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Blog chairman | The earth rotates slower around its axis

17 March 2020

It is Tuesday morning, and I am at home. Unreal. My wife is at home and is studying the Coronavirus instructions. She works in Healthcare. My youngest son has come home: his university and student association are both closed. Our second son has returned from Paris, just in time, where he was going to be studying for three months. His studies in Oxford are uncertain. Whether we will soon see our oldest son, his girlfriend, and our granddaughter, I don’t know. They live in Berlin. I am home. Unreal. But also welcoming.

Unavoidably, my thoughts wander to my colleagues and our students. I very much hope that they too will feel this warmth in the coming weeks. You shouldn't rule out that there are colleagues and students who would rather not be at home. Who need the hustle and bustle of study, work, city, study association, pub or church, in order to feel that warmth. Last week our minister Bruno Bruins said: 'Pay a little attention to each other'. We certainly will.

Resilience

What I see happening at our university of applied sciences is most of all resilience. It is fascinating to see how colleagues deal with the situation. Our university of applied sciences is not closed, but for now we are no longer teaching at our locations. Once that was an impossible combination, but at this moment in time it's possible. And so colleagues share the countless opportunities to offer education online, and they proudly show the photos of their first work meetings. An unreal time, but also one that fills you with pride and in which it is beautiful to be the figurehead of Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences.

The tranquility of my study is unreal. I still have appointments, all at a distance, but the peace and quiet of my study contrasts sharply with the hectic pace of the past month. We quickly set up a so-called central Crisis Management Team and some members of that team have been working seven days every week for the past month. I take my hat off to you.

On Thursday evening, once it was decided to stop our education immediately, staff started writing communiqués, made the necessary arrangements, and implemented further measures. On Saturday evening, once we decided that we were going to have all our students return from abroad, or help them to return, a completely different set of actions was put into place. And when we decided to have education continue as much as possible, colleagues spontaneously stepped forward in order to make that possible. "We cannot replace all educational activities, but we've come quite a way", according to Anjo van Kelckhoven, our IT Manager.

Looking past the crisis

Earth seems to be slowing down. But some things are indeed accelerating or have become different in nature. No matter how complex the situation, if you try to look past the crisis, you can see enormous potential as well. In a dignified speech, I heard the Prime Minister passionately advocate measures that are based on the judgement of experts, at a time of fake news and conspiracy theories. I see a form of togetherness that contrasts sharply with the notion that is set in our thoughts of a fragmented society. Although 'togetherness' comes with a razor-sharp edge: empty shelves without toilet paper....

Not making a fuss

I also recognize the courage that people have. Not just among the people in the 'vital' functions, such as healthcare or other (emergency) service providers. I also see it in our own people. Not every colleague finds it easy to continue working, people at the front desks, people who have to collaborate and cannot do so from home. The same applies to our students who are busy with their internships in vital sectors, such as the social sector, healthcare and education. Respect. Take care of yourself and each other. As an employer, as an educational institution, we will do what we can. Due to the current situation, some employees who may experience a feeling of insecurity, for example.

Our occupational welfare staff members are available to talk to. Students can contact our counsellors when they have such questions. In addition, at this time we will not complicate matters about taking leave, and such matters. We will not make things even more difficult at this time. I even heard there was a question about whether all salaries would continue to be paid. Of course. No unnecessary stress.

Binding Study Recommendation

We wish the same for our students. That is why we are communicating constantly. To always be ready for students who have questions or problems. But that's also the reason for the recently communicated measure that this year we will not issue any negative Binding Study Recommendations, and it's the reason for this communiqué. It is also important for students to see that on the one hand we are making every effort to continue our education as much as possible, and also that we call on them to take responsibility for as little study delay as possible, and on the other hand, that they know that we are removing unnecessary uncertainties. In that case it is a good thing to take away that sword of Damocles.

Keeping our distance, embracing each other

It is Tuesday morning. It is quiet all around. Today I am experiencing that well-known social distancing. My connection to the outside world is the buzzing phone and two computer screens. Also a type of busyness, but it feels different. Something to get used to. Life is slowing down. We are in the phase of managing that delay. But are already thinking about the next phase still to come: starting up again. I cannot express it better than the Italian prime minister. In the same way that Churchill's words are linked to his time, the poetic words of Giuseppe Conte could possibly forever be linked to this moment in time:

"Let us keep our distance today so that we can embrace each other better tomorrow"

About

Ron Bormans is chairman of the Executive Board of Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences.

 

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