The debate continues...

Will Geosciences get rid of those turnstiles? 'Nope.'

de poortjes in het Vening Meineszgebouw
The turnstiles at the Vening Meineszgebouw building. Photo taken from the "Gaan de Poortjes Open?'' ("Are the turnstiles going to open?") account on X, formerly known as Twitter.

It looks like the X account Gaan de poortjes open? ("Are the turnstiles working?" Ed.) is in it for the long run. The first posts went online in October 2019, back when X was still called Twitter. Since then, followers have been gifted with pictures of the electronic turnstiles at the Vening Meinesz building. Sometimes the turnstiles are covered with red tape, at other times there is a desperate UU employee in front of them. "Nope," says the caption. Or "no way", "not today", or "What do you think?"

The account has been more active than usual lately, which prompted DUB to inquire whether the turnstiles, which are supposed to open when employees of the Faculty of Geosciences present their badges, malfunction often. 

It’s not that bad, says Mariël Witteveen, Head of Housing and Facility Management, in an e-mail. "Like anything technological, sometimes it doesn't work. But the turnstiles are never all out of order at the same time, so the building is always accessible. One of them is broken right now on the second floor. The Facility Service Centre is doing everything in its power to get it working again soon."

A long-running gag 
The turnstiles not working is now sort of a running gag among employees, says the earth scientist Francien Peterse. According to her, about three years ago, the turnstiles didn't work for a long time, so employees hung ironic A4 sheets with memes on them.

In her view, the Twitter account is a reference to the discussion that was going on when the faculty moved into the office building. "We're still having that discussion, actually. Many staff members would like to see students come and go freely, and the gates constitute a barrier."

Not a bank 
Five years ago, the legendary study advisor Jos Bierbooms extensively complained on DUB about the inaccessibility of the new building. Students and guests first encounter a gatekeeper and those who want to go upstairs must pass through the turnstiles. "We're not a bank or an insurance company, are we?" he wondered in his farewell interview. That feeling is still alive, confirms urban geographer Irina van Aalst. "Those gates are terribly inconvenient. Always picking up students at the gate and dropping them off again... Or arranging a visitor pass...."


A deliberate choice 
However, according to Head of Housing Witteveen, it was a deliberate choice years ago not to make the building freely accessible because teachers requested it. "There was a strong desire to limit unplanned visits by students to their offices," she emails. "The office building had to be a place to work undisturbed."

According to Witteveen, the starting point was the 'teacher-follows-student' principle. "The teacher goes to the student in case of contact moments. These can take place in the Koningsberger or Minnaert building, but also in the Vening Meinesz building on the ground floor and first floor."

Francien Peterse and Irina van Aalst react with surprise. Van Aalst: "Teachers certainly did not advocate for this; there was a lot of resistance before the move."

"Complete nonsense," says her colleague, the geographer Leo Paul, about the Housing department's reply. He was the educational director of Social Geography & Planning when the plans for the new building were announced. According to him, it was clear from the beginning that there would be turnstiles, and the discussion was never seriously addressed with teachers.

He is convinced that most teachers still want those turnstiles to disappear.

Too simplistic 
Witteveen emphasises that before the faculty moved, various advisory groups were consulted. "Of course, decisions like these can never satisfy everyone, but we still stand by the choice to shape the access policy in this way."

According to her, people are too simplistic when it comes to removing the turnstiles. After all, they are part of the entire concept of the office, she says. it is only possible to have open office spaces on the upper floors because the building is not accessible to everyone. Another teacher tells UDB that employees with few teaching tasks, such as PhD candidates, are satisfied with the closed character of the building.

Still, Leo Paul is not convinced: "It was never clear to me why this is necessary. The first question is how an isolated office building would fit in a university where it's important for students and teachers to stay in touch with each other. Making it even more difficult for students to visit their teachers is a wrong choice, I believe."

screenshot van X-account