Study associations frustrated about "curfew", but refrain from talking to the media

A-Eskwadraat's room is now empty in the evening. Photo: DUB

The house rules were established in a faculty council meeting held last month, in which it was announced that study associations would be temporarily forbidden from organising activities in the evening inside the faculty's buildings and their rooms would also have to close earlier. Up until recently, said rooms were allowed to stay open until 11:00 pm.

Currently, the study association rooms in the Buys Ballot building (BBG), the Koningsberger building, the David de Wied building and the Bleeker building are not accessible to non-board members due to the stricter Covid rules, but the associations were hoping to be allowed to receive students again soon. Also in the evenings.

But that seems to be off the table. The same applies to the study associations of the Faculty of Geosciences that are also housed in the BBG. The two faculties have joint house rules.

Previously, study associations were allowed to stay in the buildings until 11 o'clock in the evening. Back then, they had access to the buildings by means of a pass. But, since September, they have been having to stick to the regular opening hours: from Monday to Thursday until 7:30 pm and Fridays until 5:30 pm. 

The faculty board of the Faculty of Science emphasised during the meeting that the reduced access to the association rooms is not the faculty's choice. They, too, strive to have the associations stay in their rooms until 11 p.m. “We, too, think this is unfortunate, but there is not much we can about this situation at the moment”, said Dean Isabel Arends.

In that meeting, the Faculty Board also mentioned another reason behind the decision: the significant staff shortage within the companies hired by the university to secure the buildings and run the receptions. These shortages are due to employees getting sick or having to quarantine. 

Since then, the faculty informed DUB that this information is actually incomplete. The university's corona rules are the main reason for the study associations to no longer be allowed to use the buildings.

When inquired, the Facilities Service Centre indicated that there is, indeed, a major shortage of staff, but, in view of the pandemic's developments, the university would also like to be better able to monitor who is in the buildings and what is happening there. Deputy Director Ceel Roozeboom explains: “If the situation changes, then we will meet with the faculties again to see what is needed and what is possible.”

Four crates of beer and five bottles of wine
Remarkably, the faculty council meeting did not discuss another adjustment made to the house rules, namely the limitations to the drink stock that study associations are allowed to keep. Since the beginning of the present academic year, the faculty only allows associations to have four crates of beer and five bottles of wine in stock.

Prior to the meeting, DUB had already heard that associations were not happy about the "prohibition". Large associations are particularly upset, as the supply of drinks allowed is not nearly enough for their needs. But none of the faculty council members present online mentioned this point at the time.

No comment
During the meeting, the dissatisfaction of study associations was only apparent when council member Noor Coenen said that associations feel somewhat forced to sign the new house rules and that they fear that their social role will be under pressure.

Approached by DUB, Coenen refused to give any further explanations. In addition to being a council member, she is also a board member in a study association and the associations have agreed not to talk to the media about this issue. Other associations approached by DUB approached confirmed that they have jointly agreed not to respond to any questions. The Geosciences study associations are part of this deal.

It is not clear why the associations have chosen not to say anything. “We are still working on this internally,” stated an e-mail from the board of A-Eskwadraat, the study association of Physics and Mathematics.

According to board secretary Marieke Maas, the Faculty Board declares not to have enforced the media silence. She says the Faculty Board is in touch with the associations, both about the reduced opening hours and the size of the drink stock. She also states that the associations initially thought that it was the faculty's policy to close the association rooms earlier. Since then, they have been more understanding.

“I just want to make it clear that we really wish things were different. We have explicitly stated in the house rules that we intend to reinstate the old situation as soon as possible. We also want to seize every step towards that goal. Hopefully we will able to open buildings one evening a week in the near future.”

The faculty considers this issue to be of great importance, considering there aren't a lot of meeting spaces for students. For example, the canteen and mezzanine in the Minnaert building have been transformed into educational spaces. UU's recent decision to build a temporary common room for students, to be located in front of the Koningsberger building (where Vagant used to be) was partly motivated by the insistence of the Faculty Board.

Nevertheless, it remains to be seen whether the faculty board can do more for the associations in the meantime. For example, security personnel has been hired to allow researchers, who have been affected by changes in lab capacity due to the social distancing rules, to work in the buildings on Saturdays.

According to Maas, tough considerations have to be made in a pandemic and the priority often lies with education and research. She adds that the Faculty Board is always willing to listen to associations in need of support in organising an activity. "We've always said that."

Not a bar
As for the drinks stock, Maas mentions two reasons for the decision to limit it. First, associations used to keep large stocks that took up a lot of space. Secondly, says Maas, study associations are not supposed to serve the function of a pub.

“Due to the lack of student catering, they were drinking in the room quite often. Not that the situation has led to any big problems, but we'd prefer that not to happen. Study associations must be a binding factor in a study programme, so their rooms are supposed to serve as living rooms where everyone from the same study feels at home. They're not intended to be pubs, where having a drink is the main purpose."

Maas does not agree with the 'drainage' argument used by some associations. "It is still possible to have 40 people over and give three drinks to every person."

Together with the associations, the faculty is looking for a solution regarding the provision of drinks during major activities. Most of the drink stock maintained by the associations was meant for this purpose. The associations did not want to go through the hassle of going to the supermarket for every single occasion. “We are going to see whether we can arrange this together with the caterer, for example, without overly increasing the costs.”

Signature doesn't make a difference
According to Maas, most associations now understand the faculty board's decision. A document with the definitive house rules has been handed over to them.

Maas acknowledges that the faculty ultimately determines what the house rules look like, so in practice it makes no difference whether or not associations sign them. “They sign it to acknowledge that they are aware of them, it doesn't necessarily mean they agree with them. But of course we would like to work together as much as possible. I do think it's going to work.”

Meanthile, in other faculties, study associations are complaining about the restrictions keeping them from meeting or organising activities. Questions about this were asked in the Faculty Council meeting of the Faculty of Social Sciences, for example. The opening hours of the Langeveld building have been reduced this year. The building is no longer open until 10 pm, but only until 7.30 pm.