Stances & updates

In conversation with Rector Luc Sels: what will our education look like in the coming weeks? (GA 26/11/2021)

Last Friday, Rector Luc Sels -as most of you have heard- came to our General Assembly to discuss all the concerns of the students regarding the corona approach. We would like to emphasize again that we as a student council are very happy with these measures, which above all show confidence in the student to handle the situation responsibly. Herewith a report of the main points.

On Friday a strong advice was formulated at GEMS (ed. the advisory group for the government on the corona approach) to switch to Code Orange as of today, which would mean that a 20% occupancy was allowed to remain in the auditoriums and our work lectures, practicals and the like would be suspended. In reality, this would probably have meant that many lectures would have had to continue online. KU Leuven, however, is taking a different approach:

KU Leuven chooses to continue to give students the opportunity to physically come to classes, but with the recommendation to occasionally follow online as well. In this way you help reducing the number of people in the auditorium. If you come to the auditorium, try to sit according to the stickers if the room allows it. This arrangement will apply to every KU Leuven campus, provided that the local crisis cells do not decide to adopt other measures.

“I hope that this way, on a voluntary basis, we can maybe factually go to 40-50% occupancy“, the Rector said.

Note: if there is really no other way, we may still have to stiffen measures, but with this joint effort, we are doing everything we can to allow classes to continue physically until the block period.

Why does the KU Leuven choose to proceed in this way? 

    • Contact tracing gives no indication that the auditoriums are causing many infections;
    • Switching right before the cram period will not be beneficial to students, both academically and socially;
    • In a few weeks, the cram period will begin, which is expected to calm down the circulation of students anyway;
    • Currently, a fair number of students already take classes online on a voluntary basis.

 

  • Currently, work lectures and labs will continue to be organized as you are used to. For excursions, it will be examined whether they are an essential activity for achieving the learning objectives.

    Sels: “Here we do a risk assessment in which we will do the maximum possible to continue [excursions]”.

  • To maintain ventilation at a responsible level, occupancy in bibs and learning centers will be adjusted. Soon you will be able to reserve a study place through KURT again. For students who would like to study somewhere else, the virtual learning environments will be reopened.
  • Regarding the exam period, the agreement has already been made that most exams will continue physically with a lower occupancy rate. This means that in the current situation you can assume that your exam schedule is final.
Policy Plan Sustainability (GA 12/11/2021)

Soon, Vice-Chancellor of Sustainability Gerard Govers will write a new Sustainability Policy Plan together with the Sustainability Council. Our Sustainability Officer Liesa Vosch is also involved in this process. At the General Assembly on November 12, 2021, the FOs decided to submit the following points of interest from the Student Council for inclusion in the Sustainability Policy Plan:

  • Rector Sels has declared the ambition to become climate neutral by 2050. The KU Leuven needs to draw up a strategic plan with concrete aims and execute this in order to achieve a climate neutral university.
  • KU Leuven needs to take on a pioneer role and communicate accordingly to the outside world. Also with regard to future students she can present herself as a sustainable university by for example already putting sustainable initiatives in the picture on info sessions. 
  • It’s important to draw enough attention to sustainability and to offer scientific information to students. A good example of an initiative that can help with this is the existence of Green Office. Activities like the Sustainability Week also play an important role. Initiatives like these need to be enhanced and extended.
  • The KU Leuven needs to offer tools to students so that can make a difference in sustainability. This is for example possible within KU Leuven Engage or Service Learning. These initiatives, as well as the new website Beyond Boundaries, can be promoted more.
  • The KU Leuven can urge students to use less single use items by for example promoting the reusable coffee mugs and water bottles that are available in the KU Leuven shop more. In addition it would be convenient if students could wash their coffee mug in different places. This makes the use easier and encourages students.
  • At all places where food is offered on KU Leuven domain, for example in vending machines, eco-scores could be displayed to show how sustainable the product is. The KU Leuven can also look into how sustainable the products that she offers in the KU Leuven shop are.
  • The KU Leuven needs to urge people to separate their trash better. The KU Leuven works with an external company for the collection and separation of trash, but can look into how it can be organised more sustainably so as to recycle as much trash as possible and compost as much organic waste as possible.
  • Teachers need to be encouraged to let students submit their assignments only digitally and not on paper. When a lot of students need to print an assignment, the amount of paper increases rapidly. Apart from that there needs to be looked into paper usage during exams and optimization of for instance PowerPoint lay-outs to save on ink. 
  • More green on campus: There are for example the community gardens Quantum Field and geogarden. These good initiatives can be elaborated and then promoted more. The KU Leuven can also look at the possibility of green roofs. They offer a lot of advantages and a lot of roofs are now unused. If the KU Leuven puts work into more green and gardens, the possibility to compile compost heaps can be created. That way students and staff will also be encouraged to separate their trash better.
  • Existing courses need to be evaluated thoroughly. New courses are welcome, but thought has to be put in what the aim of such courses is. A course that wants to inform as many students as possible needs to be organised differently from a course that wants to bring students from different disciplines together and create space for critical discussion. 
  • Science Shop and Living Lab: These initiatives are still very unknown to students. Promoters should also be encouraged to look at the possible subjects within their field of study that are in the database of the Science Shop. That way they can propose those to their students. Faculties should also promote the Science Shop and Living Lab on their thesis fairs and such. It is also not clear how much time there is between the choice of a subject and being able to start writing or how you can find a promoter that fits that subject.
  • On faculties where there is for example a working group on sustainability it is not very useful to appoint a staff member responsible for sustainability. Where there is an Ecoteam, they might take on the role to make the faculty more sustainable. They can also put sustainability on the agenda within the faculty. On faculties where nobody is bringing attention to sustainability it would be useful to find somebody who is interested in sustainability and wants to engage themself for it. Often it is useful to tackle sustainable initiatives on a bigger scale. We definitely see benefits in a staff member responsible for sustainability per campus.
  • Where the KU Leuven accepts funds from external actors it is important to be aware of how these actors act when it comes to sustainability. The KU
    Leuven needs to be aware of where these funds are coming from. An elaborate reflection and a well thought-out policy are needed. This does not need to be limited to sustainability but can also be about other core values such as inclusion, respect for human rights etc.
  • Where there is room for improvement, The KU Leuven needs to keep striving to make her investment policy more sustainable. This concerns the existing products as well as new products.
  • The last sustainability report dates back to 2018. A new report is useful if it serves as an instrument to find lacunas or points for improvement in the sustainability policy. We find it less of a priority if it is pure to communicate existing initiatives, because there are better ways to do that.
  • Subsidise train tickets for Erasmus students: The KU Leuven can make sure that the train becomes the cheapest option. She can also talk to partner universities to achieve that they also subsidise train tickets.