Student - April 28, 2010

Furnished rooms only, says the monopolist

Two websites suggest that foreign students do not have a good word to say for Idealis. High rents, no choice about furnished accommodation - and Borney's bar is closed. Yet Idealis's own survey suggests that most foreign students are satisfied.

Bornsesteeg room
Two websites have recently appeared that are protesting against the policies of housing provider Idealis. The complaints are about discrimination, and most of them come from the Bornsesteeg, where most of the residents are foreign students. They paint a very different picture to that obtained from two surveys conducted by Idealis on satisfaction levels and wishes of foreign students. True, the Bornsesteeg comes bottom of the class, but it still gets a pass grade of 6.5. 
Meanwhile, on www.wageningenstudents.com, a campaign against discrimination in Wageningen has been launched. The accompanying Facebook page has 155 members, some for and some against the campaign. The initiators think it is unfair that students are assigned furnished rooms on the basis of where they come from. The website also claims that foreign students are not admitted to other residences.
The more subtle website www.againstIdealis.piczo.com is really no more than a poll which 31 people have taken. They are negative about rents and the furniture.

ILLOGICAL
'When I arrived here, it was nice to have furniture provided. That was one less thing to worry about', says Denica Boshinova, a PhD student at Meteorology and air quality. 'But in the long term, it is inconvenient; I want my own furniture now. After two months I went to Idealis to ask for another room, but I wasn't allowed an unfurnished room. That is so illogical. When I see Dutch students' rooms, they are so nicely furnished with their own things.'
Boshinova would like to move, but she doesn't see much chance of doing so. 'I registered for an AIO house, but there are a thousand AIOs and a hundred AIO houses. The waiting list is ridiculously long. I've started to look on the free market now.'
What annoys Boshinova most is that she has to pay for furniture she doesn't want. 'I've paid thirty euros a month now for a whole year. I would rather have used that money to buy second hand furniture that is more my style. I would feel more at home then too.'
Idealis is aware of the irritation about the furniture. A recent poll suggests that 45% of the foreign students do want furniture, and 38% of them want fully furnished accommodation. About 17% of the foreign students object to furniture being compulsory. Idealis spokeswoman Leila Mulder: 'We're looking into the possibilities for meeting student needs, but we certainly don't want this to mean having to raise the rents.' Mulder declines to make a statement about the possibilities, for fear of raising false hopes.

BORNEY'S
Besides airing the dissatisfaction about compulsory furnished rooms, Wageningenstudents.com is also against the closure of Borney's bar in the Bornsesteeg. The bar was closed in August even though it has a full management board. The other high-rise flats do have their own bar. But Idealis won't budge on this one. Mulder: 'It has gone wrong too often in the past. The paperwork was a mess, there were many complaints about nuisance, and communication with the board was extremely troublesome.' So there certainly won't be a bar any more, but Idealis wants to get together with the residents to look into the scope for a common room. On this point too, the results of the Idealis survey are striking. Asked how important a social area is, students rate Borney's at a mere 6.6.
There are also students who are annoyed by all the grumbling. Maxim Amosov from Siberia is in the second year of the MSc in Urban Environmental Management. He is really irritated by Wageningenstudents.com's campaign. 'What nonsense. There is absolutely no discrimination in Wageningen. In Rwanda and Russia there is discrimination, and it leads to a number of deaths every year.' Amosov does see a problem with the monopoly Idealis has. 'House prices in Wageningen are very low compared to Delft and Amsterdam, but it could still be cheaper here. Idealis has a monopoly, which causes a room shortage and high prices. But if you don't like Idealis, you can always join a squat; that is still allowed. There are enough houses in and around Wageningen.'
Amosov is annoyed by some students' attitudes. 'Everything is really well organized here so that you can study well. There are loads of students who don't have a room. But then the University organizes a bungalow for 10 euros a day, paying the other 40 euros themselves. Wageningen welcomes you with open arms. To ask for more than that is just arrogance. Don't blame Wageningen, begin by looking at yourself.'

Furnished rooms: the facts
 Wageningen University reserves 1200 rooms with Idealis for foreign students. Half of these rooms are in the Bornsesteeg. In the rooms there is a desk and chair, a wardrobe, a bed and mattress, curtains and carpeting. All this costs an extra 29 euros per month. When students arrived they can also buy bedlinen and a pillow for 27 euros. Once you've got a furnished room, you're stuck with it. The only way to get hold of an unfurnished Idealis room is to get invited to join the residents of another flat.
 

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