Science - April 24, 2008

The rector comes for supper

There’s tension in the air, rooms have been tidied and the table has been laid: the rector’s expected any minute. Not an everyday event in most students’ lives, and the international students still living in the IPO building were surprised that Martin Kropff chose to visit their dwelling for a drink and a bite to eat.

University rector Martin Kropff (second from left) visits students for supper.
Delicious food smells are wafting out of the IPO building. Once inside, it’s excited chaos, as all present put the finishing touches to their national dishes. The students still living in the IPO building responded to a joint initiative of the Student Council and the Rector Magnificus himself to visit students at home for dinner. As Rishi Kukreja, a member of the Student Council, puts it: ‘This way the rector gets to talk to other students than those in the Wageningen student organisations.’
João Marchante is the one who wrote a letter to the Student Council: ‘We read about the idea in a flyer, you could apply as a corridor or group and if your reasons were good enough the rector would come for supper. It started as a joke really, but in the end I just wrote a letter. I’m glad he’s come though, at my university this wouldn’t happen. He’s cool.’
After the dishes have been put on the table, a bit of a stiff round of introductions starts, of the students and representatives of a number of organisations. But the ice is soon broken once eating gets underway and the small talk starts. The rector recounts that the IPO building was his first place of work in Wageningen: ‘Your big living room is where the canteen used to be.’ The response is laughter; it’s difficult to imagine it having been a canteen: the wall paintings and second hand furniture barely hide the remains of the party last Thursday.
For the IPO building residents there’s one item high on the agenda: the clearance of the building. ‘We all have to be out by 22 April. Most of us already have alternative accommodation, but it’s a bit like splitting up a big family and that’s a real shame. We asked Idealis if there were perhaps some places where a few of us could share together, but it wasn’t always possible,’ says one of the students. Another nods in agreement. Kropff listens sympathetically and adds that he is impressed at the number of nationalities and the friendly atmosphere in the IPO building. ‘Unfortunately Idealis has to comply with living standards, and the IPO building is very old. It was already old in 1984 when I came to work here.'
‘The only thing we missed here were Dutch students. There were lots of nationalities but no Dutch. Now we hear that Idealis is relocating international students to the Bornsesteeg. That way we’ll never meet Dutch students, which is a shame,’ adds another student. Representatives of the Erasmus Student Network point out that there are lots of international organisations in Wageningen. ‘You can always go to them with ideas or suggestions.’
‘Of course I haven’t just come here to listen to complaints,’ laughs Kropff. ‘I’m also curious to know what you like about our university.’ Regina responds: ‘The education and the facilities here are very good, as is the English. And there’s lots of choice of subjects, that’s what I like.’ It’s not only the conversations that confirm this view; Wageningen T-shirts and sweaters are clearly visible as well. ‘And you can even eat in the library here. You can’t do that at home!’