DO you also think LUC has some transparency issue? Maybe this interview with Cissie will clarify some things. Otherwise, let us know if there is more to investigate!
A transparency issue
Reported by Sofia Lotto Persio
Recently, I have found myself discussing with fellow students the issue of transparency regarding certain procedures. I am talking specifically about two points: the nomination of 15 students to apply for a summer school in China and the placement of 3 tutees by a tutor for internship positions at a prestigious international institution in The Hague.
PAX, as the voice of LUC students, wants to further investigate the rumours heard to check what exactly goes on behind the scenes and why exactly it happens. Who decides? And why weren’t these things made public and official sooner?
Dr. Cissie Fu, Senior Tutor and Director of Studies, has given us her time to help us uncover and discover the facts.
Issue 1: McKinsey Summer Programme in China
What is this summer school all about?
We are talking about a McKinsey venture involving TU Delft, Amsterdam, Utrecht and Leiden to have a small groups of students join this program which has an academic part, mostly focused on Business and Entrepreneurship, to take place in July at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, followed by a Business Week symposium in Shanghai. This is a pilot programme for Dutch honour students.
How did the news reached LUC?
This proposal reached first the Office of Internationalisation in the Academic Affaires Bureau of Leiden, after having discussed this with the vice-rector of Leiden, Simone Buitendijk. She will ultimately nominate three or four students from the Leiden Honours College and one or two students from LUC. So, if I understand correctly, we’re talking about the vice-rector nominating altogether five students from Leiden to McKinsey, which eventually picks one to three students.
LUC was reached by Leiden via email, with a very tight schedule, which gave the Dean two weeks to decide which students to nominate for the process.
We were specifically asked not to open it to the general student population.
What happened then?
As senior tutor, I sent an email to all the tutors of second year students (the programme is actually meant for third year students, but we are deem excellent enough to propose our second-year students) and I asked them to specifically look at and nominate up to 5 tutees each. The criteria for nomination were an interest in that region of the world, an interest in Business Studies and a GPA showing a good performance at LUC; in short, students who could be good ambassadors, should they be chosen by McKinsey.
To what extent do you think that the tutors’ opinion is reliable?
I think it is reliable because the tutorial system is to get a good understanding of where the academic, career and general interests of their individual tutees lie. The tutors system is as such that, if the Dean were to inquire regarding the well being of a student, the tutor would be able to give an answer and then follow up the situation. The mandatory tutorial meetings at the end of each block, and the Activities Form issued and collected by Tutorial Council per academic year, are designed to facilitate tutorial support, advice, and communication, towards tutees’ academic, personal, and career development
Do you think this system was fair and transparent?
I think the way is run at LUC is fair, but it is certainly not transparent, otherwise you wouldn’t be asking an interview on this topic! But point taken, we do agree that more transparency is needed and therefore, once the nominations are made, the Dean will make sure that everybody knows what happened. If the pilot is successful and the programme is to run every summer, LUC will try to make it more transparent, although it may not necessarily be an open process; some kind of decisions are just made on that level. If LUC wants a chance to participate in this venture, we need, at least initially, to make efforts to comply.
In an environment such as LUC, where words spread fast, wouldn’t it have been better to explain the process from the beginning, the moment the first bunch of nominations were made, to avoid concerns of unfairness and lack of transparency?
Part of the reason is because it wasn’t even sure that the people nominated would apply. Also, we didn’t have a lot of time to prepare. If LUC were part of the process of designing this process from the beginning, it seems conceivable to me that with more time to go through the applications, we could have accepted a bigger pool of applications. But I do get your point. I don’t think that the nomination process is unfair per se, but I understand the point on transparency. I agree it could have been better executed: with proper timing, it should be an open opportunity, but that’s only my opinion and not that of the University.
Were you concerned at any point that there might have been negative reactions from those who heard the news from their peers?
Yes… in the same way that no matter how well you want to plan things, there will always be people who are unhappy about it. I am surprised, though, that you were the first person who came and asked me about it, but I was expecting some negative… comments, not necessarily complaints… but they didn’t reach me. However, if the opacity of the process was a concern, seeking clarity is good.
From my understanding of the content of the email, these students were called the “most outstanding” and the “most promising”. Was that really necessary?
There is no usage of ‘most outstanding’ or ‘most promising’ in LUC communication with students or tutors. The Dean’s letter to nominees also clearly states the process and bases for nomination, and nominees could have shared this document openly with the wider student community
It is quite clear to me that we have very outstanding students who would just not be interested in this kind of things. I think our students are diverse and vested in many, many different ways.
Issue II: Personal connections leading to internship positions.
Rumour has it that other selection procedures for other positions have been handled in such, if not even more, secretive way. Are you aware of any such instances?
Can you clarify that?
Say that a professor, who is looking for an assistant, knows a tutor here at LUC and asks him/her to recommend people for the position and this tutor, rather than openly advertising the opportunity, talks about it to his/her own tutees, who eventually get the position.
I am aware of a similar instance. A particular tutor, because of his own personal connections to the ICC, was able to recommend (or there might have been a selection procedure, I’m not entirely sure) three of his tutees, who eventually got the positions. This is fine by me. I think, especially when it comes to internships, personal connections happen to be “the nature of the beast”.
What we are trying to do as LUC Internship Committee [Cissie is Chair of the Internship Committee] is to form relationships with institutions for internships programmes, so that there could be an open selection procedure. However, it does not mean that every internship works that way.
Is this an acceptable behaviour on behalf of a tutor?
I have talked to the tutor and asked him why he did not refer these opportunities to the Internship Committee and his response was that he was not aware that such a thing existed. There is very little one could say to that.
You could point out that there are other means of advertising such opportunities.
But you see that regardless of alternative formulation of the question, the response would largely remain the same. At least now there is awareness of the Committee. LUC seeks to maintain uniformity in basic tutorial support. How well a particular tutor is personally connected to internship opportunities does not feature in and should be irrelevant to the quality of tutorial function. Personally, I do agree that this opportunity should have been shared; if I happen to be well connected in ways beneficial to LUC, these connections should not only profit my tutees.
In a place like LUC, I would expect to receive equal treatment regardless of my personal connection to a certain tutor, because these kinds of preferential treatments already happen way too often in the world outside LUC.
Point taken. As Internship Committee we are currently working for opportunities suitable per major or field of interest, but this does not assume that a person majoring in World Politics would not be interested in working for the city of The Hague for a sustainability project. However, if I were to be asked, as a Philosophy professor at LUC, to recommend a student research assistant for a topic in my field, I would approach a suitably qualified or interested student first, and if she or he happened to be my tutee, so be it. That all said, the tutorial system is in general a pretty reliable depository of qualitative student information, and so it is also not necessary and in fact undesirable to discount tutorial knowledge. Still, transparency is a hard balance to strike when it comes to internship opportunities.
Nonetheless, we can always learn from mistakes and we move forward. I hope that the students who got those positions will contribute to the LUC community in order to build more internship opportunities for LUC students, more long term ones, for the future: regardless of the selection procedures and how people come to be lucky, I think that’s the best way forward. I’m waiting for those students to approach the Internship Committee to share their experiences and connections at ICC.
Note from the Author
Mistakes have been made and we can only hope they won’t happen again. I personally believe there is a space for discussion here at LUC and I encourage anybody who has concerns, comments, or criticisms, to make their voices heard, through PAX or through any other mean.