Nieuws - 17 februari 2016

Blog: All along the watchtower

I have great affection for Wageningen University. It is such a freeing and enriching place to be. Nevertheless, it is getting too crowded now, and I can’t help but missing the intimate feeling it used to give me.

This is my last blog. I am about to leave Wageningen University. By now, I am eager to move on to another phase of my life. Dealing with the new wave of students is like being forced to watch all episodes of ‘Dawson’s Creek’ again. But I also see that, as students come and go, with their experiences and memories, the university is changing, while staying the same in many ways. For example, people still love to think of this university as something with a clear and morally concerned outlook — ‘for quality of life’.

So it was Saturday night in the global village. All along the watchtower, amid other intoxicated creatures up to their activity of choice, I came across something extraordinary and moving. The foundation stone of Wageningen University! In the ditch that surrounds the old city walls, partly submerged, lies a piece of rotting wood in the shape of the university logo. There is no other possible explanation for that piece of wood in that shape lying there: it is to remind us of our humble yet proud upbringing, between fluidity and boundaries. Just like the university, it is being put under pressure by environmental factors. More and more life forms find their way into the myriad of corridors in the wood, which means it is offering a habitat to many, but therefore there is also more demand, more competition, more and faster transformation.
My thoughts drift: Is the turnover and growth and the infiltration of capitalism making Wageningen university amoral? And if so, can we halt this process of deterioration of ‘our’ moral foundations?

In the ditch that surrounds the old city walls, partly submerged, lies a piece of rotting wood in the shape of the university logo.

I could not imagine that over an aimless late night walk far away from the campus, at 10pm last Saturday, near the Wageningen museum, I would find an answer. Is (part of) Wageningen UR becoming amoral? To answer to Kees van Veluw’s column, I think it depends. (Ha! you didn’t expect this, did you?) On the one hand, Wageningen has many staff and students morally committed to the improvement of the quality of life. In my 2,5 years here I have met amazing, inspiring, generous people, from all departments and affiliations. However, on the other hand, I have also noticed capitalism and the rat-race lifestyle sneak into academia, from classrooms to publications. At WUR it is even harder to admit this because we are supposed to be a free thinkers with a moral outlook.

Can we let the foundations of Wageningen UR crumble by what seems inevitable entropic evolution? We need chemically preserving agents! Sense of place! Landscape restoration! Green-yellow-red lights crowning the rotting wood, blinking in series to signify the societal acceptance of scientific innovation! Foreign capital! A copy of the wood in bioplastics to place on the campus!

'There must be some way out of here,' said the joker to the thief,
'There's too much confusion, I can't get no relief.
Businessmen, they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth,
None of them along the line know what any of it is worth.'

Bob Dylan

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This was Camilla’s last blog for Resource. Read all of Camilla’s blogs here.