move to a very nice new building. Next to the Lochal, and just as beautiful. A beautiful building at the station, a great sign for the University of Tilburg. Anyone who enters it will soon see that Tilburg is a university town, rather than a city with a university ”.


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