He wasn’t a big drinker or a flirt. But he was on lots of committees. WUR rector Arthur Mol looks back on his student days with Resource.
© Guy Ackermans
‘My goodness, this has changed,’ says Arthur Mol, indicating the Bassecour apartment complex off the Herenstraat. ‘This used to be the university’s admin building, and we students occupied it when we were dissatisfied with the education programme and wanted more say,’ says the second-in-command at the university with a hint of pride, his smart jacket hanging over his arm.
It is a while since the rector magnificus, who now lives in Utrecht, went out on the town in Wageningen. He does still have a studenty bike, but that’s just for getting between WUR buildings. ‘The Mayor thinks it’s a pity I don’t live in Wageningen but it’s quite nice not to run into your colleagues all the time,’ he says as he sips a beer on the terrace of De Kater on the market square. Alcohol-free, as he has to drive home this evening. Slowly the stories start coming out about his own student days, which started in the late 1970s and went on for seven years.
He moved rooms at least seven times. ‘No, not because there was any shortage of rooms. I just kept fancying a change.’ Mol started out with a landlady – ‘dreadful’ – and moved on to the Asserpark residence, followed by a house opposite Unitas and later one on the Veerstraat. ‘Our landlord there was an unemployed alcoholic in his fifties. He was separated and he had been allocated the house by the municipal council. He usually slept at his wife’s house, though, so he could rent out the house secretly. But when he had a row with his wife he came and slept on the sofa in our kitchen.’
Mol led an active student life, and loved organizing things and being innovative. ‘I was on the AID committee, but it was much less professional than it is now. We never gave any thought to a security plan. You wouldn’t get away with that nowadays.’ Mol belonged to Unitas youth club, he was on an educational policy committee, and he was involved in the ‘imperialism collective’ and the working group on The Environment and the Third World. ‘We talked a lot about the situation in the world and that at the university.’ Evening meetings could be long. But this student of Environmental Sciences was an evening person. ‘I’ll never forget the time a work group scheduled a meeting at a lecturer’s house at 10:30. So I showed up and rang the bell, and the teacher opened the door in her pyjamas. Turned out she meant 10:30 in the morning.’
Not a heavy drinker
We stroll from De Kater to the Conventplein, past the church. ‘Het Gat. Is that still there, actually?’ he asks. A moment later we are standing in front of a closed building that is apparently called ‘Luca’ nowadays. ‘Yes, this is where it was, but it looked much bigger then. And the bar was somewhere else entirely. We would go to the pub at 11 o’clock. At first, it was Unitas, and later Loburg, Troost (which no longer exists, ed.) or Het Gat.’ Mol was never a heavy drinker. ‘In Loburg we once drank three Duvels in a row, and we hadn’t eaten yet. Well, I certainly couldn’t have taken any more.’ Over a long night, from 10 pm to 4 am, his beer consumption could go up to 10 glasses max, he says.
It is time for a bite to eat and Mol heads for Sa Lolla, which opened when he was a student. ‘I ate here occasionally. It hasn’t changed much and the pizzas are still as good,’ says Mol, tucking in with satisfaction. ‘There was Jokari, too, in those days – a canteen where you could eat for free if you helped do the dishes.’
Mol volunteers most anecdotes spontaneously and in detail. Relationships are not mentioned but when pressed, Mol doesn’t mind saying something about that. ‘I think in total I dated about 10 girls, but it never lasted long. Others were much better at that than I was.’ Eventually he met his current partner in Wageningen, and they clicked completely right from the start.