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MAASTRICHT. Two members of the academic staff at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences are eligible for election for the University Council. But in the FASoS Weekly of 6 May, the online faculty announcements, the candidacy for only one of them was mentioned. The result was a series of bulk e-mails with rumours and insinuations.
There will be university elections next week, from 17 to 20 May. Reason for the staff edition of the FASoS Weekly to make a list of the candidates for the faculty council and the University Council. Something went wrong with the latter: only newcomer Luana Russo (chairperson of FASoS’s faculty council and leader of the new party called LEAD) was mentioned, not current University Council member Jan de Roder (number six on the list of The party of the academic staff). De Roder immediately informed his colleagues of the error by e-mail – “the faculty board may have a preferred candidate, …, but I would like to inform you that there is a second FASoS candidate”. More e-mails followed, throughout the faculty, including one from Luana Russo who - at the request of another e-mail writer - sent on the election programmes from both De Roder’s and her own party. The error was rectified on the website the same day. And on Monday 10 May, there was an extra FASoS Weekly containing the correct information. But the commotion had been caused and since then had been ‘coined’ by some as a conflict between the older established male staff members and the female newcomers.
Jan de Roder doesn’t want to say much about the matter. He wants to prevent it getting out of hand; some have already suggested that the elections should be postponed. Nevertheless, he is disappointed. “You can’t really get a handle on what is going on, but something isn’t right.” De Roder would have liked to have discussed who would represent the faculty’s academic staff in the University Council. “Now we have multiple candidates and that doesn’t increase our chances of getting elected?”
That is not right, says Russo. One of the two will be chosen, no matter what, because of the voting system. “There are six seats for the academic staff. If Jan’s party, he is number six on the list, wins all seats, Jan will be elected. Should one seat go to my party, it will go to me as leader of the party.”
The fact that Russo didn’t contact him when she considered putting herself forward as a candidate, was because she didn’t know him: “different department, never worked together, I felt it was impolite to ask him, out of the blue, whether he was putting himself forward as a candidate for the University Council.” Afterwards, she discovered that De Roder was the man who had previously written in a column in Observant that he was “ashamed” of a colleague and the people who supported that colleague, like Russo had. That colleague had accused Observant of giving the same amount of space to both sides in a debate between a professor and a PhD student. The professor was labelled a bully; giving attention without ‘forewarning’ of his opinions would only legitimise them. De Roder provided an “academic attitude” to these opinions, not being immediately judgemental and not immediately prohibiting publication.
For Russo, that column didn’t increase her enthusiasm to contact De Roder.
Russo founded her own party when it appeared that the only existing party for academic staff for the University Council did not suit her. “It is my democratic right to do so. Moreover, it is good that the voters have a choice.”
She strongly rejects the suggestion that she spread the rumour in the faculty about De Roder no longer standing as a candidate. She feels that she has been treated impolitely. “This is slanderous, this is a false accusation and unacceptable behaviour. I only said to the dean that I didn’t know if Jan was running for another term. That is all. Christine checked that with Jan at the time.”
The dean confirms her story. As far as FASoS Weekly is concerned, she says: “I really want to put this right. A human error was made, it happens sometimes, and that error assumed a life of its own. The error does not have a political background, as some are suggesting. We are not trying to give anyone an advantage. I would also like to add that the faculty board does not play a role in the university elections. We appreciate all candidates who make themselves available for election in the University Council.”
The commotion would never have come about before COVID-19, Neuhold suspects. “When you meet each other in the corridor, you can quickly sort things out, react and clear things up.”