VLAM, an acronym for Verenigde Lijst Academische Medezeggenschap (translated: United List of Academic Participation), is a broad representative party in the university council of Utrecht University. VLAM is not a “single issue”- or “target group”-party, but represents employees at all levels of the university: PhD students, temporary employees, permanent staff and support staff.
Since its establishment in 2006, VLAM has been a constructive, but also critical discussion partner of the Executive Board. VLAM has both nuanced and outspoken views, and likes to discuss these with the other parties in the University Council, the Executive Board, and its own followers.
VLAM bases itself on facts, not hypes in the media. This means that we conduct our own research into topics, inquire with policy departments and colleagues, and ask questions if things remain unclear. The combination of experienced and new councilors ensures a healthy mix of institutional memory and a fresh look at topics.
Within the party we always look at issues from various perspectives. The members of VLAM come from different faculties and services, which means that conflicting interests and views (for example between education and research, between young temporary teachers and experienced associate professors, between alpha and gamma studies, and between support and education / research) are always part of the debates we have and the contributions to the council meetings
The core VLAM principles:
- Decrease in workload: cause and effect
It is important to look at the causes of work pressure as well as possible solutions. Work pressure is experienced at all levels of the organization, and the solution is not simply hiring more people. The credo that prevention is better than cure certainly applies here.
- Less bureaucracy: carefulness and workability
Carefulness is important, but contradictory and redundant regulation can lead to work pressure and frustration. It is therefore good to look and remain critical with regard to bureaucratic processes.
- Good governance: sober and efficient
It is good to always pay attention to a balance between austerity and efficiency. A decor that is too sober is counterproductive, while a less sober one is resentful.
- Good employment practices: permanent and flexible positions
The UU has many types of employees, a good employer ensures a policy tailored to that. Permanent appointments are necessary because structural issues require structural solutions and continuity is important. But flexibility remains necessary and desirable in order to be able to respond to changes within and outside the organization.
- Safe workplace: diversity and inclusion
A safe workplace is one where everyone feels at home. Diversity comes in many forms: it may concern gender, culture and nationality, but also age, ambitions and capacities. Inclusiveness is about accessibility, both in a literal sense (of buildings) and in a figurative sense (of, among other things, the breadth of views).
- Open discussion partner: dialogue and the full story
We are happy to engage in dialogue, where the multiple sides of an issue must be addressed. It is important to be open to the views of the other discussion partners, and sometimes agree to disagree.
- Balance in resources: money for education and research and support
There must be a good balance between the various interests in the distribution of the financial resources. Good education benefits from good research, and vice versa. This also applies to the support; these primary processes cannot do without proper support.
In the 15 years that VLAM has been in existence, there are numerous subjects on which we have been able to influence directly and / or indirectly. Whether it concerns topics in the longer term (for example the Strategic Housing Pan), or about issues that we as employees encounter in our daily work (2FA / Two-factor authentication); we always try to think critically and constructively, based on the conviction that university management and employee participation can arrive at the best solutions through dialogue. Sometimes we, as VLAM members, unanimously agree on this, and sometimes we can put conflicting interests into words.
In recent years, this has led, among other things, to the following concrete actions / results, in which we sometimes act alone and sometimes together with other groups from the University Council:
- Active contribution to the debate about the new UU Strategic Plan (2021-2025), including an opinion piece in DUB and critical questions about the prominent role of the strategic themes for future (policy) choices.
- Asking attention for the vulnerable position of young teachers with temporary appointments, but also to the career opportunities of older employees. This was one of the topics during the most recent Employee Participation Week.
- Start of own research into the educational allocation model and credit financing and the (un) tenability of the current models. This provides good input for the discussion on this important theme in the upcoming council year (2021-2022)
- Attention to the many forms of diversity (including culture, gender and age) and views on a gender quota, and an opinion piece on an action plan against racism.