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“Hitting below the belt, that's what I can’t stand”

 “Hitting below the belt, that's what I can’t stand”

Photographer:Fotograaf: Loraine Bodewes Fotografie

Gerard Mols says farewell after eight years and eight months of rectorship

Rector Gerard Mols is to take his leave on 3 September. He will not be lost for things to do. “I will become a visiting professor at the Law School in Yogyakarta for a while, teach at the Law School in Denpasar on Bali, and then travel on to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for a few lectures on the abolition of the death penalty in Europe. When I return in November, I will be used to my new status. Then I will carry out research, do some writing and become director of the Maastricht Forensic Institute for one day a week.”

Imagine: in twenty years' time, the UM’s history is being written. As what kind of rector will you be described?

“Someone who was not only held in great confidence by the academic and supporting staff members, but also made a firm stand for academic values – such as integrity, respect for each other’s professionalism, room for debate and deviating opinions. I can take criticism very well, as long as it is not below the belt or personal. That's what I can’t stand; fortunately that does not happen often. Yes, perhaps in the corridors, there is plenty of gossip going round, but it doesn't affect me. I am not thick-skinned, but I do wear protective clothing, as it were. I have had trouble with some of the news coverage in Observant, it bothers me, I get all sorts of questions from all over the country. Sincere criticism touches me. I can spend a lot of time rethinking bad decisions or a thoughtless reaction on my part. An example? No, that needn’t be put in the paper.”

What are your achievements of the past eight years?

“None. Can you name one?” 

Perhaps Leading in Learning, the project that is to provide a new impulse for problem-based learning?

 “Oh yes, in that case, I know another one: the interfaculty collaboration in the field of education and research. I also brought people from various faculties together so that they could share their best practices. Take the chairmen of the examination boards. Some of them didn’t even know each other.” A little later - we have already moved to the next question - he remembers something else: “Founding and setting up the graduate schools and improving the PhD courses.”

What have you failed to achieve?

“A really good minors programme. It is not working out, not everybody is participating. A pity, because such minors broaden the students’ horizons. As a form of compensation, I misused Studium Generale by having them organise a series of lectures that would entitle students to a certificate.”

What are you sorry about?

“Actually I am not sorry about anything. I made conscious choices about everything, sometimes things go well and sometimes they go less well. That’s life, nobody is perfect.”

When you accepted the position as rector, your colleagues referred to you as a rebel, contrary, not a follower, very much his own person, recalcitrant. Have we seen enough of the rebel in the past eight years? Or was he crushed in the concept of collegiate management and so became a manager?

“Yes and no. The Board is one and indivisible. Just like the judiciary, you speak as one. That is collegiate management. If you feel that someone should be given two years and the rest feel it should be 3.5, then it will be 3.5. You do not then go and say to the outside world that you thought 2 years was enough.

“But that rebel is still there, ask the NVAO, or the state secretary. We are a self-willed university that often goes off the beaten track. A recent example: we forced our Science Programme through against the current. We are contrary, but also diplomatic, because our actions must be successful. We have been able to achieve a great deal through quiet diplomacy, and that is widely known. We treat each other with respect. Proof? Wait and see how many (former) rectors will be present at the rectorship transfer ceremony next week.”

 

 

Riki Janssen

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