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Every bit of this is true

Every bit of this is true

Photographer:Fotograaf: archive Observant, image: Simone Golob

Forty years of UM: anecdotes and memories

MAASTRICHT. A lecturer at the School of Business and Economics made his debut on national television just after 2000, in a controversial sex programme, surrounded by beautiful naked women in a bubble bath. Much earlier, in the first years of the university, a furious dean of Medicine switched off the lights during a meeting and left. A jurist who made his first visit to Maastricht in 1981 and saw the red Maastricht flags, thought that the communists gathered for a meeting. Observant asked employees for anecdotes from Maastricht University’s forty-year-old history. Every bit of this is true. So the storytellers say.  

Naked in a bubble bath

Staff from the School of Business and Economics (SBE) who were watching the particular episode of Sex voor de Buch – a Dutch TV programme in which ordinary people could live out their personal sexual fantasies – must have been completely shocked. It was just after the turn of the millennium when an SBE lecturer appeared rather dominantly in the picture, lying in a bubble bath flanked by naked prostitutes. It is possible that one of them was his wife, because she worked in the Regals men’s club, a brothel in Cadier en Keer. The lecturer himself also worked at the club, as a kind of host. Those who had missed the broadcast, could gather around the television at the faculty the next day, where a videotape circulated. The lecturer, from the US, was dismissed not long afterwards, but this had nothing to do with his TV performance, says René Verspeek, director of the faculty at the time. “We felt for some time that the employee’s performance was below par. He felt this was not the case and appealed against his dismissal. He felt that he was being discriminated against as a foreigner. As appeared at the many court hearings that I attended, he saw me as an America hater.”

Maastricht mafia

“Co Greep, dean of Medicine (1978-1985) and surgeon, was notorious for his fits of anger. Sometimes they were strategic, often real. He was once reprimanded for kicking a faculty secretary’s backside just because something wasn’t going the way he wanted. Well, one person kicks a tin can, another focuses his anger on a backside,” says Hans Philipsen, a former rector of the UM, among others.
Sometimes this behaviour worked to Greep’s advantage. “During an evening meeting with cardiologists in the former Annadal hospital about the very slow process of buying off of their private practices – I was there as a member of the Executive Board – Greep became very angry. He shouted: ‘We are now done talking’ and ‘Maastricht mafia’, walked to the door, switched off the light and pulled the door closed after himself with a bang. The group of seasoned hospital managers and their lawyers were left sitting in the dark, speechless and bewildered. After this, the negotiations were promptly resolved. Greep won.”


 “Today, the open days are huge, well-organised events. When I wanted information about the study of Medicine in October 1974, Roelof Willighagen, who later became dean, gave me a private tour. I remember that the Learning and Resource Centre, which was where the economics faculty’s restaurant is now, stank of glue. The carpet had just been laid that day. If I decided to come to Maastricht, Willighagen said he would welcome me personally,” tells Leo Schouten, one of the second batch of medical students, now senior lecturer of Cancer Epidemiology at the UM. “He forgot that he had said that; I was a little disappointed about that.”


“It must have been in the first half of 1981 when I travelled to Maastricht for the first time, for a meeting with Hans Philipsen, the then dean of the General Faculty. Together with Hildegard [Schneider, René de Groot’s wife], I got off the train and saw a fantastic city before me. We walked across the Servaas Bridge and saw loads of red flags with white stars blowing in the wind. ‘Oh dear,’ we said to each other, ‘has a meeting of the communist party been called?’ We spoke to a passer-by, who looked at us somewhat surprised and told us that it was the Maastricht flag!” René de Groot, professor of Comparative Law and International Private Law, was sent to Maastricht ‘on loan’ from Rijksuniversiteit Groningen in 1981 to take a seat on a committee that would work on the new study programme of Law.

“A bloody bad thesis”

It was in 1983 when rector Coen Hemker heard worrying murmurs about the quality of a Maastricht thesis. It concerned a double promotion about the role of psychiatric hospitals, commissioned by The Hague. The supervisor was Marius Romme, professor of Social Psychiatry. Haste was called for; the thesis was to be defended one week later. That is why Hemker put together a reading committee of professors at great speed just before the weekend. Monday at 9:00hrs. the decision would be made. Hemker: “Everyone was there. Romme too, with a large plaster on his head. He had been horse-riding during the weekend and hit his head on a branch. At the start of the meeting, I addressed the minutes secretary and said: ‘Would you be so kind as to make a note that Mr. Romme already looked the way he does before the meeting started’” And the thesis? That was rejected. To Romme’s fury, who saw it as a political manoeuvre (it wasn’t politically correct to be too critical of psychiatric hospitals at the time). Still, the reading committee concluded that the dissertation was totally unsound. “Bloody bad,” reckoned medical sociologist Riet Drop. “Trash,” Hemker felt.

Wendy Degens, Cleo Freriks, Riki Janssen, and Maurice Timmermans



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