The coronavirus crisis is having a huge impact on student societies, from the cancellation of activities to financial worries. But the parties and the fraternity dinners will be back, says Wouter de Ronde of Ceres.
@Ceres student society. Photo: Jules van Aubel
Student life in Wageningen has undergone an incredible transformation in a matter of days. From a busy campus, an overcrowded library and bicycle jams at the traffic lights, to isolation at home and online education. The social side of student life is not the same either. So what does the coronavirus crisis mean for Wageningen student societies?
‘It is not nice situation but it is unique,’ says Amber Laan, chair of KSV Franciscus student society. ‘The crisis has caused us to cancel all activities until 6 April. The society is closed until further notice.’ That doesn’t mean the board has nothing to do, though. ‘In times of crisis, the society can help make people realize the urgency of the crisis, and urge members to act responsibly,’ says Laan. ‘We have strongly advised all members to avoid unnecessary social contact for the sake of their own health and that of others.’
At Ceres too, members are kept up to date on the latest developments, says chair Wouter de Ronde. ‘We keep them informed about the RIVM measures and make recommendations about activities we advise against, such as house parties and dinners, with your year club for example. At the same time, we try to reassure people: don’t worry about missing these activities – they’ll be back later in the year.’
It will be quite a puzzle, admits De Ronde. ‘A number of major Ceres activities were planned for the next few months, which will have to be postponed. It will be a challenge to do justice to them without scrapping a lot of other activities.’ There is a lot of uncertainty at KSV too, says Laan. ‘We are looking into whether we can move the party week and the ball in connection with the 109th Dies (Founders Day, ed.). All activities in the short term are cancelled.’
Unitas Youth Club has cancelled all planned activities. ‘That is difficult for a society. At the moment we are looking to see whether we can organize online activities,’ explains chair Jesse Tilder. ‘That could be a party via livestreaming, so you can dance along in your own room.’
Ceres has its own financial worries. De Ronde: ‘Closing the whole society for a few weeks means a loss of turnover. That turnover would normally be used for building maintenance and renovation, and paying staff. Our treasurers and storekeeper are working on reducing costs to limit the losses.’
Doing your bit
One Ceres board member is the contact person for the Gelderland region in the initiative gewoon mensen die mensen willen helpen (ordinary people who want to help others). ‘He puts people who want to offer help in touch with people who need help,’ says De Ronde. ‘It could be doing some shopping, walking the dog, or having a chat with people who feel lonely. We have called on our members for this. And we are encouraging other student societies to support this initiative.’
All the student societies are having to improvise at the moment. ‘I am trying to see things as positively as possible,’ says Laan. ‘You learn a lot from seeing how everyone behaves now. And when the society is allowed to open again – goodness knows when – there is sure to be a big party.