THE NETHERLANDS. In November, activist scientists will be sending automated replies to emails they receive stating they are too busy to send quick replies.
It’s the first in a series of protests set up by WOinActie. The announcement explains that “the first actions will be relatively low-key but will become more drastic in the course of the academic year”.
The participants would like to see their colleagues join their work-to-rule action and refuse to work overtime, meaning it would take even longer for them to answer emails. But automated replies are fine too.
Structural overtime affects the health, personal lives and wellbeing of university employees, explains Professor Ingrid Robeyns in her automated email. “Our protest serves to highlight this problem”, initiator Rens Bod explains to everyone who emails him.
He writes, on a more personal note, about “a negative impact on my personal life and my wellbeing” due to structural overtime. “My apologies for any inconvenience this work-to-rule action causes you. Thank you for understanding.”
Professor Remco Breuker is also participating. “During the month of November, I will be joining the WOinActie work-to-rule action”, he explains in his automated email. “As a result, you may have to wait longer before you receive a reply to your e-mail and I will be unable to do the work that I usually do in my spare time.”
In September, Breuker explained which tough actions were being considered for later on in the academic year. Researchers may decide to stop lecturing or grade exams. In that case, some students may not be able to graduate.
The initiators do not want to follow the example set by the farmers. “WOinActie does not want aggressive action and has no plans at present to storm Malieveld with tractors and pitchforks. With this protest and any future actions, the action group wants to draw attention to the fact that the academic staff is stretched thin.”
The government has so far “only taken measures that make the situation worse, instead of improving it”, say the activists. Their demands include a reversal of the budget cuts and extra government funds for university education and research.
HOP, Bas Belleman