American plant scientist Chris van Kessel regularly collaborates with Wageningen colleagues. On his latest visit he saw a burgeoning campus culture, but feels the university could be more open and welcoming.
‘I recently visited the University of Wageningen and enjoyed the architectural variety in the new teaching and research buildings. Wageningen University is looking more and more like a campus university of the kind you see in Anglo-Saxon countries.
There were two things, however, which I felt were counterintuitive and even damaging to the campus culture. To start with, I wanted to call on the WU researchers I have got to know over the years. Sadly, this was practically impossible: you need a pass to get into the buildings. I have visited many laboratories and very many campuses in my time, but nowhere did I need an access pass. And there is a good reason for this: if you want to stimulate a free exchange of ideas, then researchers, students and stakeholders need to be able to drop in to each other’s offices or bump into each other in the corridors. This may sound a trivial point to anyone not acquainted with the idea of a university campus, but in my experience it is essential.
A second problem came up when it came to paying for my lunch. I was part of a five-person delegation from California. We all had cash on us, but cash was not accepted. So we tried credit cards, but they were not accepted either. It turned out you could only pay using a pin code or the obscure chipknip system. Given that the pin code system is not (yet) established in the US, and given that the chipknip system exists nowhere but the Netherlands, I wonder how foreign visitors pay for their lunch at Wageningen University. Do they just walk off in frustration?
I wonder whether people realize how strange these things look from the point of view of an international visitor. They need changing if the university wants to come across as a real, user-friendly campus.’
- Chris van Kessel, Professor and Chairof the Department of Plant Sciences, University of California-Davis, USA (firstname.lastname@example.org)