The following text was written in November 2014. At that moment, the dean had just announced the heaviest budget cuts that the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Amsterdam had to face in decades. After discussions in the faculty, the birth of Humanities Rally, petitions, rallies, the birth of De Nieuwe Universiteit, an occupation, another occupation, the birth of rethink UvA, more discussions all over the university and all over the country, the establishment of two committees, one of which will investigate the CvB’s financial politics, after the disruption of a “Festival of Science and Humanities” by riot police, another rally, and, finally, the resignation of our university’s president – after all of this, the Faculty of Humanities is back where it was in November 2014.
The spirits are much higher, but the budget cuts and the efficiency logic attached to it remain in place.
If it wasn’t so sad, it would be funny….
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by Natalie Scholz
Caution – you are about to enter the terrain of satire! The author does not take any responsibility for bits of truth anyone may detect there.
Our dean has informed us that we, the faculty of humanities, are heading towards a great “efficiency slag”. We have to roll up our sleeves and get ready to fight for the “efficiency” of our teaching programme.
As a scholar, I have never been spoken to in this kind of language. This is so cool. And those folks in the faculty administration already have a battle plan. So, the great thing is, the strategy is there, the major thinking part has been done, and we only have to follow. Because, let’s face it, strategic thinking was never our favourite activity anyway.
So what’s the strategy, how do we prepare for our battle?
The first step sounds a little bit boring at first. We have to put together a “basic curriculum”. We need to know the “minimum” that is necessary to have a teaching programme AT ALL. But, on closer inspection, it may be more fun than it sounds.
Think of all those working hours we spent to restructure our teaching programme when our wise masters in the CvB decided we had to convert to an 8-8-4 semester structure. Naive as we were, we did not quite understand that wise decision. We actually cared about what and how students would learn in our programme and how they would get the best of us as scholars and teachers. Isn’t it much more fun, and so much more efficient, to go straight to the basics?
Step two: the actual “efficiency battle”! Finally we will be able to see what we don’t need. There are so many things! And then, we will be able to see whom we don’t need. There are so many people!
If it is possible to use less working hours and money to come to the same “return on investment” (aka “rendement”) – and that is, just to remind everybody, the same number of students getting the same number of points in the same time – why not do it? Why have somebody give a lecture class every year if he or she can also give it only once every five years and show the students a video of it in the meantime? Of course the teaching hours we economize this way will make at least one other colleague dispensable. Congratulations! That’s what the efficiency battle is all about.
After this warming up, I finally understand everything. So, I go: two lecture classes (video system) and one seminar is the minimum for a BA programme in any given discipline!
Do we need one ore two, or even no courses at all to call something a masterprogramme?
I go: one! Just because otherwise there is this problem of logics. No course, no content, no programme, nothing to advertise….. But perhaps our fantastic colleagues from the PR will find a solution. Maybe my logical problem is really only one of those “opinions” waiting to “get challenged” in our master programmes.
Wait a minute, don’t stop there…. I have another great idea! Maybe, maybe, we can use this exciting experience and our famous creative skills as humanities scholars to produce a videogame. It should be called “PROFILER 2016” and the PR slogan would be: “Find and fire your most inefficient professor!” Students would pay extra for it – because it’s so entertaining and because they would learn about the real world and not about the dreamy hobbies of those weirdo old fashioned intellectuals. Plus, we get extra points and money from NWO’s creative industries budget. We only have to find a profit making company who produces the video game and uses the NWO money to make more profit out of it.
My phone rings, a voice speaks to me:
“We are pleased to inform you that this year you will recieve the newly established award for efficiency thinking. We need more of your kind. The award, by the way, consists of a try-out at the efficiency practice on premiere league level: you get to choose two colleagues whom you deem unnecessary for the teaching programme. As for how to get rid of those colleagues, you should not worry about that. Wisely preparing for the future we have already invested in the necessary external expertise to take care of the problem. The return on that investment will be spectacular.”