UU starts pilot in which students safeguard the class from unpleasant atmosphere

Photo: DUB

This spring, a group of students is going to be trained in assessing situations in which someone's behaviour or expressions can offend others, such as when they speak or engage in a discussion in a less respectful way, exclude (other) students in group activities, or teach sensitive materials.

These students are going to start working in the next academic year, joining lectures and workgroups. These "secret satisfaction agents", as they are informally being called, will be present in online classes as well. Most of the time, they're going to remain anonymous, but they can also choose to reveal themselves as the student inspector.

During class, these students are going to evaluate whether the lecturer and the other students observe the university's code of conduct. If anyone fails to live up to the code of conduct, the secret satisfaction agent will approach them at the end of the class to explain the importance of a harmonious learning atmosphere. The findings are going to be registered in the course evaluations. Serious violations can be reported to the university ombudsman.

The initiative is part of the "Happy University" project, in which UU aims to guarantee a "socially safe learning environment" for everyone. For the time being, the pilot is going to be carried out for a year — a period in which UU intends to raise awareness of the importance of pleasant manners among the university community.

Project manager Karen McCross, who has been hired specifically for this pilot, hopes to get financing for a multi-year project. If that happens, after the pilot phase she thinks more compelling measures could be imposed on the students and staff who cross the line. "Initially, one could think of mandatory attendance in one of our awareness workshops, but maybe we'll need to do more than that".

McCross informs that twenty students are going to be selected for the role. "We expect candidates to be socially aware", she says. "But a good sense of humour is a plus".

Today, April 1, the university is organising a gathering to give more information to students interested in the role of "secret satisfaction agent". There, UU will explain how the training sessions are going to work. They include, for example, a workshop on how to deal with aggression. The financial compensation is also going to be discussed in this meeting: the students are going to be paid 11 euros an hour through Topselect. Additionally, each secret satisfaction agent is going to receive a UU sweatshirt with an extra-large hoodie. Interested? Send an e-mail to happystudents@uu.nl. E-mails will not be answered as this article is an April Fools' joke.

Tags: 1 april