Organisation - May 30, 2013

'Wageningen would be boring without university'

Of the city of Wageningen's 750 years, the university has existed for the best part of the last century. What impact does the presence of students and academics have on 'ordinary' townspeople? What would Wageningen be like without the university?

Public day Food4You 2012: Wageningen UR makes sure there is bread on the plate.
What impact does the presence of students and academics have on 'ordinary' townspeople? What would Wageningen be like without the university?

Rien Spee and Janny Onderstal
Born and bred in Wageningen
Rien: 'Without the university Wageningen would be an aging city. It's nice to have all those students around. I grew up with them and the hazing rituals - the freshers used to be shaved and sat fishing in a drain.'
Janny: 'My family used to rent out rooms to students. The hazing rituals were always fun. At our place the lads used to have to measure out the long corridor upstairs with a matchstick. Now we live near the KSV and they always let us know when there is something on there - very correct.'
Trees van Arkel - van der Kemp
Born 'a long time ago' in Rotterdam
'People from outside Wageningen coming to live here makes it nicer: Wageningen people are not always terribly friendly. It is true that student houses are often a mess, but that doesn't affect me. During the coronation students in the neighbourhood had a barbecue out on the field. No problem. I am nearly 89 but I was young once too. When the dear things have had a drink too many and walk home blabbering and yelling, it does wake you up, yes. But you just turn over and go back to sleep.'
Johan Breet
Owns a bicycle shop in the centre
'I get a lot of students in the shop, often with something wrong with a bike, and WUR staff find their way
to us to. I think the presence of a university has an effect on the atmosphere in the town. It is a city that feels like a village; a lot of people know each other here and that makes it a nice place to live. The town's population is younger and more highly educated thanks to the university. I wouldn't be such a jolly bike repairman if I was in Ede, where people are more religious and stiffer.'
Kimberly van Kuilenburg
Born and bred in Wageningen, shop assistant
'When I go out I do meet them around the town - students. And I have sometimes seen egg fights at the bus station and other crazy behaviour on the street. But it doesn't bother me. At weekends there is a girl from the university working here and she is nice. She often talks about parties. It sometimes sounds as though they do more partying than studying. After five o'clock groups of Chinese sometimes come into the shop. It can be a problem that they don't speak Dutch and their English is poor. But some of them also ask at the till how to say goodbye in Dutch.'
Tom Kool
Wageningen town centre manager for retailers' association SOW
'Wageningen and Wageningen UR are inextricably connected, and we realize we need each other. The university couldn't do without the nice town with its good mix of catering and retail outlets. And without the university, Wageningen would be very small. On the other hand, the university wouldn't have had much future without the new campus. Students look at the facilities when they choose a university. In the old days people were satisfied with a funfair, now they want a theme park like the Efteling. You have to compete in the world. In these times we all have to do our best to keep our customers satisfied - in the university's case, the students, who are going to have their grants cut now as well. So collaboration will only become more important. It is possible that more international students will come, and we as business people will have to make sure we cater for them too.'
Jan Rijkse
Wageningen resident and former janitor at a primary school
'It's ever so nice, having all the students around. In the old days I used to go and watch the hazing rituals. They used to have to cross the harbour canal with a rope. Then we would show that we could do it too. And on Thursday nights my mates and I used to go for a beer in the Ceres cellar or in a bar at the bottom of one of the tower blocks. If you behaved yourself you were welcome even as a non-student. The university really livens things up here. Without the university we wouldn't have the Heerenstraat cinema, the Loburg pub and so many other cafes - and no doubt there wouldn't be a Leeffestival either. Lots of volunteers have something to do with the university - like my neighbour, who studied cucumbers. And the university provides work, so the people of Wageningen should be happy about that.'
Annemarie van Holten
Works in psychiatric care
'I have been living in Wageningen for a year and a half, and it still amazes me how many people have some sort of connection with agriculture, nutrition and the university. That is probably why there is an eco-butcher here and organic farms where the potatoes come straight from the field. And last year in the centre there was an event with snacks and good nutrition and vitamins - what was it called again? [The Food4you festival, ed.] It was busy and at times like that you can see that the university is a lively feature of the town. Wageningen may be small but it does feel like a city and that could well be because of the university.'  

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