Student societies had to close their doors because of Covid-19. Now the door is ajar again. Two chairs and a vice-chair of the Wageningen societies look ahead.
© Sven Menschel
Joris Bergman, chair of W.S.R. Argo
‘When we had to close, we put all the ergometers (rowing machines, ed.) in members’ houses so they could still train. Outdoor sports have been allowed again since 11 May. The changing rooms are closed and the big boats don’t go out, but we are rowing again at Argo. We make sure it’s done safely and we walk around at the clubhouse to ensure the protocol is observed. So far, so good. In the first week, 85 members signed up for training.
‘As well as rowing, this place is socializing of course. We and the municipality are pondering to what extent we can start up social activities again. We are keeping an eye on the government’s timeline. We shall see how we can open up a bit more, step by step.
‘The club normally closes over the summer, but now a small group of us are looking into the possibility of running activities all summer in small groups. A bit of rowing, a bit of sitting in the sun. It might even be possible for non-members to come by. That would make rowing accessible for them too, and enable us to offer our own members and all other students something nice.
‘We don’t know yet what the AID will look like. I’m not very worried about recruitment for next year: in the corona time it’s a particularly good idea to join a club of some kind, to build up a circle of friends and to have activities to do. I’m confident that the people who come to Wageningen looking for interesting experiences will think: ‘Hey, that rowing club would be a good place for that.’
‘It is nice to spend more time at Argo. Looking outside, I can see a guy having a skiff lesson (a skiff is a one-person rowing boat, red.). We can’t stop for a chat: by law I must tell them to go straight home after training. But it is nice to see the members again. They are the ones you are doing it for, after all. It is a nice sight: on land there are barriers and demarcation tape all over the place, but on the water nothing’s really changed. And when the team boats can go on the water again in a while, the picture will be complete.’
Amber Laan, chair of KSV Franciscus
‘Member involvement is very important to the society. The fraternity l’Esprit de la Licorne held an online ‘beer cantus’ for all its members. Members cycled through Wageningen with water pistols, rang the doorbell at members’ houses and soaked them from a distance of one and a half metres. Instead of the well-attended pub nights, members can now listen to a radio programme made by members for members. And we’ve held an online quiz about the society. That was nice: suddenly you are on Zoom with all the members.
‘It is still unclear when we are really allowed to open our doors again. Student societies are a bit of a legal grey area. There is a chance that we come under the relaxing of the rules on café terraces. Or under the relaxing of rules for the cultural sector, such as cinemas where a li
mited number of people are allowed per screen. We are looking into what’s possible at the moment.
‘We don’t know what the AID will be like yet, and there won’t be any big parties at the clubhouse. The question is how we can give new first-years a real impression of the society under the restrictions that there will be then. There is enough time to adjust to that, so I’m not worried about recruitment. And new first-years aren’t having any post-exam trips or fabulous summer holidays, so maybe they will be extra-eager to look for adventure in a student society. The introduction period is another issue. If all the measures still apply then, should we run it at all? That period is primarily for new members to get to know each other and the society. There are other ways of doing that.
‘Personally, I’ve got more of a grip on my own life since the coronavirus measures came into effect. I used to be at the clubhouse 24/7, and now suddenly I’m a proper housemate as well. I eat and exercise with my housemates and have nights off. The first week without parties was really chill: suddenly I had a good sleep routine. But from the second week I was already missing it.’
Bas Verkerk, vice chair of SSR-W
‘On Saturday 14 March, we were going to hold the best-attended SSR-W ball ever. To say we were looking forward to it is putting it mildly. Then came the press conference on Thursday 12 March and the country closed down. We had to cancel at the very last minute. Really tough, but on the board we flicked a switch and set to work. Meetings had to be on Zoom, the beer tanks had to be closed and the pipes rinsed.
‘To keep our members involved, we launched an online platform with online Friday afternoon drinks. One of our members puts together a nice playlist and everyone can share photos in the livestream of how they are enjoying their Friday drink. We did a special beers quiz and one week we made a radio programme in which members could phone in, shoot the breeze and relate anecdotes, just to keep in touch and keep the crazy stories alive. There is a real need for that.
‘There is not much clarity about to what extent student societies are included in the lifting of measures, because we are not a typical café, but nor are we a standard canteen. At SSR-W we have a huge garden with a bar. It would be nice if that were counted as a café terrace. Cinemas are allowed to have 30 visitors per screen from 1 June. We’ve got several large rooms at the clubhouse, so is that the rule for us too? We will sort this out in consultation with the municipality. We hope to open the doors of our ‘one-and-a-half-metre clubhouse’ as soon as possible.
‘At the moment we are busy making preparations: demarcating routes, seeing where to put the entrance and the exit, whether our furniture is suitable and how to arrange it. We are also working on a safety protocol that has to be approved by the municipality. No more parties for now, but we try to focus mainly on what we can do.’