On 1 September 2022, Ivonne Cune was appointed chair of the university council. Cune has been a tutor at Erasmus School of Law since 2013. After nine years, she decided it was time for a new challenge. We talked to Cune about her new position, the university council, and the student and staff participation at the university.
How did you end up at Erasmus School of Law?
“I studied Law in Maastricht”, Cune begins. “They had a program where, as a student, you could also work as a tutor, which I did with great pleasure”. She then went into the legal and business fields but missed the academic setting. “Then I came across a vacancy for a tutor in Rotterdam, and I had already done that before as a student.”
Cune’s idea was to evaluate what she thought of the position at Erasmus School of Law after having the position for a year. “But I stayed a bit longer. Approaching a ten-year anniversary at Erasmus School of Law was, therefore, a reason to start looking at what I wanted to do next”, explains Cune.
What did you miss about the academic world?
“The way we think about things together”, Cune emphasizes. “In business, you work towards one goal: making a profit. Everything goes into one tunnel. Here, your view is broader, and you are with many more like-minded people”, the chair explains.
What is the university council?
“We have a whole system of student and staff participation at the university”, Cune explains. “We have the university council, the faculty councils, and the education committees. The university council looks at things that affect two or more faculties. For example, think of the distribution of finances and the programs targeting a healthy lifestyle.” Moreover, many files end up at the university council for advice or approval. Additionally, the council undertakes many initiatives, both large and small. “For example, the offering of free sanitary pads is an initiative from the university council.”
Cune explains that the faculty councils, the education committees, and the university council together form the voice of the employees and students towards the board. “I think it is a shame that there is relatively little attention from staff and students”, she explains. “And that few people seem to be aware of this direct line to the board.”
What drew you to the position?
Increasing this attention to student and staff participation is something that drew Cune to the position. “But I am also curious to see how things are handled at the core of Erasmus University. Many challenging issues are directed to us but also many interesting people and ideas.”
What does your role as chair entail?
Cune explains that the university council consists of twelve students and twelve staff members. “In addition, there is an administrative team, which includes the chair”, she says. “As chair, I was not elected by staff or students but by the members themselves. Those members are representatives of the employees and the students. They deal with the substantive aspects. My job is to ensure that the substantive aspects – the voices from the university council – reach the executive board and policymakers correctly. So, my role is purely formal; I chair the meetings and communicate on behalf of the council.”
What do staff and student participation mean to you, and what would you like to tell others about it?
“I find it important that we all realize which rights we have and that we should definitely make use of them”, Cune stresses. “So, if you are frustrated about something or run into something, you know there is a point of contact. Not for every little thing, of course. Nevertheless, the people in one of the participation councils can hear all these concerns, select them and pass them on to the board. I recently met with some board members, who often told me this input is essential. Informal input often disappears once becoming a board member. Therefore, it is important to give your input to these organised channels.”
What is your biggest goal within this new role?
“Strengthening staff and student participation throughout the university, and on all levels”, Cune replies. She points out that there are not always opposing candidates to represent the staff, or that seats sometimes even remain empty. “My goal is to make sure everyone knows how important it is just to make yourself heard and use those participation rights. I have been elected for two years, and if I achieve this in two years, the champagne can be opened.”
What would you like to tell the staff and students of Erasmus School of Law?
“I would like to call on everyone to go and vote next year in May for the elections for both the university council and the faculty council; for the students and the staff”, Cune stresses. “And if it suits you, stand for election! Do not be discouraged because someone already holds the position or someone you know has been there for a long time. If you think you have something to contribute with the meetings, your input and possibly with your connections or surroundings at the university or faculty, stand for election! But be aware that it is a role that requires your attention; it is not an addition to your work but a part of it.”
Harriët Schelhaas congratulates Cune on behalf of the board of Erasmus School of Law: "Ivonne has long been a highly valued colleague at Erasmus School of Law. We have always enjoyed working with her and her commitment to the faculty. We congratulate her and the U-council with her presidency, the U-council could not wish for a better president. The leadership of the co-determination, which is essential for the university, is in very good hands with her."