Prestigious ERC grants for Groningen scientists

Prestigious ERC grants for Groningen scientists

Two RUG researchers have been awarded ERC Consolidator Grants: molecular biologist Geert van den Bogaart en chemist Marleen Kamperman.
11 December om 9:41 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 11 December 2019
om 9:41 uur.
December 11 at 9:41 AM.
Last modified on December 11, 2019
at 9:41 AM.

Rob Siebelink

Door Rob Siebelink

11 December om 9:41 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 11 December 2019
om 9:41 uur.
Rob Siebelink

By Rob Siebelink

December 11 at 9:41 AM.
Last modified on December 11, 2019
at 9:41 AM.

Approximately three hundred scientists, including 28 from the Netherlands, have been awarded two-million ERC grants for ‘daring and groundbreaking research, and to make new inroads in science’. The ERC (European Research Grant) has evaluated almost 2,500 research proposals.

Wound glue

Marleen Kamperman (1979) is professor of polymer science and focuses on creating new materials. ‘My current focus is on materials that adhere to a wet surface. These could be used on the human body for example, to glue wounds shut instead of suturing them.’

Kamperman hopes to use the ERC grant to develop new materials through environmentally friendly processes. ‘In nature, various organisms create all sorts of fantastic materials, like an octopus beak, spider silk, and the velvet worm’s slime, without using any harmful solvents.’

Many of these materials consist of proteins, and before they reach their final form, they’re encased in their organism in liquid form. ‘The transformation from liquid to the end product is a really interesting process, and I want to study it and simulate it in the lab. I hope to develop a variety of new materials.’

Immune system

Geert van den Bogaart (1980) studied molecular biology and has been a professor of molecular immunology and microbiology in Groningen since 2018.

His research is focused on the connection between the innate immune system and the acquired one. The innate immune system is a quick but not very specific reaction to pathogens. The acquired immune system is slower, but much more purposeful and is necessary when the innate immune system can’t get rid of an infection itself.

Van den Bogaart wants to use the ERC grant to study why, in an infection, an immune response to the pathogens is created, at the same time preventing an auto-immune disease.

Support the Striking Academics

Support the Striking Academics

By Niall Torris
4 December om 12:05 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 4 December 2019
om 12:06 uur.
December 4 at 12:05 PM.
Last modified on December 4, 2019
at 12:06 PM.

For the last two years, I was a union rep for postgraduates as the Graduate Officer of University College Dublin Students’ Union. This involved board-work, campaigning, lobbying and casework. Casework was most of the job and this meant I often represented PhD candidates and Doctoral researchers with tiny incomes (called stipends) on a range of issues. The issues they faced were complex and often had a toxic effect on their lives and studies.

Sometimes a case had a “HR” element which boiled down to this: An early stage researcher is consistently pushed beyond their limit trying to balance teaching students, grading papers and research to keep their supervisors and departments happy. Inevitably they fail and occasionally that relationship goes rotten so they’d come to me for help. Here in the Netherlands they enjoy a slightly better lot, but I never thought this problem existed for ‘full-time’ contract academics.

So, when I read an article by this paper titled ‘No emails or grades due to ‘work-to-rule’’, I was shocked. It told me academics were striking and only working the hours they were paid for. Now, the only personal negative from the strike was that my grades weren’t delayed as they were MCQs (if you know a good stats tutor, contact me). But the strike reveals how hard the RUG pushes academics to provide their expertise without payment. As students, we rely on these academics for a stimulating educational experience. It’s important they are supported and treated right.

It’s not radical to think anyone deserves a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work and academics are no different. Yet we’re constantly given a choice between the two and left with neither. In this gig economy, we must be flexible. Of course, this means pushing ourselves to breakpoint for penny-pinching employers offering zero-hour contracts for little reward. Sure, a ‘good job’ pays better but there’s so much work ‘regular’ hours won’t get the job done and you stay late or take it home. So, it’s ‘work for free or lose it all’. Where’s the work/life balance?

Dishearteningly, strike-participant Professor Casper Albers said in this paper that the RUG board agreed with them and encouraged the striking academics to contact the minister, who sent them back to the board. My message to the striking academics is this: If the RUG really cared they’d be playing on the same team as you, instead they are smiling in your faces and using you as a political football to play a passing game with the government. But you have my support and the support of many of us demanding our lives back.

It’s truly shocking that the RUG and the government are even practicing passing drills with this. Universities rely on academics to research and educate us just to exist. Academics are of such benefit to society that many governments, including this one, pay universities to exist and rely on their expertise to create policy and educate the public. If they care, they need to start acting like it.

Solidarity!

Video: Window washers at the Linnaeusborg

500 windows a day

Video: Window washers at the Linnaeusborg

Who are the people who clean the seemingly unreachable windows at the Linnaeusborg? Meet the brave window washers of the Argo cleaning organisation. Do they enjoy the view from their gondola? ‘Not really, we’re mainly focused on our work.’
Video by Lidian Boelens
21 November om 11:26 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 21 November 2019
om 11:27 uur.
November 21 at 11:26 AM.
Last modified on November 21, 2019
at 11:27 AM.

Video: Studying and you’re deaf

Video: Studying and you’re deaf

Studying and you’re deaf? That can be pretty difficult. During the European Deaf STEM conference, deaf students from all over the world came together to exchange experiences.
Video by Rianne Aalbers
20 November om 10:15 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 20 November 2019
om 10:15 uur.
November 20 at 10:15 AM.
Last modified on November 20, 2019
at 10:15 AM.

Council disagrees with reorganisation facility management

Photo: Piter Siebenga

‘This plan won’t solve anything’

Council against reorganising facility management

The RUG facility management department will not be reorganised any time soon. On Thursday, the university council sent a proposal by the board of directors back to the drawing table. The board will now have to come up with a new plan.
19 November om 14:06 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 20 November 2019
om 10:21 uur.
November 19 at 14:06 PM.
Last modified on November 20, 2019
at 10:21 AM.

Rob Siebelink

Door Rob Siebelink

19 November om 14:06 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 20 November 2019
om 10:21 uur.
Rob Siebelink

By Rob Siebelink

November 19 at 14:06 PM.
Last modified on November 20, 2019
at 10:21 AM.

The services the department offers currently vary from faculty to faculty. Security tasks and front desk staffing differ, as well as how keys are given out and how malfunctions and complaints are handled, says the RUG.

When someone calls in sick, management ‘would rather call the employment agency than a colleague at a faculty one hundred metres away’, and people do not sufficiently exchange knowledge and experiences. As a result, the departments ‘keep inventing the wheel over and over again’, says the board of directors.

No cutbacks

To combat this, the RUG wants to bring together the separate services into a central organisational unit that would be part of Facility Management. The board emphasised that they were not looking to make any cutbacks and that no one would lose their job. There would barely be any practical changes to the 140 facility management employees’ jobs.

Hans Biemans, the board member responsible for finances, says especially the facility management departments at the smaller faculties are vulnerable. ‘If a light goes out and there’s no concierge, who’s going to replace the light bulb? Who’s going to take on that job? There are a lot of small ways in which things can go wrong, and we need to improve matters.’

The board says that a central organisational unit would be more efficient. It would also save money. ‘In the end, we want the RUG to get more quality for the same price.’

‘Insufficient’

But just like last year, when there was a similar proposal on the table, a majority of the university council didn’t like it much. They felt the plan would cause rather than solve problems. There is no clear cause or reason to set an operation like this in motion, says the council, and the board’s argument are ‘entirely insufficient’. ‘This proposal solves nothing’, says Dinie Bouwman, chair of the personnel faction.

The facility management department has also told the university council that they’re not doing too great. Bouwman: ‘Apparently it’s a bit of a mess.’ Few of the facility management employees who currently answer to individual faculties are actually interested in making the change towards a central organisation, says the personnel faction.

City centre

According to university president Jouke de Vries, employees at the smaller faculties as well as those at Zernike are fine with a central department. He says the naysayers work at a few faculties in the city centre.

The board chairman said the story you hear depends on who you ask. ‘I’ve had people in my office who do want this proposal to succeed. Not everyone is against it, and especially the smaller faculties will benefit.’

The board of directors will present a changed proposal later this academic year.

29 RUG students in Hong Kong affected by protests

Photo Studio Incendo

RUG students in Hong Kong affected by protests

‘Rubber bullets in the student residences’

Twenty-nine RUG students in Hong Kong have been affected by the schools and universities closing in the former British colony. Student of arts, culture, and media Noralie Leidinger is one of the students who is trying to get home.
Rob Siebelink, Christien Boomsma and Anne de Vries
14 November om 14:08 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 18 November 2019
om 16:16 uur.
November 14 at 14:08 PM.
Last modified on November 18, 2019
at 16:16 PM.

On Wednesday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced a ‘code yellow’ for Hong Kong, warning of security risks in the region. There are protests and roadblocks, especially around police stations, government offices, universities, and underground stations, often leading to violent confrontations between protesters and the police. There were some violent confrontations between police officers and protesters around the universities as well.

Student of arts, culture, and media Nora Leidinger is on an exchange at the City University of Hong Kong. ‘The situation is really difficult right now’, she says. ‘The universities are shut and the police is shooting with teargas and rubberbullets on campus and in the student residences.’


Refugee camp

The campus currently looks more like a refugee camp than university property, says Leidinger. ‘We are going to bring some first aid supplies and food to the campus.’

She is trying to book the quickest flight home, but it’s not easy. It’s also difficult to obtain any reliable information. ‘Almost all news we receive here goes via Instagram, but that means I will open my feed and not only see the necessary Hong Kong updates, but everydays posts about fashion, 11.11 and the likes. Which creates a surreal mental splitscreen on the current events in Hong Kong versus back home.’

Financial aids

The university has been contacting students through letters and emails. They’re advising them on what to do and where to go if they get into trouble, said RUG president Jouke de Vries during a university council meeting this Thursday. The RUG will also help out financially if students need money because of the situation, for instance to book an earlier flight home. ‘We’re closely monitoring the situation.’

The protesters in Hong Kong are fighting for more democracy and less influence from the central government in Beijing. Since the unrest started, approximately three thousand people have been arrested.

Vertaling Sarah van Steenderen

No emails or grades due to ‘work-to-rule’

Last year, professor Barend van Heusden protested by teaching his class outside, on the Grote Markt.

No emails or grades due to ‘work-to-rule’

University lecturers, including the ones in Groningen, are on a ‘work-to-rule’ strike this month. They will not be answering emails or grading exams.
13 November om 11:46 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 13 November 2019
om 12:32 uur.
November 13 at 11:46 AM.
Last modified on November 13, 2019
at 12:32 PM.

I’ve joined the so-called ‘work-to-rule’ strike organised by WOinActie. This means that I only work as many hours as I’m contracted for. Over the past few years, structurally working overtime has had a negative effect on my private life and my well-being.

This is the autoreply of lecturers participating in the ‘work-to-rule’ strike. This means that lecturers work ‘normal’ eight-hour workdays, no more and no less. ‘If I work a regular eight hours, only on workdays and not during the weekend, I don’t even come close to finishing my work, says Barend van Heusden, professor of art and humanities.

‘We want to show that the work pressure at the university is too high’, he says. The number of students has increased by 68 percent since 2000, while government funding has only increased 25 percent per student. On top of that, the Netherlands spend much less on academic education than other countries; it’s at number 19 in the world ranking, just below Turkey, Serbia, and Slovakia.

Yoga classes and stuff

‘There is something really wrong at universities here’, says Casper Albers, adjunct professor of applied statistics and data visualisation. The university is taking action to combat stress, but it’s ‘just yoga classes and stuff’.

Nobody is coming up with structural solutions, he says. ‘The university board agrees with us and says we should take it to the minister. But the minister just sends us back to our board.’

‘Many lecturers have an extremely tight schedule’, says Maarten Goldberg, FNV union consultant at the RUG. ‘That means they often have to do other work outside their scheduled hours.’ Goldberg doesn’t encounter this problem for himself, but he is participating in the strike. ‘I’m sympathetic, because I understand exactly why they’re doing this.’

No commitment

Casper Alber’s students aren’t unduly affected by the strike. ‘It’s more towards colleagues or other staff who email me.’ He often receives messages from psychology people who need something analysed and have questions about the statistic of their project. But Albers doesn’t commit to them; any extra hours he has goes to his own research.

Van Heusden is taking a different approach: during the strike he will not be checking exams within the ten-day period prescribed. ‘Students think it’s easy for us to check their work, but they don’t realise how long it takes. A lot of lecturers have this problem.’

Goldberg has noticed this issue as well. ‘We use a certain norm to calculate the number of education hours. If you use an average class of twenty students as the norm, everything works out.’

But when a class is particularly popular and has, for example, twenty-five students, lecturers are faced with a lot more work. ‘They’ll have to check five more papers, answer mail from five more people.’

Cursory glance

At a certain point, this gets in the way of other tasks. ‘It feels like all you do is teach, and superiors get on your case for not publishing more articles.’ That means lecturers spend their free time on their research. ‘That’s not right, but it happens all the time.’

Fortunately, many students have responded positively to the strike, says Van Heusden. ‘I explained to them this morning that it would take longer and why, and their response was pretty great’, he says. ‘I could do it in the time allotted, but then I’d just give it a cursory glance and give it a fairly random grade.’ He wouldn’t be able to properly comment on the students’ work. ‘Then they wouldn’t learn anything.’

Big bag of money

Casper Albers doesn’t think the strike will make much of a difference. ‘I don’t expect the minister to suddenly get it and give us a big bag of money to buy some new colleagues’, says Albers.

After all, professors are a lot less threatening than, say, a bunch of farmers. ‘Ministers know that we’ll still be coming up with perfectly nuanced arguments when we’re angry. It’s just not very news-worthy.’

‘But we do want to send a signal and show that we’re willing to take action’, he says. They want to make sure that if they ever strike for real, it won’t be a surprise. ‘We’ve already demonstrated what we’re willing to do for change.’

Stamppot will save your wretched soul

This is an ongoing series where the UKrant unpacks weird and wonderful Dutch things for our international readers. Today’s episode: stamppot
By Megan Embry

It’s cold and wet and grey and Dutchies everywhere are delighted. Because shitty weather means one thing: it’s stamppot season, bitches!

How to stamppot:

  1. Boil the shit out of some potatoes.
  2. Boil the shit out of some vegetables.
  3. Mash everything together.
  4. Season the pot with the salty tears of internationals who just want to chew their food, for Chrissake.
  5. Top it all off with a sausage you bought at HEMA and carried home in a bag along with your new socks.

That’s it! That’s all it takes to make the Dutchest damn meal you’ll ever eat. You haven’t really integrated until you’ve learned to love stamppot.

Culinary savages

The first time an earnest Dutch friend offers you a plate of green mush topped with a sausage that looks like something your dog left behind in the Noorderplantsoen, you might be tempted to recoil.

International Faculty of Arts staff member Courtney Schellekens says she won’t touch the stuff, no matter how many times her Dutch friends offer it to her. ‘These people are culinary savages,’ she says. ‘I don’t trust them.’

But before you crush your own Dutchie’s stamppot-loving heart, you should take a moment to learn what makes this meal such a national treasure in the first place.

Calvinism

The Dutch love stamppot because it is the edible representation of two things that are foundational to their identity: Calvinism and a strong sense of national superiority.

Calvin finds two things irresistible: grace and stamppot.

Way back in the 1540s, the protestant teachings of French reformer John Calvin made it all the way to the Netherlands, where nobles and common folk converted in droves.

Catholic Spain was annoyed by this and responded by killing lots of protestants. William of Orange fought back and the Eighty Years’ war broke out.

What does that have to do with stamppot?

The food you deserve

Well, Calvinists believe that all people are born sinners. The life of the Christian is therefore an exercise in resisting one’s nastier impulses towards greed, laziness, selfishness, gluttony, dishonesty, and the like. This is where the Dutch get their strong sense of integrity, moderation, thrift, straight-forwardness, and industry.

Calvinists also believed that sinners deserve punishment. They embraced suffering and discipline in this life because they thought it would refine and purify their souls for heaven. As Calvin put it, ‘you must submit to supreme suffering in order to discover the completion of joy.’

I take this to be a partial explanation for why the Dutch are so quick to embrace stamppot. If you’re a sinner, this is the food that you deserve.

Behold this plate of punished mush, O fallen man, and reflect on the damnation you have narrowly escaped by refusing to indulge in food for pleasure’s sake. Eat; suffer; be saved.

Fuck off, Spain

The other reason the Dutch love stamppot is because of that one time when they beat the pants off Spain.

Phillip II wags his dumb finger at William of Orange

Stamppot is a direct descendant of hutspot, which (according to Dutch lore) dates back to the Eighty Years’ War. During the Siege of Leiden, starving Dutch rebels battled Spanish occupiers for months.

Finally, in a stroke of Dutch brilliance, the rebels breached their own dikes and flooded the area so they could sail ships in to back up the resistance.

The Spaniards retreated in such a hurry that they left still-hot pots of mushy carrots, parsnips, meat, and onion behind. The Leideners devoured it all, middle fingers held aloft in defiant salute as their defeated enemies fled. So the legend goes. Kind of.

Superior

Leideners still eat hutspot every year to commemorate their superiority over the Spanish. Turning it into the national meal was a low-key way of advertising to other would-be attackers: ‘Don’t fuck with the Dutch. We love to suffer, unlike you pansies. We will flood you out of our country because we COMMAND THE VERY SEAS and then we will eat your goddam lunch when you run away. Sad.’

Eventually, the Dutch swapped the parsnips for potatoes (because what meal isn’t improved by potatoes? says every Dutch person ever) and stamppot was born.

So go ahead. Accept that steaming pile of stamppot. Close your eyes and savor every bite. Because this is what victory over your enemies and the salvation of your eternal soul tastes like. Heel lekker.


Want to make your own?

RUG should set example and not enforce ‘burqa ban’

Op-ed

RUG should set example and not enforce ‘burqa ban’

The RUG’s decision to uphold the so-called ‘burqa ban’ may be in line with the Dutch law, but PhD student Aukje Muller agues it’s a peculiar choice.
By Aukje Muller, PhD
5 November om 8:07 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 5 November 2019
om 10:31 uur.
November 5 at 8:07 AM.
Last modified on November 5, 2019
at 10:31 AM.

The RUG’s decision to uphold the so-called burqa ban might be in line with national law, but as the police and several public transport companies have shown, there is some wiggle room when it comes to actually enforcing it.

The RUG’s less-than-obvious decision to not use that wiggle room and the message it sends with that are highly problematic.

The burqa ban appears to be an open, ‘religion-neutral’, civil law. According to the government, the ban is exclusively in service to public safety and service. But banning certain pieces of clothing only really reflects how the national community and public spaces are organised on the basis of identity markers such as ethnicity and heritage.

The burqa ban is an example of how institutionalised racism and ethnicity-based exclusion of certain groups in the national community are concealed and justified by the ‘neutral’ and accepted nature of the law.

The ban reflects a form of ‘ethnic nationalism’ in which the national community and the way it’s decided who is part of it and who is excluded – and to which extent – is defined by common ancestors, language, religion, traditions, and values.

Within this construction, the cultural majority will always have the power to determine who meets the criteria to be included. The exclusion is then normalised, since the ban makes it seem like Muslim women ‘choose’ to break the law whenever they enter public space wearing a niqab.

The RUG is sending the message that Muslim women and Muslims in general aren’t recognised as full members of the academic community

This then connects to the idea that in order to be included in the national community, one should follow the rules. This makes it seem as though the law is inclusive, since everyone seemingly has the choice to be included. But when a law implicitly turns against specific groups, the idea of the ‘neutral’ law masks the vicious cycle of the exclusion of certain groups.

In this case, it leads to public spaces
being racialised; in other words, some people are being excluded based on their
heritage, ethnicity, and religious identity.

That is because the burqa ban, which also
bans clothing such as balaclavas, mainly affects Muslim women. Given the
current anti-immigration, Islamophobic climate in the Netherlands, the ban will
only contribute to the social exclusion these women face, as well as to the
idea that Muslims in general don’t belong in the Netherlands.

As an ‘inclusive’ educational institute,
the RUG should take a stand and emphatically state that the ban is not in line
with its vision of and position in society. Maintaining the burqa ban is at
odds with the RUG’s spearheads of internationalisation, diversity, and freedom
of education.

Unconditional access to education should
always be a priority. But with this, the RUG is sending the message that Muslim
women and Muslims in general aren’t recognised as full members of the academic
community.

On top of that, the university should be a
safe space for all students and staff. The burqa ban increases the risk of
Muslim women, even those wearing a hijab, facing direct violence. They become
an easy target for discrimination and harassment.

This certainly applies to the Muslims who
are looking for an education and who should be free to do so at the RUG.
Maintaining the ban would lead to people seeing them as a problem, which could
then be used to ‘justify’ discrimination towards them.

It’s also most regrettable that the
university makes its service department employees responsible for enforcing the
law, thereby making them complicit in a discriminating law against other staff
and students.

The RUG should set an example and not
enforce the ban. Ideally, the RUG would even release a statement condemning the
law, guaranteeing the safety of all staff, students, and visitors.

Aukje Muller is a PhD student at the RUG and Macquarie University (in Sydney, Australia). She studies the relationships between religion, inclusion, and national identity as it relates to national immigration politics in the Netherlands and Australia.

This opinion piece is based on a blog post that was previously published at The Religion Factor.

Local Columnist Breaks Character for Final Installment

Abandoned as an infant high in the mountains of Colorado, James was taken in and raised by a family of marmots. They trained him in the art of satire, but warned him: ‘With great power comes great responsibility.’ He didn’t understand the truth of their words until his adopted rodent brother, Donald Trump’s hair, turned to the dark side.

James could only sit by and watch, helpless and appalled, as his evil brother meme’d his way to the White House. Forever changed by what he had seen, James fled to The Netherlands and vowed to always use his powers for good.

Hi,

I’m James, and for the past three years I’ve written satirical columns for the Ukrant. You may know me from hits like ‘5 Reasons Why Dutch People are so Tall. You Won’t Believe Number 4’, ‘Time Between Classes Too Short: 15 Minutes Insuficcient to Travel to Yantai’, and ‘Occupied Container Homes Accidentally Shipped to Germany’.

In truth, I have no idea whether or not those are hits, but they were sure fun to write. In fact, I had a great time writing all of my columns, and I sincerely hope that sometime during the past three years I made you chuckle at least once.

But now this is the last thing I’ll write for the UKrant, so I figured I should come clean:

My first column was an introduction that claimed I was raised by marmots, and that Donald Trump’s hair was my adopted rodent brother. I know it may surprise some people, but that was actually not entirely truthful. I did know Trump’s hair when we were kids, but he wasn’t my brother, he just lived three burrows down from me.

The cat, Professor Doerak, was never awarded a Nobel Prize, it was just a picture of one printed out and glued to some cardboard.

Dutch people aren’t tall because a witch put a curse on William of Orange, it was actually a warlock.

Finally, had I been hired as Rector Magnificus, though I would have changed the name of the position to Rectum Magician, I never intended to install a nude beach on the Zernike campus, I actually would have tried to do a good job.

Groningen is a wonderful city, full of fun contradictions. It’s urban, but also kind of in the middle of nowhere (at least by dutch standards); sometimes the city feels huge, yet you can bike across it in half an hour; and the RUG is somehow both deadly serious and extremely silly at the same time.

The city’s dual nature means it’s great for jokes, but it also means that everyone still there has something extremely special. There isn’t another city like Groningen anywhere else in the world, and now that I’m gone I suspect I’m going to end up missing it dearly.

Good luck to all of you. I hope you find happiness.

This is James Young, signing off.

Farmers Protest Fences and Doors

Abandoned as an infant high in the mountains of Colorado, James was taken in and raised by a family of marmots. They trained him in the art of satire, but warned him: ‘With great power comes great responsibility.’ He didn’t understand the truth of their words until his adopted rodent brother, Donald Trump’s hair, turned to the dark side.

James could only sit by and watch, helpless and appalled, as his evil brother meme’d his way to the White House. Forever changed by what he had seen, James fled to The Netherlands and vowed to always use his powers for good.

Locals experienced mild inconvenience in the Vismarkt this past week, as scores of disgruntled farmers parked their tractors in the square to protest barriers of all sorts. It was an emotional event, with one protester going so far as to drive their tractor over a fence and straight through the doors of city hall.

‘The problem with society these days is all these barriers’, said one protester. ‘You see, we’re from the country, so we’ve got exactly two types of barriers: ditches and wire fences, and we try to keep them at a minimum. But here in the city… things are just getting out of hand. Walls, doors, and these abominable metal fences the city had up right by where we were parked. You have so many physical barriers, and their only purpose is to divide people.’

The protesters slogans were amicable enough: ‘We are all one and you’ll thank us later.’ However, the city wasn’t feeling to friendly. The door to city hall was ‘pretty expensive as far as doors go’ and the authorities were none too happy seeing it broken.

‘Of course they weren’t happy we broke it’, said a protester when asked for comment. ‘It was the physical manifestation of a class divide the city has a vested interest in perpetuating. They see the removal of the ‘door’ object as a threat to their legitimacy.’

Vegan student club hopes to nab award for best newcomer

Vegan student club hopes to nab award for best newcomer

Will the Vegan Student Association become the ‘best vegan newcomer’ of the Netherlands? The Groningen association is working hard on getting votes for the Vegan Awards.
By Saskia Jonker
16 October om 10:06 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 16 October 2019
om 10:36 uur.
October 16 at 10:06 AM.
Last modified on October 16, 2019
at 10:36 AM.

The prizes are awarded every year by the Dutch Association for Veganism. There are seven categories. The Vegan Student Association is up against five others in the category of best newcomer: two eateries, Hema’s plant-based make-up range, a meat replacement product, and a network for vegan entrepreneurs.

In order to win the title, the student association, which was founded early in 2019, has to get the most votes, as the general public decides the winner. You can vote until Wednesday, October 16.

The award ceremony will be held in Amsterdam on November 30.

No exclusive vegan food, meat stays on the menu

No support among students and staff

No exclusively vegan snacks; meat stays on the menu

Snacks during events and gatherings at the RUG will not become exclusively vegan any time soon. The university says people don’t want it.
By Rob Siebelink / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen
8 October om 12:15 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 8 October 2019
om 16:25 uur.
October 8 at 12:15 PM.
Last modified on October 8, 2019
at 16:25 PM.

Last academic year, university council student party De Vrije Student suggested the RUG provide only plant-based foods and drinks during events and gatherings (so not in the restaurants).

Fish and meat would only be served if people specifically requested it beforehand. Student parties SOG and DAG, as well as the personnel faction, supported this proposal as well.

Several other universities have adopted standard vegetarian lunches and event catering, and the Faculty of Philosophy at the RUG has taken steps to make the food and drinks it offers more sustainable.

Variety

The RUG applauds the increase in sustainable foods, but thinks going vegan ‘unless otherwise requested’ is taking it a step too far at the moment. The university says it wants to provide a variety of plant and animal proteins.

They’d prefer to improve the vegetarian and vegan options on offer to encourage people at the university to choose something other than meat or fish.

Peizerweg Students: ‘Please Let Us Stay’

Abandoned as an infant high in the mountains of Colorado, James was taken in and raised by a family of marmots. They trained him in the art of satire, but warned him: ‘With great power comes great responsibility.’ He didn’t understand the truth of their words until his adopted rodent brother, Donald Trump’s hair, turned to the dark side.

James could only sit by and watch, helpless and appalled, as his evil brother meme’d his way to the White House. Forever changed by what he had seen, James fled to The Netherlands and vowed to always use his powers for good.

In the face of adversity, international students living at the Peizerweg hope to turn their temporary housing into a permanent home.

If the beginning of time was a few years ago, the RUG not having adequate housing for international students would be a tale as old as time.

It happens like this: the year begins with the opening of emergency housing facilities to deal with the completely unpredictable influx of students coming to Groningen to begin their studies, and after a few months those facilities close as the students who once inhabited them are sorted into their hovels.

That’s how it’s always been, and many say that’s how it should be, but this year, students at the Peizerweg are trying to change how the story ends.

‘We’re hoping to work out a deal with the administration’, said one student. ‘We know the building is needed for exams, but we think there’s enough room here for both desks and beds, plus we promise to be quiet.’

The general sentiment is that even if the temporary housing is a bit suboptimal, it’s preferable to navigating a real estate market that’s often actively hostile to international students.

‘I went to look at an apartment the other day’, said another student. ‘When the landlord found out I was an international he wouldn’t rent the place to me unless I swore loyalty to the Dutch King! Another time, a friend of mine noticed they’d added a ‘only allowed to eat Dutch food’ clause to her contract.’

Emergency housing extended

Many students are still looking for a room

Emergency housing at Metaallaan extended

Homeless students sleeping at the Metaallaan emergency housing can stay two more weeks. While the emergency housing facility was supposed to close on October 1, too many students still haven’t found a permanent housing solution.
By Edward Szekeres
2 October om 11:03 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 7 October 2019
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Including residents of emergency facilities Esdoornflat and The Village, close to two hundred students still haven’t found a permanent place to live. The former school building at the Metaallaan was scheduled to close on Tuesday, but the deadline has been extended to October 15 to give the twenty-eight students who still haven’t found a permanent room more time.

As of Tuesday, October 1, 118 students still lived in the Esdoornflat emergency housing, with only two empty rooms available. There was more space at the Peizerweg facility The Village, with 37 of the eighty beds occupied. At the former school on Metaallaan, twenty-eight beds out of a hundred were taken.

No permanent housing

According to Manon Hoiting, a spokesperson for the municipality, fifty students residing at the Esdoornflat haven’t found permanent housing yet. The Esdoornflat will close on October 9 and those who by then haven’t found another place to move to, are likely to move to either the Metaallaan or The Village.

With Metaallaan expected to close in less than two weeks and Peizerweg shutting its doors on October 26, many students might still find themselves homeless at the end of the month. And further extensions are not likely, according to the municipality. The Peizerweg facility will be turned into an exam hall at the end of the month.

Renovation

The Esdoornflat is bound for renovation. Works on the building are expected to last at least 1,5 years. ‘There are strict schedules to follow that we don’t have much control over. But in the long term, we want to increase the quality of living and not just the capacity. The Esdoornflat will be a better place to live in after the renovations’, explains Monique Louwes from SSH, the company that houses students in the building.

Officials remain confident that the emergency housing plan will permanently house all students by the end of October. The Peizerweg unit will be the last one open after 15 October. ‘We will be ready when the students come’, said location manager Ronald Helmig.

The municipality is also actively helping the students with information about housing and available rooms. ‘For example, when rooms are available, the SSH offers them first tot the students in the emergency housing’, said Manon Hoiting.

Team up

But response to these offers has been surprisingly moderate, according to SSH. Some students team up to find larger apartments together as they get to know each other at the emergency facilities. At the Peizerweg, where students sleep in one large hall, around forty-five people already found a place to stay, according to Ronald Helmig.

Others simply enjoy the private rooms at the Esdoornflat or the rather quirky ambiance at the Metaallaan. Students are staying too long, and it’s becoming a problem. ‘We are becoming victims of our own success’, added the receptionist at Metaallaan.    

Students unaware of payment policy at The Village

1 October om 13:44 uur.
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Some overpay, others pay too little

Students unaware of payment policy at The Village

Miscommunications about payment structures seem to be common at the Peizerweg emergency housing location The Village. As a result, some students overpay their stay, while others don’t pay enough.
By Matej Pop Ducev
1 October om 13:44 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 2 October 2019
om 11:10 uur.
October 1 at 13:44 PM.
Last modified on October 2, 2019
at 11:10 AM.

According to students residing at The Village, the facility’s management has implemented an unclear payment and registration model.

Students pay 50 euros for a week, no matter what day of that week they arrive. The payment week starts over every Monday.

This means that if you arrive on Monday, you pay 50 euros for all seven nights. If you arrive on a Friday, you still pay the 50 euros for the entire payment week, and then another 50 on the following Monday for the next payment week.

Some students think this means they have to pay for nights they haven’t actually stayed at the Village, or that they pay a higher rate for the few nights they do stay. ‘I paid 12 euros a night’, says Mario, a second year law student from Macedonia who arrived at The Village on a Thursday. ‘This is almost twice the amount I thought I would need to pay’, he says.

Refund

But that isn’t actually correct. The rate established by the covenant between the university, the muncipality, and housing organisations was set before the summer at 7 euros a night. Students who pay for more days than they actually use are eligible for a refund. However, some students seem to be unaware of the fact that if they overpay their stay, they can get that money back.

It’s understandable that details of the refund policy got lost in the shuffle for many international students who were just happy to have found a cheap place to stay while they kept searching for permanent options. ‘I didn’t think of it much’, says Won-Gyeom Kim, a first year mechanical engineering student from South Korea.

Leaving unannounced

Ronald Helmig, a manager of The Village, says in his experience students often leave the facility unannounced, which can result in losses for the facility. For example, students some students might pay for their first week, stay a few days longer without paying for the second week, and then just leave without paying the balance.

To prevent that situation, the facility established the policy of asking for 50 euro a week no matter which day of that week a student arrives. But any extra days you pay for that you did not actually use are fully refundable at the end of your stay – as long as you officially check out.

Not informed

Some students who don’t realise this have ended up overpaying for their stays. Several students reported that they were not informed about the refund policy. Many have already left the facility without securing a refund.

‘This obviously isn’t the best model, and we are always open to suggestions for improvement’, says Helmig.

RUG part of the largest polar expedition ever

MOSAiC, the largest polar expedition ever

RUG part of research in ‘Europe’s weather kitchen’

Friday, hundreds of researchers from seventeen countries started a year-long study at the ‘epicentre of climate change’, the North Pole’s sea ice.
By Rob Siebelink / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen
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September 23 at 14:13 PM.
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Scientists from the RUG (as well as Wageningen University & Research) are participating in this, the largest polar expedition of all time, which is called MOSAiC. In total, six hundred people are participating in the expedition. Half of them are scientists.

The North Pole is seen as the ‘weather kitchen’ for the weather in North America, Europe, and Asia. Extreme weather conditions, such as extra cold winters of heat waves during the summer, are directly linked to changes in the Arctic.

Uncertainties

At the same time, climate model uncertainties are at their biggest in that area, says expedition leader Markus Rex. ‘We have no reliable prognoses on how the Arctic climate is going to develop or what this will mean for our weather. It’s our mission to change that.’

The North Pole has been warming up very quickly over the past few decades. The climate processes in this area could be a piece of the puzzle needed to create better prognoses about world-wide climate change.

Inaccessible

After a decade of preparations, the German icebreaker Polarstern left the Norse harbour of Tromsø on Friday evening. The ship will serve as the basis for a year-long study in a region that’s practically inaccessible during the winter. Because of this, the ship will be stuck in the ice for most of the time there.

The scientists will collect information that’s crucial to the interaction between the atmosphere, the ocean, and the sea ice, and about the ecosystem. Thanks to the collaboration between international experts, it’s hoped this study into the drift of ice past the North Pole will elevate climate research ‘to a whole new level’.

Algae

In January, RUG scientists Jacqueline Stefels and Maria van Leeuwe will spend several months on board the Polarstern. Their research focuses on biogeochemistry; they’ll study the role of one of the smallest micro-organisms on earth in one of climate change’s biggest questions: algae.

Algae in the sea ice absorb CO2, thereby slightly slowing down the warming of the earth. They also produce a gas called dimethyl sulfide. But the warming of the sea water and the melting of the sea ice caused by climate change are hindering these two processes.

Unique insights

Stefels: ‘Our research focuses mainly on the amplifying effect of the disappearing sea ice on climate change. We expect this project to lead to unique insights into the future development of sea ice and how the climate will respond to this.

Jacqueline Stefels will be on board the ship from February until April. ‘I hope to be there for the seasonal change from winter to spring, which would be exciting’, says Stefels. ‘Hopefully our instruments will be able to pick up the start of biological activity.’ Maria van Leeuwe will join the expedition six months later and will be researching the sea ice during the change from summer into autumn.

Click here for more information about MOSAiC