The tenures of Lars Ahsman (Laurentius), Scott Wentzel (SSR) and Lotte van den Bergh (CoR) as the chairs of the four student associations have started out differently from those of all their predecessors. Whereas their predecessors were mainly busy with making sure first-year students had a good time during their introduction period, the days of these chairs are swamped with making corona plans instead. And while these plans appeared to be up to date and in effect last week, they were already outdated by Monday evening.
Yet you do not hear them complaining when you ask the chairs about the tightening up of the corona measures. Scott Wentzel of the SSR: “Actually, we already foresaw that the maximum group size had to be reduced from fifty to thirty. And most of the other decisions are also to understand too.”
The SSR paid an expensive price for a lesson learnt this summer, when 23 members of the association returned infected from a trip to Greece. The incident – which surfaced just before the start of Eureka week – was severely sanctioned by Rector Rutger Engels. He initially excluded SSR from all activities during the introduction week. “We became extremely careful after that. Our introduction time is therefore quite different from normal; more focused on teaching standards and values. Usually we let first-year students have a blast – which invariably involves a lot of physical contact – but obviously this is not happening at the moment. Hopefully they will make up for that later on, but now the motto is: stay seated at the pub and wash your hands.”
SSR is fully behind being ‘100 percent corona-proof’ at the student club. What goes on in the student houses is a completely different matter though. Wentzel: “Of course we appeal to our members to consider other people’s safety, but what really happens when they walk out the door is not so easy to control. That’s why we first sent an email to all the student houses, and now we’re also going to get in touch with the house elders in person. We are urging them to take action to ensure that there is some form of social control aimed at curbing the virus. After all, a student house is a group of friends, so you should be able to talk to each other about inappropriate behaviour. Don’t just go to the beach for the day, avoid unnecessary trips. The sense of urgency has certainly intensified after the last press conference. The tone is much sharper now, and the message is definitely getting through.”
'The virus is now hitting Laurentius too'
They also saw the storm coming at Laurentius. Chair Lars Ahsman: “We last tightened up our plans a couple of weeks ago. Before we could even carry them out, these new measures had already landed on our plates. That’s logical, of course, given that while we hardly saw any infections three weeks ago, the virus is now hitting Laurentius too.”
In response to the early closing times, Laurentius recently brought the opening times of the club forward from 9 pm to 6 pm, and as of this week, it is even open at 5 in the afternoon. “It’s really important to be able to offer new students -who are still secondary school students in a way -a home base. Having a drink together is a part of that, of course.”
Even before the new measures came into force, Laurentius advised its members to organise get-togethers in cafés, where the rules are more easily enforced than in student houses. Ahsman: “You don’t have much control over any of that in houses as it is. Now that we have to close earlier, I contacted all forty house elders personally and asked them to make sure that the rules are being followed. If you do this face-to-face, then it’s more effective than sending an email or a letter. Which means I’m busy all day, that’s true. But I’m just not as comfortable with student house parties than with get-togethers held at the club. Let’s just hope that it doesn’t end up in a real lockdown.”
'You can't intrude on private lives'
Lotte van den Bergh, chair of the Rotterdam Advisory Board of Student Associations (the RKvV, Rotterdamse Kamer van Verenigingen) has qualms about how the measures concerning closing times in the hospitality sector also affects student associations. “In fact, infections have not really been contracted at student clubs where students tend to get together in smaller groups. You can’t force people to behave better this way because you can’t intrude on their private lives like that.” As far as this is concerned, Van den Bergh is expecting more from the plans that the five Rotterdam social clubs of the RKvV are currently working on. “I hope that this will lead to some good ideas that will promote public awareness.” The plans are to be presented in the near future.
These plans are unrelated to the prize recently promised by Rotterdam’s mayor Aboutaleb for the best campaign idea aimed at making students aware of the importance of the corona measures. The winning plan will be announced during an online meeting at the university on Monday October 5.