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Assessor Olivier passes on the baton to Jonatan Wirix-Speetjens

For two years, assessor Olivier Fajgenblat was a familiar face of this faculty. Starting September 1st, it will be up to Jonatan Wirix-Speetjens to look after the interests of students in all kinds of matters. Together they look back on and look ahead to being assessor at the Faculty of Humanities.

Wrapping it up or passing it on

‘For two years, my office on the third floor of the Lipsius building was where I always started and ended the week’, Olivier says. ‘The fact that this will no longer be the case as of September 1st, will probably feel a bit strange. I can say that I am relatively happy with the things I have been able to accomplish during my assessorship, such as the student platforms that I have set up; the Humanities Think Tank for example. And my contribution to the 'Student in Programme Committee'-Counsel. There is still some unfinished business, so I now have to decide what to wrap up myself and what to pass on to Jonatan.’ ‘Mails for induction sessions, exploratory appointments and more are already pouring in’, Jonatan says, laughing. ‘It is all very exciting and a lot of things are about to happen, but I’m really looking forward to it.’

A third Belgian assessor

‘Perhaps you can notice it by my accent; there will be a third Belgian assessor (red: Olivier and Aurélie were Jonatan's predecessors). My father’s from Belgian Limburg, my mother is from East Flanders and I was born in Leuven. I did grow up in the Netherlands though, in Haarlem’, Jonatan explains. ‘I started my bachelor’s degree in History in Leiden and in my second year I also joined the Italian Language and Culture programme. During that period I developed myself more and more; I started working for study association Le Tre Corone and I was asked to join the programme board. I enjoy working for the faculty and connecting students. As an assessor, you can literally lift that to a higher level and that really appealed to me. When Olivier’s position became vacant, I didn’t hesitate to apply.’

“Wow, he really grew up”

As an assessor, you are both a board member and a student. A challenging position. Olivier has the following advice for prospective assessor Jonatan: ‘Embrace full board membership in the sense that as a student you’re joining people in discussing many exciting topics. Topics that concern both you and your fellow students. A major characteristic of assessorship is that you are able to always be present; you are not excluded from any administrative meeting and can therefore gain a great deal of insight into what happens behind the scenes. During a visit to my study programme, for example, I was able to challenge my own lecturers, a very strange experience. They looked at me with an intrigued look and might have thought: ‘‘Is that the Olivier we saw leave after the bachelor’s programme? Wow, he really grew up.” That was a very funny and nice thing to notice.’


‘Our faculty has so many courses and students that I think that community building is an important term,' Jonatan explains. ‘Seeking a common thread to make all those different students feel like Humanities students - and not only African Studies or Art History students, for example - is something I want to work on during my assessorship. A lot of students do not yet feel really involved or active in thinking about the university or are not sure whether their opinions matter. Often, therefore, it is up to individuals who are a little more at the forefront and more easily make their voices heard to make decisions.’ Olivier adds: 'Yes, it really requires another point of view to position yourself as the owner of your study programme, it is easier for many people to feel and act like a client of your study programme.’ Jonatan continues: ‘The great thing about our faculty and university is that there are so many options to participate; and at so many different levels. As soon as you become involved as a student, you will also change as a student and you will, for example, look differently at your lecture series and feel more involved in your programme and the faculty as a whole.’

Our faculty: large, versatile, passionate and informal

‘Our faculty is incredibly large in all respects and very versatile. And very energetic, although that energy sometimes still takes place in a lot in small rooms that all border each other. Not everyone is aware of that’, Olivier says. ‘People come to this faculty because of a personal passion. Precisely because we have room for those niches, there are people here who can devote their studies or lives to very specific subjects such as clay tablets or English phonetics. I love that. Yes, passion is a term that fits our faculty.’ Jonatan adds: ‘During my upcoming assessorship and together with the Faculty Board I therefore want to properly supervise the future of those smaller programmes and the preservation of the diversity that, in my opinion, makes our faculty so great and interesting’, Jonatan continues. ‘To have a say in the further development of the language and culture domain is an exciting matter as an assessor.

‘Students seldom find the Lipsius building to be a beautiful building; the Wijnhaven in The Hague and the P.J. Veth are much more beautiful’, says Olivier. ‘But I still know a lot of students who feel a kind of sense of security when it comes to the Lipsius. It is a safe space; a place for different beliefs, identities, there is no urge to prove oneself, there are no pretensions. As soon as you walk in here, you are a part of what is happening here. We'd better remember this, so that when we’ll have the Humanities Campus we won't suddenly find out that it was a unique selling point of this faculty,’ he says, laughing. ‘No, I think that feeling lies more in people's heads, and not in the bricks of the building.’

The best job you can have as a student

‘I hope to be an assessor who represents the interests of the students as well as possible and one who as many students as possible know,' Jonatan says. ‘Even if it's only because of a personal message on the coffee machine or because I stop by and have a chat.’

Olivier: 'Yes, I hope to have been an accessible assessor in this way too, and that people thought of me as a permanent value, a steady someone. And also proactive, that I acted with foresight when something threatened to go wrong. What I’m going to miss? Whew, a lot, but especially how unique this position is. In terms of being able to educate yourself, I really think this is the best job you can have as a student. For me personally, being an assessor has always been the top priority, because my talents on a communicative and strategic level were stimulated in a more productive way than when I was studying. I've even discovered that I like education policy so much that I'm trying to get a job in this field. I think that my slightly more cautious and philosophical 'I' from two years ago would find my current 'I' incredibly boring, but I am very happy with this outcome, it is a new-found passion for me.'

As of the new academic year, you can contact Jonatan for suggestions, questions or complaints about faculty matters via assessor@hum.leidenuniv.nl. New to Leiden University? Get to know Jonatan during the EL-CID Introduction Week from August 12 through 16. We will certainly hear more from him in the near future.

Written by: Lieselotte van de Ven
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