"The Erasmian values are a steppingstone for what we already do every day"

Interview with Han van Ruler and Inge Hutter about the ERRC
Image of two students sitting near the pond on campus Woudestein
Standbeeld Erasmus

Desiderius Erasmus was born 555 years ago on 28 October. Inspired by the ideas of our namesake, the Erasmian values are an important part of Strategy 2024, through which the university wants to create more positive social impact.

But how do you, as a researcher, student or employee, give substance to those values? The Erasmus of Rotterdam Research Centre (ERRC) wants to facilitate the discussion on values and offer inspiration on how to give substance to these values. Founder Professor Han van Ruler and Professor Inge Hutter, who are involved in the centre, talk about their plans and the platform ERRC wants to be.

Values only emerge when they rub off

What is typically Rotterdam and what distinguishes an Erasmian? To prevent these concepts from becoming hollow, the university has formulated a strategy with the aim of creating more social impact as an institution. The Erasmusian values, five core values, form an important pillar in Strategy 2024. Socially engaged, world citizenship, an entrepreneurial spirit, open-mindedness and connecting are the values to which the university attaches great importance.

Each student, researcher or employee is free to decide how to interpret these values. "They do not have to be your values, because they are the values of the organisation. They are therefore rather the starting point for a discussion about values. Moreover, values only really come to the surface when they are in conflict. Think of scientists doing research for external parties," says Han van Ruler, Professor of Intellectual History at Erasmus School of Philosophy.

Prof.dr. Inge Hutter

Erasmus of Rotterdam Research Centre (ERRC)

Van Ruler is also the founder of the Erasmus of Rotterdam Research Centre (ERRC). The three-member team working on Erasmusian values also consists of the recently appointed Professor of Erasmusian Values, Prof. Ronald van Raak and Inge Hutter, Rector of the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS). Their aim is to get everyone at the university to think more about values and to feed the values debate. Inge Hutter: "We mainly want to facilitate the discussion. If you set out a strategy with these values, then what we do in everyday life at the university must also be in line with these values. You have to ask critical questions and reflect on them. I see a responsibility for us there."

Incidentally, Hutter emphasises that a great deal is already happening within the university. She refers to numerous social projects with municipalities in the region, the student initiative Erasmus Verbindt (that recently won the Student Societal Impact Award) and the Outreach programme that aims for more diversity among the student population. "These are wonderful examples of social commitment. We want to further strengthen this and make it visible, also to inspire others to think about how they can be more socially involved themselves."

Prof. dr. J.A. van Ruler
Prof.dr. Han van Ruler

Connection around the values discussion

An important objective of ERRC is to connect people around the discussion of values. In the form of broad meetings or Colloquia (a nod to Erasmus' work of the same name) about ideals in education. A website will soon follow, which will function as an overview of what is happening within the values discussion and where all meetings can be found. In this way, the initiators want to build a bridge between the faculties. In addition to Colloquia, the ERRC organises Erasmus Seminars to deepen the connection with the historical figure of Erasmus.

So the person of Erasmus is never far away. Van Ruler: "He is an incredibly inspiring figure and I want to share that with you. Erasmus deliberately went out and sold his writings and turned himself into a kind of production company. The entrepreneurial spirit envisaged by the university is therefore also in the spirit of Erasmus. He did live 500 years ago, so at the same time I don't think he has a direct connection with what we do now. I am invited to say something about the historical and philosophical perspective on the person Erasmus.

Whereas Han van Ruler mainly emphasises the person, Ronald van Raak's appointment as professor is intended to investigate the thinker's legacy, how it has been interpreted over the centuries and how that legacy relates to the current discussion on values within the university. Inge Hutter wants to emphasise the Erasmian values in leadership: "If you are socially involved, this should also be reflected in your leadership. A traditional hierarchical style of leadership is not appropriate. It is much more about co-creating."

With Strategy 2024, the university not only wants to make a social impact, but also to distinguish itself as an institution. "We don't say this strategy in order to forget about it. There is already a very different atmosphere here than at other universities. That gives a kind of club feeling. The Erasmian values are meant to give that club feeling an extra charge and are a steppingstone for what we already do on a daily basis. Our contribution is to make those values more tangible," Van Ruler concludes.

More information

More in-depth information on the ERRC

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