Knowledge is necessary to judge excellent science

In response to the open letter from the 15 Dutch university rectors, Mark van Oostendorp, himself a professor of Dutch at Radboud University, stated loudly and clearly in his contribution that deans limit academic freedom (11/6). He sees the lack of democratic legitimacy of university administrators as the main problem.

For senior positions within the university, a profile is usually prepared and a committee is formed to submit the nomination. It is about finding an excellent candidate with strong qualities in education, research and management. It is therefore important that the committee has sufficient experience to reach an informed decision.

Democracy is not the way to find such an excellent candidate. The rule of democracy is One man one voteWhether that man or woman is an expert or not. Evaluating excellent science requires expert knowledge and vision. It is no coincidence that the WUB (boards with equal distribution of staff, students and support staff) were buried again at the end of the 1990s.

Van Oostendorp must be frustrated by this undemocratic legitimacy. In his article he repeatedly talks about “presidents,” a word that, in my opinion, is inappropriate in this context. For him, these are the university presidents with their open letter, but also the “president general” Robert Dijkgraaf, the outgoing education minister, with his choice not to sever ties with Israeli institutions. Or the newly formed government, which fears the downsizing plans the academy has in store. But didn’t the latter two gain their status through democratic means?

Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at Radboud University Nijmegen

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Megan Vasquez

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