Wageningen University is celebrating its 95th year on 15 March - although the precise date of the anniversary is the ninth. The celebrations will take the traditional form of a symposium and a ceremony. The recipe tends to attract a small segment of the academic community: there are always plenty of academic gowns and pin stripes in evidence.
text: Albert Sikkema, Linda van der Nat and Rob Ramaker
Third year Animal Sciences
'I have never been to a Dies Natalis ceremony. Actually, I don't even know the date. That could just be me of course, but the same goes for my friends. We don't talk about Dies Natalis, at any rate. If the university wants to get more students at the event, there should be more publicity. If it was my job to make the party more appealing I would make sure there was good music. It is a birthday so there's nothing wrong with making a real party of it. Of course there should also be some depth, so you want interesting lectures as well. There should be something for everyone.'
'I entirely agree with the propo-sition. I have said for years that Dies Natalis is for a broad group, especially on major anniversaries. And that is why there is a broad programme this year especially geared to students. The honorary doctors are holding masterclasses, for example, and there are presentations by PhD students. Our multi-talented professor Marten Scheffer is giving a unique musical performance packed with scientific information. During the official ceremony there will be interesting stories from the director general of the world food organization FAO and the Wageningen honorary professor Louise Fresco. I will talks about the role of Wageningen UR in the field of food security and the student orchestra De Ontzetting will play. Students and staff are welcome. And we are working on publicity for the day using fliers amongst other things. Unfortunately we still don't have a very big hall on campus but soon we shall really be able to push the boat out, thanks to Orion. In order to accommodate a lot of people it is still in the Junushof theatre this time. I truly hope we will be able to welcome lots of people at our jubilee festivities. It is a party for all of us!'
Professor of Human Nutrition and chair of the Beer Knowledge Institute
'For a jubilee celebration I would opt for both a ceremony and a party. Once every five years we should splash out, certainly now that we have such a lovely campus in Wageningen. A nice big marquee with free beer, wine and meatballs shouldn't be a problem. I propose that we make it a tradition to do this every five years from the 100th anniversary. It's just a pity it's still so cold on 9 March.'
First year Biology
'I happened to be putting up posters today and I didn't see anything about Dies Natalis. It doesn't ring a bell either: I don't even know when Dies Natalis is. If they want to make it open to students they should hold it here on campus, anyway. There is plenty of space here. It would at least be nice if they could involve active students. But I do understand their running a symposium: after all you come to university to gain knowledge. Personally I wouldn't know want else I would want for students. I am not very interested in how many years the university has existed, myself.'
Member of the student council (VeSte)
'We are happy that the university has been in existence for 95 years and that it is doing so well. We think it is nice that there is a symposium with a substantial theme; after all, that is what the university is working on. But we would have liked to see the university broadening it out a bit. We don't think the way it is organized now appeals to students. It could be a bit less formal, with more small elements that are of interest to students as well. It would be nice if they had really made an event of it. A festival over several days, for example, with a theme and a debate and a big party to finish up with.'
Director of Communication Services
'Dies Natalis has a rich tradition with a beautiful ceremony, and that should be cherished. You don't need a big party. We did that on the occasion of the opening of the campus and the Forum. Then there was a party for staff and students, with good food and drink, a band and bungee jumping. But Dies Natalis is a tradition, something unique. Your birthday should not be interchangeable with other parties. So don't do it.'
Member of Facilities & Services staff association
'Dies Natalis is a birthday, and you shouldn't change it too much or it won't be so special anymore. But once every five or ten years it's OK to lay on something special for staff and students. Definitely in five years' time, when the university reaches its centenary year. At moments like that it should be for everybody.'