University of Applied Science Council is at odds

Show about inappropriate behaviour jeopardised

A scene from Mindlab. Photo: TheaterMakers Radio Kootwijk (c) Bart Verhoeven

Looking to start a conversation about inappropriate behaviours among students, the executive boards of Utrecht University and the Utrecht University of Applied Sciences had the idea to produce a theatre play together. The play was to be written by an outsourced theatre company. HU's council, however, was very critical of the project, saying that the performance would be too expensive. They also wondered whether students would actually turn up. The University Council doesn’t partake in these concerns and hopes for a solution.

In 2021, UU presented, in cooperation with the University of Twente, a similar show aimed at employees titled Mindlab. It was produced by TheaterMakers Radio Kootwijk, a company that often produces performances commissioned by organisations such as the police and the army. During the play, employees were confronted with a series of tough topics related to integrity and social safety. 

The initiative left the University Council wanting more. The council insisted that a version of Mindlab be organised for students. UU then asked HU if it was interested in it as well, and they said yes. The Executive Board of the university of applied sciences was willing to collaborate so the two institutions approached Theatermakers Radio Kootwijk jointly. The theatre company made an offer to produce around 25 shows about student culture and social safety at the beginning of 2023, to be performed for an audience of approximately 350 students each time.

Critical HU Council
This plan is thus in jeopardy. According to independent news media Trajectum, the chair of the HU Council, Annette Wind, reported on the council meeting held on November 2 that most members were against the proposal. In other words, HU will no longer join the university's project.

Although HU's Council had initially reacted positively to the proposal, many council members were critical of the idea from the start. First of all, because of the costs. TheaterMakers Radio Kootwijk's proposal would cost a total of 735,000 euros. The bill would be split by UU and HU, which means they would pay 367,500 euros each. That comes down to 98 euros per reached student.

In addition, they had doubts about whether students would be interested in attending such a play, not to mention the risk of spreading the coronavirus now that a new wave is expected. Finally, the council members were critical about the lack of participation of HU students in the production: why should an external production company have to be engaged in this project, while HU itself offers the minor “Theatre making in social-artistic context”?

Unpleasantly surprised
Several members of the University Council told DUB they were "unpleasantly surprised" by HU's decision. The University Council was a strong advocate of a Mindlab play for students. According to council member Susannah Burger, UU's council is not worried about students not coming to see the play. She thinks that many students would be interested in the topics addressed and changing the "student culture".

The fact that the student members of the HU council think that students wouldn’t attend such a performance doesn’t discourage her. “When you ask people to come to see a show about inappropriate behaviours without any context, they might say no indeed.” However, Susannah thinks that, if the university stresses the importance of such a play and tackles the project on a large scale, a lot of students will be reached. The quote containing the prices mentioned above has not been reviewed by the University Council yet.

A spokesperson for the university informs that UU has been talking to HU to come up with a joint follow-up. Whether that will be in the form of a Mindlab performance is yet unclear. The University Council says to be open to alternatives and is waiting for the Executive Board to present a new plan. Susannah emphasises that awareness about social safety will remain on the council's agenda. In any case, UU students will have to be patient. Mindlab, or an alternative, can only “be expected in the middle to long term” because of the decision of the HU council.