Update #2: Corona and privacy

Today University Student Council Chair Hans Kunstman tells what the USR has been dealing with in recent weeks with regard to the corona crisis. Continue reading below for the update:

The past few weeks have been dominated by the consultation meeting with the Executive Board (CvB) and the discussion on proctoring. On April 20, the USR met online for the first time with the Executive Board and the Works Council (OR). It is not easy to have such a formal meeting with about 50 people. Chairing a five-hour video conference is a real exhaustion, fortunately everything went well and we managed to cover all items on the agenda with a small delay.

During the joint meeting, we discussed the corona crisis extensively. Various council members have asked questions about the consequences of the corona crisis for employees with a flex contract. Among these employees are also many student assistants for whom part of the income is lost. During the meeting, critical questions were asked about the employment practices of Radboud University, when are you a good employer in times of corona? The Executive Board’s response indicated that much depends on what is decided at national level and that the right solution must be examined on a case-by-case basis. The USR remains committed to student employees who have run into problems due to the corona crisis, so let us know if you have any problems and if you work for the university as a student.

In recent weeks, media attention has regularly been paid to administering exams with so-called ‘proctoring software’. Both national media and our own Vox reported on the privacy problems that the use of proctoring creates. Where other universities in the Netherlands already take extensive exams with this controversial software, the Executive Board is considering doing so for a limited part of the exams. This concerns the larger examinations where alternative methods of examination are not workable. Take-home exams, oral exams and other forms are frequently used for smaller courses. For large courses, there is insufficient capacity to take exams via these methods. To prevent students from having to wait until next year (or even longer…), the Executive Board is considering using software that checks via webcam and microphone whether students are not cheating during an exam.

The USR has made critical comments about the use of proctoring. We are not convinced that alternative methods of assessment are equally considered in all study programs. In some cases, for example, teachers / examination committees seem to be thinking about ways to perform their traditional exams digitally. In other courses, we see that innovative methods of examination minimize the risk of fraud in a smart way. For the USR, the importance of privacy and study progress is paramount. Creativity and innovation in education is now really necessary to prevent problems in the short and long term.

We used our legal advisory powers last week to advise the Executive Board (unsolicited) to only use proctoring as a last resort to prevent study delays and only under very strict conditions. Recent media coverage indicates that proctoring is not foolproof when it comes to fraud prevention. This puts the complex discussion about proctoring in a different light. Why would we use “undesirable” methods of examining in the context of combating fraud when it is not at all difficult to defraud with proctoring? The USR remains committed to the privacy and study progress of students.

The USR would like to hear it if you experience problems in your education or in any other way during the corona crisis. Also, let us know if you have any ideas on how things can be better in college during the corona crisis!

On behalf of the University Student Council,

Hans Kunstman, Chair

Update #1

There will be regular updates from our chairman Hans Kunstman about what we are doing in the times of corona. Continue reading below for this week’s update:

Our daily life as a student has completely changed in recent weeks. We have all noticed that the corona crisis also has major consequences for Radboud University. In recent weeks, the University Student Council has made every effort to express the interest of the students in the Crisis Management Team and the Executive Board.

In the coming weeks we will regularly post an update on what is going on with regard to corona at the executive level. In the past period, we have mainly paid attention to the progress of education and exams. On average, the transition from physical education to online education seems to have gone well.

Most exams also took place, sometimes through an alternative form. The exams at some faculties have been postponed for large courses. The Executive Board and the faculties are now working on a good solution to be able to take examinations for large courses in block 4. The University Student Council explicitly draws attention to the privacy of students. We need to find the right balance between study progress and privacy.

In times of crisis, both directors and student representatives are faced with difficult choices. We don’t always have the luxury of choosing a “perfect” solution. Everyone will have to face up to the fact that the Corona crisis brings with it problems that we cannot completely eliminate. We also face such dilemmas in our meetings. The only way to deal with this is by carefully weighing up with the Executive Board the least bad option in these difficult circumstances.

The next joint meeting with the works council and the Executive Board will take place on Monday 20 April. Among other things, we will ask the Executive Board critical questions about the application of ‘proctoring software’ during exams. We will also talk about the situation at campusdetachering, where student employees are unsure about their jobs. An important topic that we have already discussed earlier is the provision for students with financial problems as a result of the corona crisis. We will look for a solution for this in the coming weeks.

Stay healthy!

Hans Kunstman, President of the University Student Council

Corona and finances: what to do with (acute) financial problems?

Despite of the crisis, the university student council is working as hard as we can. We are trying to represent the students the best we can during these hard times. The coming weeks we will give you more information about the topics we are discussing.

The COVID-19 crisis can have a lot of financial impact on students. At the moment we are insisting the university board to provide financial support in the current situation and to compensate study delays when possible. We highlight the difficulties of international students in this situation. As they might not have financial support and have very high expenses in terms of tuition fees and such.

Students with acute financial problems prescribe for the emergency fund. For compensation of financial problems due to study delay because of sickness or being caregiver, you can prescribe for the profiling fund. The ISO made a news article based on a document by the Landelijk Studentenrechtsbureau about your rights as a student. https://www.iso.nl/2020/04/your-rights-in-case-of-study-delay/?lang=en. For more information about financial support at the university: https://www.ru.nl/english/news-agenda/news/all-news/@1266810/financial-support-students-acute-problems/

If you are very worried about your study delay and the possibility of great debts you are always welcome to contact one of the universities student psychologists, deans or any other student support. They will be able to help you by calling, video calling or email. Furthermore, they have multiple self help modules. e-learnings and webinars available. For all information click the following link: https://www.ru.nl/currentstudents/during-your-studies/overview-counsellors-advisors/student-support/student-support-during-coronacrisis/

On a short term, the Radboud University will come with more information about when you can get financial support. We will keep you up to date!

We wish everybody a lot of succes and good health! If there are any questions or topics that we can help with as the university student council you can contact us by mailing usr@ru.nl

Statement University Student Council on coronavirus

Dear students,

Radboud University has decided not to organise any educational activities on-campus until at least March 31. If possible, education will be organised remotely. We advise our fellow students to stay informed and to regularly check the latest updates on the Radboud University website. Many students have questions, specifically about the progress of their education and the exams, for which we refer to the dedicated page on the Radboud University website. It is also of great importance to check your email properly in the coming period.

The Executive Board is in fully in charge regarding this crisis. Of course, we will closely monitor all actions and contribute where possible. Teams are doing the best they can to find solutions to problems of which the scope sometimes remains unclear. Together, we will have to find a way to ensure that education and research continue in a suitable manner.

On behalf of the University Student Council, I hereby express full confidence in the Executive Board, the Crisis Management Team and their approach to address this crisis situation.

Hans Kunstman, President of the University Student Council



Joint Assembly 2019-02-04

Dear reader,

Because the Academic Building is not on route for most students and we understand that not everyone enjoys spending three and a half hours in a meeting, we decided to write you a small summary of what we discussed in the meeting. Last Monday, February 4th, we had a meeting with the University Board (College van Bestuur, CvB), the Employee Council (Ondernemersraad, OR) and ourselves, the USC. This meeting is called the Joint Assembly (JA, also see title of this article). In short, we discussed the following things.

First, and maybe most often mentioned in the media, was the language policy document. It states that every new, first-year student should do a language test when they start a bachelors’ at our university. The board stated explicitly that the goal is not to teach spelling, but to test the academic language level. What exactly that entails, was not entirely clear yet. Also, the consequences of not passing the test are also still being discussed within Berchmanianum (the building behind Erasmus, where all policies come into making), so to be continued… Our point of view: it shouldn’t become another things students have to do; there is enough on their plates already.

We also discussed student organizations and internationalization: a lot of organizations are trying to become more international, but it is simply not so easy. Most don’t know where to start and what works and what does not. Therefore, we will keep working on getting more help from the university on this subject.

We also started a discussion on the board certificate. This is a certificate that board members can get if they do a board year here, according to the studentenstatuut. If you are currently doing a board and are thinking “huh, I never heard of that,” then you are definitely not the only one. The university board has promised to make sure that students can apply for the certificate again. That this is a possibility will be included in the email to new board members every year.

As always, we discussed sustainability and the green campus; from (non-)recyclable coffee cups to water tap points, it all passed the revue. If you have a good, green idea, come to us or the Green Office. We can both be found in TvA1.

We should not forget to mention that the results of the research on the effects of the BSA are public. As a reaction to that, we wrote a note on how we would like to change the BSA. Our note and the results of the research project will be taken into account to form a new vision on the BSA.

We also discussed the preliminary evaluation of the pilot Flexible Studying (no English link available :( ). In this pilot, students having a child, doing top level sports or doing a board year, can get more flexibility in their education. This way, it should be more manageable to combine these things. This is great, but it turns out that it is not working on every faculty as well as one would hope. From the evaluation, several points emerged on how to improve on this. We hope that these things will be improved upon in the remaining year and a half of the pilot.

In short, this was what we discussed with the university board. Of course, many more items were discussed, but it won’t make this article more manageable if we discuss them all. If you want to know more, you can find everything on RadboudNet. Or you can come visit us in TvA1 at our USC-room