Professor Ingrid Robeyns: "I don't think the price for science should be so high that you don't have enough time for yourself or your family or friends."
Professor Ingrid Robeyns: "I don't think the price for science should be so high that you don't have enough time for yourself or your family or friends."

image: Angeliek de Jonge

Professor Ingrid Robeyns wins Academy Kiss

De AObAcademy Kiss prize was awarded this Valentine's Day to Ingrid Robeyns of WOinA Actie. She is committed to reducing the workload at universities. "Science is said to be top sport, but top sport cannot be maintained throughout your working life."

Every year on Valentine's Day, the Academy Kiss goes to someone who has made a special and courageous effort in the academic world. Ingrid Robeyns has won the prize this year. As a champion of the reduction of workload at universities, she herself suffers from that workload. Robeyns is a philosopher and economist and holds the Chair in Ethics of Institutions at Utrecht University. Her heart lies with WOinAction, a national action movement of university staff and students that protests against the structural underfunding and overload of scientific education and research.

Working overtime

Why WOinA Actie?

“A recent report on working conditions at universities shows that scientists work an average of twelve to fifteen hours of overtime per week on a structural basis. The reason for working for WOinActions is that the number of hours is normalized. Scientists do this overtime unpaid and often not voluntarily. Science is said to be top sport, but top sport cannot be maintained throughout your working life. People are downright predatory and WOinAactie is opposed to this. The action group is being supported by more and more students and scientists, but most of them cannot become an active member, they simply do not have the time or energy. ”

Why do you have the energy for it?

“That's a character thing. For me WOinA Actie is the practical application of my previous research. I work on justice issues. Twenty years ago I wrote about equal opportunities for men and women in the labor market. This requires an equal division of care tasks, and also that employers give their employees room to care. You cannot work 55 hours and also have caring duties without compromising yourself. It is ironic for me to see that I have worked out these research questions so long ago and that the universities are failing to offer good employment practices. I felt that I could no longer stand aside and take action. ”

'We argue with the minister for an extra billion for science'

What is the main pain point?

“WOinA Actie actually does what the umbrella association of universities should have done, namely to ensure good employment practices. The VSNU has offered too little resistance to the government, which froze the research budget, while more scientists are needed to provide an increasingly large group of students with good education. The task packages of scientists are thus increasing. We don't think it's a point at all to read a textbook on the weekend, but the fact that we have to review essays from a hundred students while the new lecture block has already started and you have to prepare lessons at the same time and that your own research is added the problem. Scientists who hold a PhD are forced to conduct research in their own time. We are pleading with the minister for an extra billion for science. ”

You have stopped WOinActions. You call it 'Tired of it'.

“Yes, I have to take a step back now. Everyone at our core knows the symptoms of exhaustion. That you are not only tired, but that you also get physical complaints, such as headaches and dizziness. Thanks to WOinAactie I had even less time for myself. I will probably be refueled in a few months, but it is better that new people take over. New people standing up to take action. ”

Put private life aside

Your son said when he was twelve: I'm going to talk to your boss. He thought you were always working, you said in an earlier interview.

“My children are now thirteen and fifteen. I don't think the price for science should be so high that you don't have enough time for yourself or your family or friends. The government and universities underestimate the degree of dissatisfaction among scientists. They are expected to put their private life aside. As if they are just working people. When we organize a demonstration with WOinAactie, three thousand people come, that's a lot, but they also bring banners with photos of people who cannot come because they have to teach, but who support the action. ”

'We are not robots, we are people with one life'

You openly share on Twitter that you should take a break.

“That is another trait. I have never minced myself. And I'm in a position to do it openly. I am high in the tree of the hierarchy of science. Among other things, it is up to me to be an example and to show that we are also just people who can fall if you let us work too hard for long enough. We are not robots, we are people with one life. Seven years ago I was asked by a professor if I was interested in performing a certain task. I replied, "Very interesting, but I don't have time." His reaction then was: 'Never say you don't have time, then you shouldn't have become a professor.' I was shocked. If you have a position as a manager, you must be willing to pass on the message of care and time. ”

Do you see anything change?

“The taboo not to be allowed to talk about too much work pressure has disappeared. Before WOinA Actie it was mainly: don't complain and just keep working. Now we see a lot of solidarity among scientists. The taboo is completely gone. ”

Read also: 'WOinAction: university staff about to fall'

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