Organisation - August 14, 2014

Conveyor belt

Another academic year. Fantastic, all those fresh, young and crazy newcomers around town and on campus.

I too am a ‘child of Wageningen’. Studied here from 1976 to 1984 (sorry, but in those days you did get to go on studying for eight years). Not all of it on a grant; the last two years were made possible by student assistant posts and a job in the Coca-Cola factory in Ede. I can still see the rows of Coke bottles trembling on the conveyor belt. It was my job to check whether there were any broken or half-empty bottles among them, and to replace these with a good bottle. Occasionally a bottle fell off the belt, and ended up hissing and spitting on the floor, making a nasty mess. But luckily most of the bottles ended up in a crate which went off into the world.
Needless to day, I see parallels between the rows of new students and those rows of Coke bottles. I hope all those taking part in this year’s AID will have the time of their lives here and go off into the world with an MSc degree. But there will be a few who fall out of the WUR system hissing and spitting, and go off to do something else. I myself went off ‘hissing and spitting’ for 17 years outside Wageningen. Into the wider world, beyond the reach of Wageningen ideology, where I worked for Unicef and later for an eco consultancy in the Netherlands. But I never lost my love of Wageningen, albeit a love-hate relationship. The arrogance of science and the excessive emphasis on yields per hectare fed my hate; the incredible freedom and the lapwings over the campus fed my love. I had to return to Wageningen. For five years now, I have been teaching again. And I write a little piece for every Resource.

Dear new students, I wish you a whale of a time with your new buddies at WUR Waga!