Last Monday I attended my second ceremony for the Opening of the Academic Year since I study at WUR. Thinking back to last year’s ceremony, I sensed exciting changes on a few fronts.
Perhaps the most obvious clue of a soft revolution was in the speakers’ interventions. As Churchill once said, great men discuss ideas, whereas average people discuss facts. Indeed, for the first time since I attend a public event with representatives of Wageningen University, not only facts, but also ideas were discussed.
Louise Fresco, the new President of the Executive Board, gave a fresh start. She spoke under a set of green-orange-red lights about the urgency to face the wave of superstition and fear of science, which is impeding some crucial developments in our current society. I would have been more cautious in using the concept of ‘enlightenment’ as she did, but, after all, I am a social scientist. Her speech was really something of an attempt to infuse some philosophy into the microscopes, greenhouses and spectrophotometers of Wageningen UR. A PhD from Scotland picked up on her points with great eloquence - he almost improvised a TED talk! - and the audience was thrilled.
The speech of the Rector Magnificus was more unglamorous, and the most familiar one. He fulfilled his role, promoted Wageningen University, stressing how great of a time are students having – and of course, how well placed are funds going to this university. Judging from the quality and quantity of the buffet, I would say that the money really is well placed. A pity I did not see many students taking interest in the opening ceremony. After all, we could all spare two hours of our time to listen to good speakers and get a glass of fresh orange juice.
The glowing lamp, the gift of Louise Fresco to every guest of the ceremony, will remind me of this event. Although, I would have found the gift of a candle (maybe made with sustainable palm oil and fair trade essential oils) a more enlightened and enlightening symbol of a more attentive and braver Wageningen University.