Anything new?


Let me just throw it out there once more: aren’t they young, those freshmen? I kept thinking this back when I was still a student, and I still think it when I’m on campus these days. By now, the number of wrinkles on my forehead far exceeds the estimated age of the students I see passing by. I still can’t get over the idea that I’m teaching people who were born in this millennium.

Still, it seems to me that the age of students is the only serious change that took place on campus over the past two years. Apart from that, things have stagnated somewhat lately. In my experience at least, the news at TU/e has been rather tame for the last couple of months. Of course, I saw a plastic dragon walking in front of Atlas a few weeks back as part of a protest, but is the TU/e campus still moving forward?

TU/e and I are in what you might call a long-distance relationship. I’m merely a guest researcher these days, and the spark is starting to fade somewhat. Sure, I live in Eindhoven, but I mostly go to campus to work out at the SSC. I trust Cursor and other media to keep me informed of what’s happening, but I see few new faces.

Monday evening was no exception. Like a true intellectual, I switched on NPO-2 on linear TV (watching something whenever you feel like it is for people who were born after 2000), and lo and behold (words used by people born before 2000), I saw two familiar faces: Carlo van de Weijer and Maarten Steinbuch. They were interviewed by a VPRO tv program, ‘Tegenlicht,’ about the future of mobility. That was familiar terrain. Their message – cars will continue to play an important role, air travel needs to become more sustainable, but the construction of rail infrastructure is expensive – took me back ten years. During a masterclass he gave at the Honors Program in 2011, Carlo (who worked at TomTom at the time) conveyed the same message, and in the interviews that Maarten gave some ten years ago, with him lying in the frunk of his Tesla, he displayed a similar foresight.

Perhaps I should seek help from a therapist instead of sharing this introspective stream of consciousness with you, but isn’t it true that TU/e has become less eventful since corona? Have our priorities changed? Are students so busy making up for lost social activities that they don’t have time to develop a car that runs on formic acid or buttermilk (one option has already been tried)? Have we worn out our employees with corona-related news to such an extent that there’s nothing left to report on the front pages? Or should I contact Cursor’s ombudsperson and ask for more news? I might be mistaken, but I saw that Bert Meijer won another award again recently – talking about nostalgic news.

Despite my tenuous link with TU/e, my friends still regularly ask me about the situation on campus – perhaps that’s because I once did ‘Ask Alain.’ Until a few years ago, I always had some juicy news to report. Now, all I can come up with is that the area surrounding the Paviljoen is dangerous, to which my friends usually reply that this doesn’t come as a surprise to them.

By the way, everyone is free to interpret this column as an open application from someone who would like to be better informed about what goes on at TU/e by doing some actual work there again. I would be happy to drop by.

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