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Assessor Jonatan Wirix-Speetjens chooses second term after turbulent year

After a turbulent first year as assessor, Jonatan Wirix-Speetjens starts a second term in September: 'In my second year as assessor I hope to become really decisive’, says Jonatan. We asked him about his experiences the past year and his plans for the coming academic year

Jonatan Wirix-Speetjens

The added value of a second term

‘Because of the pandemic, a lot of my plans had to be put on hold, so deciding to add a second term as assessor simply made sense to me. However, I am also convinced that during a second term I can better develop and flesh out certain plans, and thus become really decisive. A second year also ensures more continuity: you operate at a university level instead of solely at a faculty level. At a university level, certain processes run much longer, so a second term certainly has its added value.’

Assessor in times of COVID-19

‘As an assessor in times of corona, I essentialy had an adapted range of tasks. Focus areas for me were: warm communication, letting people know you're here (remotely), and taking into account students in difficult circumstances.’

‘The Healthy University @Home, posting several e-POPcorner, modules online, the video by Dean Mark Rutgers and I, and the joint good luck wishes with the vice-deans at the beginning of the exam period are examples of that warm communication that we wanted to encourage students with. But we also increased the frequency of consultations with student members in programme boards and made sure that the Humanities Think Tank, which consists entirely of students, was able to contribute ideas to future plans. This way, student opinions were also taken into account in decisions that sometimes had to be made very quickly. Thanks to the great connections with and consultation hours for student members in programme boards, information could be shared and retrieved quickly.’

‘‘I am very proud of our faculty and especially of all students because they have been able to adapt so quickly. Think of study associations that completely switched to online activities, games and movie nights in the first week of the lockdown. It was almost as if everything was as normal, except that all of it happened via a computer screen.’

‘A shared identity as humanities students’

‘Community building and attention for smaller study programmes were important focus points at the beginning of my assessorship because our faculty is so greatly diverse. You can come a long way with creating a sense of community by making exchange between different study programmes easier. The smaller programmes are also important for the bigger picture and we brainstormed about how we can increase community building in the smaller (master) programmes. It is still a challenge to make all of those small and large cogs in our faculty work together, certainly at the level of student co-participation, but continuing to strengthen that process is a task that I want to work on with a lot of attention and enthusiasm. After all, the Humans of Humanities film clearly showed that we have a very important shared identity as humanities students, researchers and lecturers.’

Concrete plans: transparency and a voice for students

‘I am looking forward to continue working on a good and transparent system of student participation. Students need to be able to find each other when they need each other, but this requires a clearer division of tasks. Programme committees and boards, study associations, the Faculty Council, the Humanities Think Tank and the recently developed student sounding board group Diversity & Inclusiveness: these are all wonderful bodies. But, sometimes we lose sight of the fact that they all need to be in contact with each other in order to work effectively. Student voices need to be heard everywhere, and students also need to know which students are working on that task, at different levels. That's quite a challenge, but one I'm really looking forward to.’

Would you like to become more involved in the ins and outs of our faculty and make sure your voice is heard? You can, but how? Jonatan is ready to answer all of your questions. For COVID-related questions, Jonatan can point you to the various services offered by the faculty and university. Send him an email via assessor@hum.leidenuniv.nl.

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