150 columns later...


I’m sorry to disappoint you all; despite my musings in an earlier column, I won’t be serving as the new rector at this university. Although I do feel like a team player with a hands-on mentality, my perfectionism proved to be my Achilles heel. What’s more, my new job isn’t even south of the ‘Land of Maas and Waal’.

Since mid-December, I’ve been working at the University of Amsterdam as an assistant professor of “persuasive communication”. Finally, some recognition from the elite within the Amsterdam Ring. And of course, the jealousy of the provincial southerners immediately flared up. Before long, I received an e-mail from Cursor’s editor-in-chief inviting me to the editorial office for a chat. And so, after some 150 columns, this is the end of the road for me. By mutual agreement, of course, as my press officer would have me say.

So am I the only one who successfully kept writing columns or did those other columnists just leave at the right time? In 2012, I started writing for Cursor, and every two weeks, I would compete with Bor, Thomas, Jim, Erik, Britte, several Jessicas and many others for a spot in the column of the then still paper-based Cursor issue. One by one, they all eventually got tired of it, but I stuck around. Now, more than a decade later, that competitive spirit has been replaced by comfort, and an agreement to write for the digital newspaper every six to eight weeks.

Of course, not everything has to be competitive, but the urge to write on the cutting edge seems to have diminished. My fellow columnists should be writing more about current events rather than themselves. And that might be easy for me to say in this final self-centered column, but as a columnist, it would be nice to once again get suspicious looks from a member of the Executive Board in the elevator.

It’s an open secret that eight years ago, the Cursor column had its own spot on the Executive Board’s meeting agenda every other week, just before AOB. Granted, I frequently opted for entertainment as well, but I too was often faced with Executive Board members who didn’t know whether to say “hi” to me or not. As a Cursor columnist, you should be somewhat familiar to fellow students and higher-ups.

TU/e has grown continuously over the past decade. That much is blindingly obvious, but the sense of intimacy at the university where I started studying in 2008 slowly slipped away over the years. And so, as a PhD student, I found it increasingly difficult to befriend staff at any level. I started writing in the IPO building, got along well with Twan, the building manager, had a daily chat with Unni (the building’s conscience) and got to share the same jokes with the canteen staff at the Paviljoen. In Atlas, everything felt bigger and less personal, with its many open office spaces.

And now, I'm leaving for a department that has 750 first-year communications students - and that’s also not ideal. But some of those at the university I'm leaving behind seem to have forgotten the importance of community and comfort. If working from home is going to remain as popular as it is today, even among local people, something will have to change.

It had nothing to do with Cursor's editors. I was given a lot of free rein and many opportunities, even though there was a correction request for one of my satire pieces after only four weeks. In addition to writing columns, I got to help out during the Intro by writing up small reports. About the water gun of the Intro dad for mechanical engineering group 12, for example, or a hangover breakfast with burnt bacon bits. After a few years, I got my own advice column, ‘Ask Alain’, and our in-house photographer Bart van Overbeeke put me on a Sinterklaas throne in a Nuenen storehouse for the column’s cover photo. I also got to work on the psychology feature 'TUssen de oren', thanks to which I now have about 120 photos of my own face showing all different kinds of emotions. I can forgive the editors for not thinking as highly of my 'journalistic' writing skills.

Writing for Cursor was honorable work. The enthusiastic reactions from readers, including those from Brigit, Monique, Judith, Han and Norbine from the editorial team, always made it worthwhile. When I first started, I was still somewhat anxious about getting angry reactions, but eventually, I learned to enjoy the carefully worded emails from Telegraaf readers in particular. I would also like to send my regards to S. Lagerlöf from our rival satire platform, and to give special thanks to my wife Rolijn, who also acted as my ghostwriter one time.

What's left to say when you know the end is near? A lot, apparently, but there is also an art to knowing when to stop. However, with more than a decade of column-writing behind me, it would appear I'm not very good at that, so I won't rule out the possibility of coming back here someday. Until then, I'll make sure to come around every once in a while, I'll continue to listen to the poor pub quiz scores of the student teams in De Wildeman (S/o Brand X) with astonishment, and I'm always up for a game of squash at the SSC. So long, everyone.

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