Science - October 13, 2005

Protest reception with paper chain

At most receptions words of praise flow freely, as does the free drink. At the farewell reception for former rector Bert Speelman, organised by the Student Council on Wednesday 5 October, the words flowed but students had to pay for their own beer. It was a ‘protest reception’ complete with a paper ‘chain of office’.


Former rector Bert Speelman hung the paper chain around the neck of his successor Martin Kropff

Exactly what took place at the ceremony for the official handing over of the rectorship at the end of August is known only to a select group of professors and others who were present. But at Unitas student club the rector Professor Martin Kropff meekly bowed his head before his successor Professor Bert Speelman, as the latter hung the paper chain of office around his neck in front of the assembled students – the real chain was of course not available.

The students decided to organise their own reception when they heard that the university did not intend to mark the occasion of the change of rector during the opening of the academic year in September. On 29 November there will be a ceremonial changing of the guard, when according to tradition, rectors from other Dutch universities will also be present.

For the protest reception the student council had invited the board members of the various student clubs. Cathelijne Stoof spoke on behalf of the student council and looked back on Speelman’s five-year period of office. She praised him for all he had done for students and education, and appointed the former rector ‘honorary advisor’ to the student council.

Speelman in turn said that he would look back with pleasure on his time as rector and thanked the students for the reception. The new rector Kropff thanked Speelman for his efforts, which culminated in Wageningen reaching first place in the Higher Education Guide. He declared that he had a hard task ahead. ‘Reaching first place is one thing; keeping it is another,’ said Kropff.

Speelman had more advice for the new rector. At the end of the ceremony he persuaded Kropff to get up on stage with him and initiated him into one of the good traditions of the executive board: that of providing a vat of beer for student festivities. And so at last the beer flowed freely. / JH

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