Thursday evening March 13, a debate was organized by the Student Council between a group of critical, international, students and the rector magnificus Prof. Martin Kropff, moderated by Arnoud Leerling. Some 50 students were present and a few faculty members. The main question was: Is WU democratic and transparent enough in terms of student involvement?
Some concerns were raised by students about how decisions by the Executive Board were taken and especially how they were communicated to the outside world. Furthermore, there were concerns about involvement of third parties in the research programmes of the WUR, whether or not financial flows are transparent and whether or not ‘efficiency-thinking’ is an important aspect in the WUR policy. Martin Kropff responded to the questions raised and explained how decisions are taken, where and where not students have a say in this process. He stated that students have quite an important say, via the Student Council, via the OWI board, via programme committees, and that students can always approach him personally.
Some questions were clarified by just explaining procedures, other questions raised more debate. In view of the debates at the University of Amsterdam, it was remarkable that most students seemed to agree that efficiency thinking is not that bad in terms of efficiently managing the scarce resources, as long as it is not the only leading principle. Martin Kropff indicated that quality is the first leading principle.
He mentioned the example of the BSc Communication studies that is allowed to continue despite the current low number of students because communication is so essential in our domain, but that measures are needed to increase the student numbers. Furthermore, there was also consensus that quality of education is leading in the strategy of Wageningen University, even in times of financial budget cuts. All in all, it was a lively and respectful debate in a nice atmosphere.