Edith Weijnen was appointed as Ombudsman of Erasmus University Rotterdam as of 1 June 2019. The new Ombudsman role for students and employees forms part of a series of measures to ensure a safe work and study environment. Such an environment is an important condition for good results and a pleasant atmosphere, and for managing work pressure.
Erasmus University already has several internal officials working for students and staff, including confidential counsellors, company welfare officers, study advisors, a company doctor, counsellors and student psychologists. However, it became apparent that there was need for a party who, in some cases, is able to act more independently and has a mandate to conduct inquiries. The Executive Board, the participation in decision-making and employee representative body, EUROPA, are meeting this need with the appointment of an Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman will work in an independent, impartial, autonomous and neutral way
The Ombudsman can facilitate complaint handling or put those involved on the right track, but can also identify issues herself and investigate these if needed. Students and employees can get in touch with the Ombudsman for more than just complaints. For instance, they can request advice, a referral to the correct body, a moderated discussion or mediation. They can also contact the Ombudsman if they are the subject of a complaint made by another person.
The Ombudsman also differs from other persons in the internal ‘safe work and study environment’ network as she is able to conduct independent investigations within the university, without obstruction. This concerns the background and circumstances surrounding a case. Depending on the conclusions, the Ombudsman can attempt to reach a solution by offering advice or through mediation.
The establishment of an ombudsman role at Erasmus University is a pilot. This pilot forms part of a broader package of measures and yet to be introduced or adapted regulations that focus on a safe work and study environment at the university, and are also in line with national developments. EUR is one of five universities to appoint such an Ombudsman. The pilot (national) will be evaluated next year.
EUR is currently taking a series of safe work and study environment measures, which together form a coherent framework. The new ombudsman role forms part of this framework. Other measures include the appointment of decentralised confidential counsellors, the extension of psychological services to students, and psychological support and services to PhD students.
About Edith Weijnen
Edith Weijnen is a lawyer, with extensive experience in conflict resolution. She is inspired by people’s differences in perception. People should be listened to, according to Weijnen. Conflicts often arise through a lack of insight into the other party and through not really listening to what the other party is saying. But if there are real misunderstandings, you have to get to the very bottom of these. Finally, employees are involved with their work for very many hours. People and their welfare is always the motivating factor.
Weijnen studied law in Leiden and Utrecht and environmental studies in Utrecht. She also followed additional study programmes in mediation, governance and behaviour/communications. She worked at Utrecht University on doctoral research into soil and groundwater management, with a central theme here being the connection between government and the business community.
Edith Weijnen is also Chairperson of the Committee on Undesirable Behaviour and Misconduct at a financial company, Chairperson of the Consumer Complaints Board for Childcare and Nursery Facilities, and deputy Chairperson of the Municipality of Alphen aan den Rijn Appeals Committee.