Jérôme Rossier shares the rector's vision of a university that is stronger and more effective when all its parts strive to surpass simple personal accomplishments to play in unison. "We have a social responsibility and can help society to tackle the challenges we face today, and our contribution is all the more decisive when it comes from all of us," he comments.
The psychologist, who trained in school and careers guidance, was appointed as an assistant professor in 2003 and full professor at UNIL in 2009, and now heads up the Human Resources department. He was approached by the Rector after a varied 18-year career in teaching and research. "Accepting this invitation is an opportunity for me to do something different, although I was Vice-Dean of Research in the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences for six years. Managing a university-level department is a new challenge, and an opportunity to combine administrative management with thinking about policy."
He is keen to strengthen the institution’s cohesiveness and think about a general framework, for example for career development at UNIL, and paying particular attention to promoting women’s careers and internal mobility. The general framework needs to be thought through collectively and then transposed into the faculties and departments according to their specific situations. Promoting a "more systematic careers management policy for all staff" means offering administrative and technical staff genuine opportunities for change and for teaching staff, the option to take on more shared responsibilities over time." We hire many young assistant professors with the aim of both replacing staff who leave and promoting women, so the big issue is supporting them during their career, in every faculty, and doing so more systematically."
A careers policy at UNIL implies developing a cohesive scheme around promotions, which is no mean feat, given the need to plan for the impact on budgets. Jérôme Rossier again reflects on the need for a collective effort. “Every change to institutional policy is a process of developing it with the partners impacted by the change." In terms of women’s careers, we are already talking to the deans’ offices to encourage applications from women in areas where they are under-represented. "Where there is a competitive process for a position we can, for example, contact female leaders in the field so that they can disseminate the information to potential female applicants," he suggests. While the recruitment policy is essential, it will not necessarily be sufficient. "We are aiming for parity and there is still a lot to do...".
Strengthening cohesion also implies thinking about how we combat harassment and discrimination. Among other things, the vice-rector points to the launch of a four-day training course for newly recruited teaching staff (which will be rolled out to other staff in time) and a communications, prevention and treatment campaign for any problematic cases identified." This course will not only deal with harassment-related issues but also include content on Swiss labour law, which is particularly interesting for people who have come from elsewhere, and aspects of managing a team," he explains, announcing an initial programme in June 2022 and a future version of the course in English. The development of our new scheme for combating harassment and discrimination will be supported by a steering committee, whose work will begin in January 2022, with representatives of the various parts of UNIL, and headed by a project manager who was hired on 1 December 2021.
"The new scheme is part of a policy that aims to create pleasant living conditions that help people to develop." This ambition implies that mutual respect must be a matter for everyone, on a daily basis. At UNIL, “we need high levels of competence, innovation and excellence but ultimately, nothing in the university takes place at a strictly individual level, not even the most sophisticated research, and we want to strengthen the collective aspect of our institution even further," concludes the vice-rector.