Rumours of all sorts of measures were doing the rounds before the Prime Minister and Minister for  . One of their announcements was that cafés, restaurants and cultural institutions will be allowed to reopen their doors and stay open until 10pm. The letter written by the Chamber of Societies was published on Monday, the day before the press conference.

The Dutch student societies feel that students should be allowed to build social relationships, develop their identities and realise their potential in various ways. The lockdowns are preventing them from doing so, which is resulting in mental health issues.

More than drinks

“Student societies are not just places where people get together to drink,” the authors of the letter stated. They referred to sports activities, bible-reading sessions, rehearsals for theatre and music performances, debate nights, libraries, committee meetings, symposiums, lectures, games nights and study facilities. All these things, they said, set societies apart from what they call ‘traditional’ cafés and restaurants.

Student societies can ease students’ mental health issues, the authors said, but only if they are granted permission to engage in those activities that you wouldn’t expect from a regular café. They even came up with a slogan: ‘Zet mentaal centraal: open de verenigingen’ (Focus on mental health: open the societies).

Long term

Julia van den Bosch, the president of the Rotterdam Chamber of Societies, is optimistic and believes the relaxations are a step in the right direction. However, she would also like to see a long-term solution. “As soon as a new lockdown is announced, societies will be told to close their doors again. As we indicated in the letter, student societies are much more than places where people get together to enjoy a few drinks. Without the social contacts provided by societies, students will be isolated and more prone to mental health issues.”