Open letter to the chairman of the ArtEZ board: ‘The AKI board wants to save its own skin’ | Enschede

THE READERS WRITEThe story of the suffocating culture at the AKI art academy in Enschede, and in particular the response from the board, has raised eyebrows at Geert Sanders, professor of Organizational Culture at the University of Groningen. He wrote an open letter to the chairman of the ArtEZ Supervisory Board.

I would like to draw your attention to the following. On Wednesday 28 September 2022 I read in Tubantia the article ‘AKI’s culture (ArtEZ – University of the Arts) is under heavy fire’. An overview is given of a grim, suffocating working atmosphere that burdens both students and teachers.

Educators are resigning, fed up with the processes of disqualification, vilification and manipulation. In 2020, the students addressed the board in an open letter, in which they indicated that both they and their critical lecturers feel silenced by the board.

I got a concrete insight into ArtEZ’s operation from the Gelderland district court’s judgment of 8 June 2022, in which the district court concluded that ArtEZ acted illegally towards a student and that ArtEZ must therefore compensate the damage the student has suffered. It literally says that ArtEZ has not acted as can be expected of a reasonably acting and reasonably competent educational institution.

In said article i Tubantia also includes the reaction of the chairman of ArtEZ’s executive board. I fell off my chair reading this. I would expect that the instructor, after knowing the content, would adopt an open attitude and take the trouble to put himself in the position of the various parties involved in the training. In my view, that would be the appropriate attitude of a reasonably functioning and reasonably competent director.

The opposite happened. Instead of letting the alarming developments in the institution and the problems that students and teachers deal with on a daily basis take effect, the chairman of the board states that ‘the board wants to guarantee the safety of our courses’ and ‘that the board is doing well. -being of the students always comes first’. The flight to the front ends with the observation that ‘the board must make do with what it has.’

There is no sign of any critical self-reflection and any degree of self-responsibility. Admittedly, the chairman of the board says that he is aware that ArtEZ has lost the aforementioned lawsuit. But the chairman insists the program has tried to do so carefully. Not a word about the pain and sorrow of the student who saw his studies fail and who has to start all over again somewhere else.

I can only conclude that this driver is using all his energy to save his own skin. “Of course, an objective culture survey will be conducted soon and any necessary adjustments will be made.” Do you believe it? Not me. Self-reinforcing processes of intimidation and fear will continue to plague training. Unless…

I am sending you this letter out of my interest in the role you envision as Chairman of the ArtEZ Supervisory Board. My colleague Rienk Goodijk (VU), an expert in research into the quality of management and supervision, states that a supervisor is expected to be able to challenge the director, but at the same time he actively monitors whether he/she does so. not exhibit irresponsible behavior and that the public importance is not lost sight of.

You understand that I am seriously concerned about the functioning of the ArtEZ Executive Board. I would be happy to receive further information from you on the steps you intend to take from the ArtEZ Supervisory Board.

professor (emeritus) Organizational Culture at the University of Groningen

Geert Sanders, professor at the University of Groningen. © Geert Sanders

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