Dean Jacobs waits for her visitor in the monumental entrance hall of the former municipal library in the heart of Rotterdam. No handshakes of course. But if the reporter would just like to go back to the hand disinfectant gel dispenser at the entrance … Jacobs is the first to admit that the new rules take some getting used to. “Yesterday, I accidentally walked out of my room twice without a face mask,” she laughs.

Stricter enforcement

There are about seven hundred students at the Erasmus University College, and despite the corona pandemic, just as many have arrived this year as in previous years. The majority of the students come from abroad, where much stricter corona regulations are in force than in the Netherlands. And because new students of the EUC are housed together during their propaedeutic year, contact tends to be very intensive. All the more reason for stricter corona regulations than at other places at the Erasmus University. In full consultation with the Executive Board, of course.

Jacobs: “Collective learning in a face-to-face setting is very important at our Liberal Arts and Science college. During the pandemic, we also want to offer our students more than just online education. So, where possible, we teach in actual classes and on campus. This is only possible if everyone cooperates in maintaining social distancing of 1.5 metres. Aside from that, we have set the rule that everyone who passes through the buildings should wear a face mask. We can’t make that compulsory, but so far everyone is keeping to it. In fact, out of respect for the teachers and fellow students, some students even wear face masks during lectures.”

Gabriele Jacobs dean EUC
EUC dean Gabriele Jacobs. Image credit: Fabienne Hoogendoorn

Matter of respect

Jacobs hears from her colleagues at other University Colleges in the Netherlands that many of them have introduced the same regulations. Jacobs is less interested in the fact that face masks are not a national policy. “As long as they help to reduce the risk by even just 5 percent, that’s reason enough. Besides, they constantly remind us that we have to keep our distance. I think they contribute to a positive safety culture, where we thoughtfully help each other remember the regulations.”

EUC’s student association feels very strongly when it comes to following the regulations. With some regret in his voice, chair William Sampaeo Shain says his presidency is different from that of all his predecessors. “Whereas during the introductory period they were busy  with organizing cool parties and a variety of in-person events, in our case, health and safety is paramount. I feel that this does not necessarily restrict our students’ freedom. Yes, I love my freedom, but I want my fellow students to feel safe too. Wearing a face mask is a matter of respect as far as we are concerned.”

Wonderful introduction week

In spite of the stricter rules, Sampaeo Shain says that the first-year students of the EUC have had a wonderful introduction week. “We were able to organize plenty of outdoor activities, such as a scavenger hunt all over Rotterdam as well as icebreaker events in the park. We also did a lot of great stuff in terms of content, such as a podcast about sustainability. In spite of corona, a good introduction week is of the utmost importance for new students who also get an emotional and physical boost out of it.”

Strict precautions or not, last Sunday it turned out that one student was infected with the coronavirus. According to Jacobs, this student went directly into self-quarantine along with four of their contacts. The others have also been tested for the coronavirus (all negative).