Within one year, the University of Groningen will spend 110.000 euros of public funds on farewell parties for their own board of directors. A call for more soberness has been ignored, whereas former Minister of Education Marja van Bijsterveld urged a moderation of expenditure on farewell parties a few years ago .
By Koen Marée and Bram Omvlee
Last year, the goodbye of former chair Sibrand Poppema cost the university 40.000 euros, in June it is Elmer Sterken who will leave his position as Rector Magnificus. His farewell party will cost almost double the amount of money: the board has put a sum of 70.000 euros in the budget.
Last week, vice-chair Jan de Jeu reacted on questions asked by DAG about the costs during the monthly meeting of the University Council. About Poppema”s farewell party, he stated that this is ‘in line with the costs for a goodbye reception of a minister’. Beside this being a remarkable comparison, it also appeared to be a false claim. A farewell party of a Minister may cost at most 30.000 euros.
The sum for the goodbye party of rector Sterken is, however, even more exorbitant. According to DAG, in times of budget cuts and enormous working pressure amongst staff, the 70.000 euros of public funds are way better spend on education and research. Instead of acknowledging this, the board of the university decides to throw itself parties.
DAG is not against organising a party, but a certain modesty should be expected from managers that want to stand next to their staff and students.
Former minister of Education Marja van Bijsterveld feels the same way, as she stated when a rector at a different Dutch university had a farewell party that cost 24.000 euro’s. This led to questions asked in the Dutch national parliament, to which she responded:
‘“I believe this expense is too high. Public funding must benefit the educational process as much as possible. I expect that educational institutions spend funds meant for education in an appropriate way and that they cut costs that come with the organization of farewell parties.’’
DAG would like to see that these funds are spent on improving education and research at the UG, as they are supposed to.
Sources for mentioned amounts of money: budget 2019, p. 19 and financial framework 2020, p. 17).