Faculty council in English for the first time
The reason why the council members spoke English, is the newly appointed council member Federico d’Ambrosio, an Italian PhD candidate. He replaces his colleague Nina Rosa, who had to quit due to personal reasons.
At the beginning of the meeting, council chairman Kees van Walree stated that council members were free to speak English or Dutch. In practice, however, everyone chose English. D’Ambrosio’s Dutch isn’t quite good enough yet to follow discussions in Dutch.
Searching for words
As far as we know, this was the first time a UU faculty council was almost entirely held in English. It’s not new to have non-Dutch council members speak some English sometimes, but they are still able to speak and read Dutch. A meeting held almost entirely in English has, in all probability, not happened before.
Several council members and board members were clearly seen to be looking for words and expressions, and had to switch to Dutch. Both d’Ambrosio and Van Walree, however, were quite satisfied afterwards.
“I’m happy with how things went here, as well as in the preparational meetings,” d’Ambrosio says. “Sometimes, I might not fully understand what’s being said, or what’s in the papers, but then I always receive assistance. I think this way of working made everyone feel comfortable.”
Van Walree: “It’s mostly technical and legal terms that cause problems. But in context, they’re easy enough to make clear. I think everyone was able to find the right words for what they wanted to say.”
D’Ambrosio was always meant to replace Rosa as representative for their department in September; his entrance has simply been expedited. Anticipating the Italian’s arrival, the faculty council had already set some rules in place about the use of English. With the increase in non-Dutch students and employees, a memorandum on the language used in the council was wanted regardless.
The document notes that a lot of information used in the meetings is still in Dutch. The faculty could, perhaps, improve itself by making those available in English, too, but documents from the university board or the government are usually written in Dutch. Candidates whose Dutch isn’t good enough, should therefore be given the opportunity to take free Dutch classes.
According to the memorandum, a non-Dutch member is allowed to deliver their contributions in English both orally and written. Discussions involving said council members are to be held in English as often as possible.
D’Ambrosio is taking a Dutch course at the moment, but the possibility of discussing topics in English was a prerequisite for him for becoming a candidate. “I think that makes sense. Around thirty percent of employees here isn’t Dutch. You want them to be able to join in on discussions about the faculty’s policies, too. I’d say all documents should also be made available in English as well. But I understand that you can’t change everything from one day to the next. Things are fine the way they’re progressing now.”