Boat on the river Waal. Photo | Bart van Overbeeke

English-language Mystery Tour with beer and coffee

Give two students of every student, sport, and study association and a large proportion of TU/e administrators the opportunity to spend an entire day together, and you'll hear what's going on at the university. This is the thinking behind the Mystery Tour, which has been held every other year since 1997. Yesterday two full buses took the group to Nijmegen.

TU/e ought to become ‘a brewery university’. That raised a laugh all day long. It was a slip of the tongue, made on the morning of the Mystery Tour during the debate. The intention was to say that the campus ought to be lively. And that it should be okay to drink beer on campus because everyone deserves a party now and again. Alcohol has its uses, after all at its regular Thursday afternoon drinks party, Van der Waals offers an easy way to have a chat with your professor, says Robert of the Applied Physics study association. Koen Strien, president of the student social association SSRE responds by saying that you can just as easily have a relaxed conversation with your lecturer over a cup of coffee.

In English please

The Mystery Tour is held every other year to allow the board members of student associations and TU/e managers to come together and talk about topical matters at the university. The only mysterious element is the destination, for the rest the program is fixed: in the morning, a debate based on propositions, after that a good lunch, a visit to a company - usually a brewery - and then a boat trip. As member of the Board Jo van Ham said in his welcome speech: “We can't lose any students on a boat”.  A new feature this year is that the debate is conducted in English.

Right at the first of the 29 propositions up for discussion, debate host Carlo van de Weijer (Director of TU/e’s strategic area Smart Mobility) jokes that the adoption of English is still 'in transition'. The text reads: ‘Students who complain about the heavy workload@TU/e are zesjescultuur whimps.’ The propositions are divided into four categories: workload, diversity and inclusiveness, internationalization and language, and alcohol united.

Switching sides

Whenever the large majority shares the same view, for example, whether the Executive Board should draw up rules to prohibit chanting (“no!”) or should require the study associations to include 30 percent internationals (“no!”), Van de Weijer asks whether for the sake of debate, some people will defend the opposing standpoint. Only a few switch sides.


Religion is another topic the discussion prompts the administrators to consider. Should it stay at home or can you only feel at home on campus if there is scope for your faith? In his closing words, Jan Mengelers has this to say: “We are a non-religious university, no academic year opening will ever include a prayer. But we must consider how we can help everyone to feel at home.”


After lunch the group splits in two for a tour and tasting in either the beer brewery or coffee-roasting house attached to De Hemel, the brewery cafe. In procession formation, with student music group Quadrivium out in front, the TU/e delegation makes its way through the center of Nijmegen.


A big step

While tasting the white beer Serafijn, American student Kristi Baker of the Eindhoven branch of the European student association AEGEE is keen to say two things. One: She is very pleased that the Executive Board is truly interested in what students like herself think. Two: She had no idea that Dutch students saw the woman-unfriendly announcement of a carnival party held by the E.S.C. society Aleph as a joke. She realized this when proposition 6 was discussed:  ‘A woman's will is irrelevant #niettoo should be considered as a carnival joke, not as a sexist slogan’. Not that everyone sees it that way. Wouter Kuypers of Quadrivium says: “Metoo is very serious and not something to joke about.” Koen Strien answers: “Without this joke, we wouldn't be talking about it now.”

They didn't reach agreement. But that's okay; just mulling it over together is a big step in itself.

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