Recently the WUR has been sending out a survey about their image; reckon you have seen it in your mailbox. The survey asks alumni and students to give their opinion on a wide range of topics, with the general goal to see what we think about our university. I set out with great optimism, happy that finally I could tell the board what I think of their neoliberal approach to running this university as a business. I vividly typed away, keeping in mind various studies that suggest WUR’s academic integrity is eroding due to collaboration with multinational companies [1, 2, 3]. Main concerns are a lack of transparency and pressure from companies to change unwanted study outcomes in their favour.
Whilst typing, a feeling of uneasiness started to creep up on me. Was I not giving the university ammunition to merely improve their image, rather than contributing to actual change? Was this not too easy a way for them to gather information on negative public opinion and adapt their messaging accordingly, without the actual need to fundamentally address the issues that are at its foundation? You know, the general gist of greenwashing. Luckily though, there was a simple solution to this conundrum: I should just ask! So I replied to the email and ended up at Corporate Communications & Marketing: “will the outcomes of this survey be shared publicly?”, I asked. It would be great if we can see the results of this study, see if others share the same worries regarding the WUR; perhaps we could even help making sure that the WUR acts on the emerging issues. The reply: “we are still in the middle of the research […] we’d like to await these results”. Right… Well, for what it’s worth, at least they’re transparent about their strategy.