PNN has made a statement in consultation with its members regarding racism, exclusion and discrimination at Dutch universities.
Here you can find the statement.
“PNN wants to urge PhD candidates who have experienced or observed racism, exclusion, or discrimination on the basis of the colour of their skin, their ethnicity, or any other grounds within their institutions to get in touch with their confidentiality counsellors, their local PhD council, and/or PNN. Also, PNN welcomes ideas on how to support and encourage diversity and equality among PhD candidates in the Netherlands.”
As the Netherlands is slowly making a restart after the COVID-19 crisis, its impact on academia becomes increasingly apparent. Among the known consequences are study delays, universities struggling to design and organize online education, and challenges to conducting research, especially projects that are carried out in labs or abroad. Moreover, there are indications that the crisis has deepened existing inequalities – between established and early career academics, as well as between male and female researchers. For example, already in April, academic journal editors noticed a decrease in the number of manuscripts submitted by female scholars. Although it may be too early to tell, the drop in output by female scholars may be due to the perpetuation of traditional gender roles in the home, whereby the bulk of the responsibility of childcare continues to fall on women’s shoulders. Notwithstanding the large amount of COVID-19 related funding calls, such indications of deepening inequality require careful reflection on the use of motto’s like ‘using crisis as an opportunity’.
PNN, together with parties such as VSNU, PostdocNL, De Jonge Akademie and trade unions, co-authored a guide for dealing with delays as a result of COVID-19 in the research of PhD candidates, postdocs and tenure trackers. this guideline provides an overview of possible causes of delay, both related to the research and to the personal circumstances, and provides possible solutions to deal with this delay. It also provides various example scenarios, but also indications of the expected delay.
This guide is spread across the universities, which can use it to shape their tailor-made compensation measures for these groups. PhD candidates, postdocs and tenure trackers can also use this document as a preparation for when they enter the discussions about compensation with their employer. The questionnaire at the end of this guide has been drawn up specifically for this purpose.
We hope that this document can help PhD candidates to regain some grip on their PhD trajectory. Unfortunately, however, there are still legal and financial restrictions that can stand in the way of proper compensation. Together with the other parties involved, PNN will continue its efforts to remove these limitations as far as possible.
NB: This document is a guide, but not a hard guideline for universities. The arrangements made by individual universities may deviate from the recommendations in this guide. If your university or institution seriously deviates from the recommendations in this guide, for example by not considering personal circumstances as a reason for delay, please contact your local PhD representatives or PNN.
In response to questions from Member of Parliament Wiersma (VVD), Minister van Engelshoven (Education, Culture and Science) responded to the Monitor Arbeidsvoorwaarden (Employment Conditions Monitor) published by PNN on June 10th. The Monitor shows, among other things, that the proportion of dubious contracts for PhD candidates (a contract duration < 4 years and/or an appointment < 1.0 FTE) has not decreased. Large differences between universities also became visible.
In her provisional response, the Minister expressed her appreciation of PNN’s efforts to publish this annual Monitor, and stated that she strives for adequate and clear terms of employment for PhD candidates (as well as other academic staff). The Minister also sees that there is growing pressure on the scientific system, of which the PhD candidate may become a victim. She has asked VSNU, NWO and KNAW for a general response to the Monitor. A more detailed response will follow after the summer.
This year was the first time that, in addition to general developments, the Monitor showed a breakdown by university. As a result of the reports, a number of universities have already contacted PNN about which of their vacancies were marked as dubious, in order to be able to take action themselves. This revealed some explanations for some contracts classified as dubious, such as PDEng contracts and contracts financed by a three-year Marie Skłodowska-Curie scholarship.
There is certainly room for discussion about the meaning of these explanations for what is meant by ‘dubious’, but it is a good sign that the Monitor has been able to initiate this discussion and encourage universities to actively scrutinise the terms of employment they offer their PhD students. After all, the Monitor only provides insight into vacancies that have been published via AcademicTransfer. The suspicion is that this only reveals the tip of the iceberg of dubious contracts. PNN is happy to continue the dialogue about the employment conditions of PhD candidates, in order to bring the conversation beyond the numbers and percentages from the Monitor.
After the #MeToo movement that started late 2017, Dutch academia has again been shook by a university’s poor response to sexual harassment. For a number of years, students from the master programme Conservation and Restauration at the University of Amsterdam had to deal with harassment by a teacher, but no concrete actions were taken against the teacher. He has been removed from some but not all teaching duties. On the 19th of June, 200 students protested sexual harassment and the poor response from the University of Amsterdam.
Victims of sexual harassment may experience far-reaching consequences, including depression, burn-out, study delays or drop-out, or leaving academia altogether. In case you have experiences with sexual harassment or other forms of undesired transgressive behaviour, you can get in touch with your university’s confidential counsellors (vertrouwenspersonen in Dutch).