The Faculty Club can pull people out of their bubble

"Beginning teachers do not really have a platform to discuss," says junior lecturer Tony Barshini. "I find that quite strange. Surely you want to exchange your experiences about lecturing, what you're up against, what goes well and what goes less well? About your insecurities or clashes with students, the level of students' language and so on."

Een portretfoto van Tony Barshini
Tony Barshini studied at the Utrecht Law College. He is now a junior lecturer and PhD candidate at the Utrecht Centre for Water, Oceans and Sustainability Law.

"That's why I then set up Judotalks - the junior lecturer talks - for my Department of State and Administrative Law. For that, we were looking for a place, preferably nicer than an ordinary classroom. And then Titia de Kramer of the Faculty Club gave us the tip to check them out. Since then, we have been meeting in the Faculty Club once every fortnight. Other legal departments have also started similar talks. Actually, it should be rolled out across the university, because novice lecturers are still a bit thrown in at the deep end. One of the university's core objectives is to educate young people to become critically engaged citizens. Then the delivery of that education should also be facilitated. So that's how I ended up at the Faculty Club via via and I have been a member for a year now."

Why are you excited about the club?

"To begin with, of course, because of the unique location. I often show visitors from outside Utrecht the imposing Utrecht University Hall first. Hundreds of years ago, the Union of Utrecht was signed in the current Aula! And from there you walk straight on to the large hall of the Faculty Club with that beautiful, big fireplace. In summer, right in the centre of Utrecht, you can sit outside in the beautiful garden. You won't easily find a garden like this in a café nearby. It is a very nice place for lunch, a beer or dinner with friends. And it is also interesting for business meetings. I do think that connection with the university is special. If I meet up with someone here, the menus feature our university's logo. A nice detail. Apart from all this, it is also very practical for me because my faculty, Law (Rebo), is just around the corner. I can also just organise a working group here."

Get out of your bubble, people!

"Once I discovered the Faculty Club, Sandy [van Heerde, club manager, ed.] invited me to join others in thinking about the lustrum theme. We spent an evening brainstorming; a very fun, interactive event. What came out was that visibility and familiarity is an issue. I also heard this from colleagues who had no idea what the Faculty Club is, even though Rebo is an inner-city faculty. The university is a very large organisation within which each faculty forms its own little island. You would want to break that: don't stay in your own bubble, but look for cross-pollination. The Faculty Club can contribute to that."

If you could choose an activity...

"Then I would really like to start some kind of PhD dinner or drinks. I myself am at the beginning of my PhD trajectory and would like to meet other trainee assistants (PhDs), not only from law schools, but from all faculties. Have two or three PhD students talk about their research over drinks or dinner. PhD students, junior lecturers and postdocs often work on temporary contracts and face an uncertain future. They are fixated on survival, so the social aspect gets less attention. After a week of hard work, they prefer to go straight home on Friday afternoon instead of going to the free mibo. They are also not used to socialising with colleagues. This is a gap that the Faculty Club is well placed to fill. The conviviality and approachability ensure that it is easy to make new contacts at such drinks: with other science colleagues, non-scientists who also work at the uni, people from different faculties, from different cities and expats."

Who is your dream speaker?

"Maybe not very original, but apart from all kinds of impressive deceased people, I think of Barack Obama pretty quickly. I am currently delving into the concept of charisma. And then he still tops my list. If he can't, then I choose someone young. We are working within the faculty on the rights of young people, even the unborn. How about that? So I would like to hear the opinion of an adolescent of about 14 or 15 years old. Someone who really has an opinion on young people's rights. Or else right away just a whole group of young people to discuss with. What concerns them? What do they expect from us?"

My wish country for a Happy Hour in the future? Well then I choose my homeland Syria. An evening with an Arabic touch.

Traditional Dutch happiness

"I always think Happy Hours affiliated with a country and its culture are cool. I also really enjoyed the Dutch edition. I had brought my year club mates and we did all kinds of old Dutch games together in the garden: shuffleboard, ring toss... There was good food, it was well organised and doable in terms of cost. In short: tiptop. My wish country for a happy hour in the future? Well then I choose my native Syria. A happy hour with an Arabic touch."

Go wild!

"My coolest party? OK, so can I include the Utrecht University Hall? Then I envision a big party throughout the building, with disco lighting, and a DJ spinning from the lectern, smoke effects in the Aula and space to recover from dancing and to chill in the Living Room. One of my best friends, a PhD student in Medicine, can play nice records. So we already have the DJ."

About Tony Barshini

Tony Barshini studied at Utrecht Law College and only then discovered how much fun the city actually is. After his bachelor he left for Oslo for six months, only to return and get his master's here. He is now a junior lecturer and PhD student at the Utrecht Centre for Water, Oceans and Sustainability Law.