The arrival of a big removal van marks the last day of villa Arion's long service as the headquarters of Wageningen's political activism. For more than four decades, this was where student union WSO, which recently merged into Pulse, coordinated its activities and campaigns as well as the student services that gave student life in Wageningen added zest. Pulse will be continuing WSO's activities from its office in the Building with the Clock. Let's recall Arion's glorious past one last time.
Arion was once the home of Dr Niemeijer, an honorary citizen of Wageningen and the person for whom the street is named. The property was bought by the Agricultural College in 1965. When did WSO take up residence? It's funny we should ask because although until recently the building housed many cubic metres of records, no one can give us an exact date. The storage of thousands of forms evidently creates no more than a vague sense of history ... But it must have been somewhere between '65 and '69.
Arion's high point was undoubtedly the ‘Wageningen Spring' in 1980. Campaigning students occupied the Administration Centre on the Salverdaplein for a whole month. The telephones were cut off but the occupiers used walkie-talkies to maintain contact with Arion. The demonstration was coordinated from the villa and, if eviction looked imminent, a back-up contingent could be drummed up.
Arion means something to a much wider audience than just WSO. This is because all Wageningen's student organisations were allowed to use the building. Free of charge and with the popular option of going on all night long. In the new Pulse residence, the Building with the Clock, this will no longer be possible. Security shuts all the doors without fail at midnight. On the dot.
Many former students know of Arion thanks to the HousingDesk, unquestionably WSO's most successful long-term project. These days it is a website, but it used to be literally a desk where those in need and providers could browse through a series of card-index boxes. By the way, the HousingDesk has survived WSO and is going from strength to strength: last year over 800 rooms were found via the site.
It is no secret that over the years WSO has lost some of its appeal. But that's not the reason for the move from Arion. The property is simply too expensive for the university, which pays the bills, and a list of long-overdue repairs has only made that problem more pressing. The insulation, for example, is so poor that some rooms can only be used in summer. Substantial renovation work awaits the new owner (the property is now for sale). But the end result will be a splendid home in a fabulous location. No doubt Pulse will still occasionally remember the villa with nostalgia.
With thanks to Karmijn van den Berg, the last chairperson of WSO.