Photographer:Fotograaf: Dutch Culture Night ESN
MAASTRICHT. The International Students Club will move into the Timmerfabriek in 2019, not in 2017 as originally planned. Renovation issues are the main cause of the delay, but it also appears that the International Student Network, the main operator of the club, is not yet ripe for the mammoth task that awaits it.
It has been twelve months since Maastricht University and the city council signed a letter of intent to establish an International Students Club in the Timmerfabriek in 2017. After years of discussion, the location had finally been narrowed down to the Sphinx quarter, the cultural hotspot of Maastricht. But according to a memo from the Executive Board presented to the University Council, the grand opening is at least three years away.
To make way for the club, the Muziekgieterij needs to relocate to the other side of the building and expand on the corner of the Boschstraat, an operation that is not yet underway. What is more, a contract between the university and the city council concerning financial and legal matters should have been signed in December, but talks broke down over responsibility in the event of bankruptcy of the club (a charitable foundation). “The council wanted UM to bear the full risk of bankruptcy. UM wasn’t prepared to do that – the council has to share the risk”, explains Maurice Evers, head of Student and Staff Housing at UM and leader of the programme Student en Stad. “The matter has since been resolved.” The new deadline for the contract is April.
The council rents the space in the Timmerfabriek directly to the International Student Network (ISN), the Maastricht branch of the ESN, the largest student organisation in Europe. Although the ESN is mainly dedicated to serving exchange students, the local branch is charged with catering to all international students. According to Evers, the ISN received €500,000 from each UM and the council to invest in refurbishment and marketing: “The ISN operates under the same kind of financial construction as other student associations.”
The ISN will be responsible for running the student club and ensuring that it can cover the rent out of its own revenue. It’s a big ask for the seven-member board and its committees; as the memo reads, “In 2016 they need to prove to be up to the challenge of running a club”. An evaluation will be conducted in June.
Evers: “ISN is faced with an enormous task, and yet it is relatively small and has little experience in programming, let alone in running a business. So things are moving along in fits and starts.” The required knowledge and expertise is also underlined by Wim Smeets, the director of the Muziekgieterij: “How do your reach your audience, how do you ensure continuity, how do you plan ahead? Those are the things we’re not seeing yet.” In September the International Student Network launched a series of Social Mondays in the hall of the Muziekgieterij. Evers: “It went reasonably well initially, but then it fizzled due to a lack of promotion and continuity. And there was some friction with the Muziekgieterij because it takes place under their permit, which means the ISN has to be sure to abide by their rules. If you want to organise parties or have bands that students like, but that don’t fall under the umbrella of ‘culture’ or don’t fit into the vision of the Muziekgieterij, you have a problem.” The Social Mondays were relaunched this month.
“Making a student organization the operator of a club is challenging”, concludes the memo. The university is taking steps to provide support for the International Student Network: the Student Services Centre has appointed an officer to help with programming and networking and there are teams that assist with financial matters, legal issues and the refurbishment of the building.