News - June 26, 2020

Blog: Online because we must

Geert van Zandbrink

I wrote my bachelor thesis from the couch in the peace of my living room during period five. The fact that I was unable to use the university library and that my presentation was through Skype was a shame, but certainly not the end of the world.

Now that I am back to taking courses in period six, I must adjust to ‘the new normal’ of virtual classrooms. I understand there is no option and they are needed, but the enthusiasm over the virtual classrooms is lost on me.

If I had to name a single group that makes frequent use of public facilities, it would be students. Students, more than any other group, make use of libraries, bars, student associations, public transportation and sports facilities to shape their lives. After all, their only private space is a room of ma few square metres, with a bed, closet and desk. If you are lucky, you have some housemates, but there are plenty of students living alone, against their will.

The voices that some activities will be permanently relocated to the Internet terrifies me

We may well be one of the most flexible groups, but even students have a breaking point. The voices that some activities will be permanently relocated to the Internet terrifies me. Newspapers fantasise about a future in which the concept of an ‘office’ may disappear entirely. The Den Bosch University of Applied Sciences, where my father works, has requested employees to limit their presence in the building to just one day a week during the coming academic year.

The universities seem very satisfied with their ‘on campus when we can, online because we can’, and forced use of the virtual classrooms. Note the word ‘when’, which implies a bleak and uncertain future, rather than a sunny one. A better slogan would have been: ‘online because we must, on campus when we can’.

Student associations have reopened under strict but just regulations, and, thank God, people are repopulating the forlorn terraces on the market square. Gyms are expected to reopen soon. I hope we will be able to return to the campus soon. Until that time, I will obediently take my seat in the virtual classroom. Because I must.

Geert van Zandbrink studies Economics and Governance.