MAASTRICHT. “Let Louis van den Hengel stay at UM,” is the heading of a petition on the UCM Facebook page. Some fifteen students from University College and the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASOS) started a petition last month when they heard that the temporary contract of the very popular tutor Louis van den Hengel will not be renewed after the summer. The 239 signatures that were collected, were handed over to FASOS dean Rein de Wilde last Monday.
“We feel that even though there are many outstanding tutors and professors at the University of Maastricht, Louis is one that is irreplaceable.” In a reaction, a student praises his ability “to encourage without pushing and inspire without overloading,” while another feels that he is a “great teacher who is always willing to help.”
Louis van den Hengel, who studied Greek and Latin Language and Culture in Nijmegen and also did his PhD there, has worked in Maastricht as a ‘lecturer 3’ (80 per cent teaching and 20 per cent research). His annual contract has been extended twice, which is the maximum allowed under the collective labour agreement.
German second-year UCM student Louisa Klaβen, one of the initiators, took the Crucial Differences course given by Van den Hengel before Christmas. When circumstances forced her to quit prematurely and she promised her tutor to return next year, she heard that the contract would be terminated. “I was shocked. After a talk with Harm Hospers and Rein de Wilde (deans of UCM and the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, respectively, ed.), who could do nothing at the time, we started this petition.” They hope that Van den Hengel will get a permanent contract after all. Dean Rein de Wilde can say nothing about the matter as it concerns an individual case. He says that it is “heart-warming” that students are so involved. Van den Hengel thinks so too. “I was and I am really touched by it.” But his future remains uncertain. “There are very few jobs in my field. If I cannot stay, I will have to resort to unemployment benefits. Which is unfortunate, because I really like working at this university. I teach a lot, but I take great pleasure in that.” There is still one possibility, a tenure track that is a position that starts as a temporary contract and usually ends in a permanent one. There are three or four of those positions available each year. Van den Hengel is hoping to catch one of them. It was only after Observant went to press that the decision on the tenure tracks was taken and Van den Hengel will know if he was one of the happy few.