We - Column Agnes Muskens

We - Column Agnes Muskens

On 1 January I started as Vice President of the Executive Board and from the first day I have experienced a ‘warm welcome’. In the past few weeks I have had many introductory meetings via Zoom, I read a lot of relevant information, and attended many meetings. I am still fully in the period of ‘wonder’ and at the same time speak as a matter of course about ‘how we do that at Radboud University’; a sign that I'm already starting to feel at home.

In the past few weeks it has become clear to me that the following words are in any case characteristic of our university: openness, professionalism, pride in the university, loyalty to Radboud University as an employer, greatness, freedom in scientific research and education, diversity, and participation. I might have missed a few, but either way, this a nice result for the first month. By greatness I mean the size of the campus (beautiful greenery and a lot of potential for further sustainability), the number of students (unfortunately because of the coronavirus I have only seen the numbers on papers), the number of staff members (I had many good conversations and there are many more to come), and also the impact of the Radboud University through education and (often impressive and new) research. This greatness, combined with the deeply rooted culture of participation, makes managing our university fascinating and challenging. It also means that some may feel policy decisions are taken slowly.

But above all, the ultimate quality of the decisions to be taken often improves: by listening to each other, exchanging arguments and opinions, and comparing points of view, we get the right support. And I like to accept that it sometimes takes a little longer.

Openness, talking to each other, listening and observing and addressing each other's individual responsibilities are values that are very important to me. For me, these are the basic elements for a safe environment, essential for everyone to function properly. The BOOS report on The Voice of Holland has dominated the national news in recent weeks. Sexual or other transgressive behaviour, abuse of power, and/or other undesirable behaviour will not be tolerated on our campus, regardless of whether that is between staff members themselves, between staff members and students or between students themselves.

We have also discussed this extensively within the Executive Board, since a safe working environment at Radboud University is in any case the basis for everyone's personal well-being, development, and growth.

I am well aware that it is easy to simply say this and that words on a page can often mean very little. What is safe for one person, may be unsafe for another person and vice versa.

In our revised Code of Conduct, which will be published soon, we have made the frameworks as clear as possible. I believe that it’s essential to keep communicating about this and fine tuning it. Questions that are important to frequently ask yourself and each other are, for example: what is the effect of my behaviour on the other person, how do we treat each other, are we really listening to each other, and how is everyone doing? And most importantly the question: what can I do to contribute to a safe climate? And if we have any doubts, then it’s very important to express this and to talk about it. And if unacceptable things happen, it is important that everyone knows where to go to discuss this in confidence.

This first month was the start of a great new challenge for me. I sincerely hope that I will be able to work with each of you to further strengthen the foundation of this fantastic university.

Agnes Muskens is vice president of Radboud University's Executive Board. The other two members are president Daniël Wigboldus and rector magnificus Han van Krieken. The board members alternate columns about what concerns them as administrators.

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