Photographer:Fotograaf: Dolph Cantrijn
According to the chairman of the supervisory board, Truze Lodder, there is “delight all around” and “congratulations were pouring in” after the announcement of the appointment of a new rector, professor of Victimology and International Law Rianne Letschert from Tilburg.
“She called me on the telephone, two days before it was to be made public. Just to inform me about the matter. I have to say I was quite surprised,” says emeritus professor of International Law, Theo van Boven. Surprised about the fact that someone from outside the UM had been appointed as rector, but also about the person in question, a woman, only 39 years old; all things that have never previously been seen here in Maastricht.
Van Boven feels it is “an interesting but also a good choice”. He has known Letschert for some time. As a UN official and as a scientist, Van Boven has had a rich career in the field of human rights and victims of violations of these rights, also Letschert’s field of specialisation. She is one of the key figures of Tilburg University’s Victimological Institute. Van Boven: “A few years ago, she asked me to write a chapter together with her in a book on this subject. Even when she became a professor, I was consulted. I have also attended her lectures on several occasions, in Marburg and in Leuven at the end of last year. She presents the topics well, she is decisive and business-like, she knows how to get her plans and ideas moving along. She is also ambitious, she looks around to see what her chances are, is career-conscious. And very open and very wise.”
Professor of European Private Law, Jan Smits, also knows of her from when he worked in Tilburg, at the same faculty. He thinks and expects that Letschert will support the importance of “free” science, “following one’s own intellectual interest, that is what she stands for, so not just the programmed research.” Furthermore, he expects “that she will bring a wind of change to the UM, also on the Berg”.
Professor of GP Medicine, Job Metsemakers, also emphasised the “refreshing” element in this appointment. “No, I don’t think it is a handicap that she is an outsider and doesn’t know this university. Within six months, she will have settled in. And if she has to act in cases of conflict, it may be a good thing that she is not someone who knows how things are done here, who does not know which tricks are always played. She can say: explain that to me, in plain language and not in your jargon.”
Mariëlle Heijltjes, professor of Managerial Behavior and frequently put forward as a good rector candidate by colleagues in Observant over the past few months, agrees: “Preferably an outsider with an open attitude than an internal person for whom the faculty has been their whole world up until now.” She is happy with Letschert, whom she happened to see perform at a conference shortly before the appointment. “The fact that she is a woman and that she is young, means that she will bring a different perspective to the Executive Board. After all, one’s image of the world is determined by who you are. For example, she will have a different view on matters such as digital learning than older people have. And because of her chairmanship of KNAW's Young Academy, she has a link with a group of young scientists and new areas in science. Furthermore I think it is good that the UM has shown the courage to take such a step, appointing a young woman from outside the university; it shows that you take innovation serious.”
In Tilburg, the columnist from the university newspaper Univers, Henk Strikkers, reports that the disappointment about Letschert’s departure is considerable. Strikkers wrote a blog opening with “Damn it Rianne”, to later on continue with: “We were so proud of you, Rianne. You were a real power woman in Tilburg, and we have so few.” He adds by telephone this week that he has received many reactions from people who agree with him, in particular from lecturers from the Faculty of Law, and even, through the grapevine, from the Tilburg rector.