BFF | Summervibes
Initially, my plan was to close this academic year with a trifle on the benefits of smoking an occasional cigarette during a night of pub crawling. However, current events compel me to refer those interested in the scientific substantiation of this statement to my lectures in the coming academic year. Because of the, rather necessary, reform of the Bachelor College, I am allowed to teach the fascinating molecular cell biology course even twice next year. So, there are plenty of opportunities for students to immerse themselves, either obligatorily or voluntarily, in anecdotes (in Dutch) from the life of a chemical biologist.
As such, for today something different; the TU/e community currently feels a strong need to propagate that the university is about the least safe place in the region to study and work. We regularly are being told that there is a lack of social safety, a lack of openness, presence of micro-aggressions and a lack of democracy. Real abuse needs to be tackled with decisiveness. An overall picture currently emerges, however, that it is safer to be a high-voltage electrician or to work under constant pressure at night in the hospitality industry, than to be told every now and then at a university that the paper you handed in does not meet the requirements.
It is striking that those who seem to be most fanatically committed to reforming the university precisely create the unsafe atmosphere they say they are combating. It is hallucinatory that it is also said that democracy sometimes must give way to this goal. It is a mystery to me – as a simple and socially probably somewhat limited bèta – how you can ride your high horse on how the university should become more democratic and simultaneously want to impose the opinions of a small group of people including using verbal and physical aggression and manipulation of the media.
I too disagree with certain developments at TU/e. It is, for example, with regret that I see the Dutch language skills of our students decreasing. I also find it undesirable that some TU/e bachelors have become less accessible to potential Dutch students, whose parents pay the taxes that fund those courses.
Nevertheless, I am not going to deface posters or physically push our security personnel out of the way to get my way. I try to steer the English-speaking ship back to a more balanced direction through attractive education in Dutch and through the democratic process. And otherwise, I can always draw my own conclusions and leave for example for Germany (by the way, a much more important country for the Netherlands than England or the United States), to teach there in the beautiful German language with a flamboyant Dutch accent. The students there seem to like that, a kind of Rudi Carrell-professor, or Linda de Mol or Sylvie Meis for the younger generations.
What also helps me personally is to have a cup of coffee every now and then with those with another opinion. As a proponent of intellectual diversity and solid arguments, I am convinced that those in favor of English-taught bachelor education (or whatever Dunglish and other variants of English are actually used) are not in it to proactively demolish Dutch universities. They have a different perspective and that is part of a healthy university. As long as we together strive for excellence, we will succeed. With mediocrity, with or without radical social changes, there is nothing left to contribute to a better world.
I wish everyone a nice summer. Relax with a few pints, maybe even a cigarette, and take the time for a chat outside your own echo chamber. My door is open.
BFF | Bald, Frizzy or Flowing is a joint initiative of Willem Mulder (Bald), Monique Bruining (Frizzy) and Luc Brunsveld (Flowing), that they started at the beginning of 2023 on the site of Cursor.