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“What if your potential fraternity member doesn’t drink?” That would be difficult

“What if your potential fraternity member doesn’t drink?” That would be difficult

Photographer:Fotograaf: Loraine Bodewes

Professor Gaby Odekerken shares a meal with independent Maastricht fraternity Cerberus

According to a note by the door, the doorbell to the Boschstraat 58c is broken. At the bottom of the note the occupant of 58b has written her phone number. It’s a considerate gesture. Before she picks up, however, three students with grocery bags cross the road to the flat. Yes, they are tonight’s chefs, they reply cheerfully, as Ischa van Aken battles to open the door. The key, which picks up a fresh scratch or dent every time it is tossed down from the second floor, is not what it once was.

How will they know when to open up for Professor Gaby Odekerken, the dinner guest this evening of the independent Maastricht fraternity Cerberus? “We do look out the window”, says Glenn Sie, unruffled. Van Aken laughs: “And then we throw the key down.”

Soon enough, Gaby Odekerken is suddenly halfway up the stairs; the lady from 58b let her in. The cooking is already in full swing in the small kitchen of the Cerberus apartment, where Van Aken lives with another member who is currently abroad. It is a joint activity carried out under the supervision of Niek Vollebergh, who also quickly empties the drying rack of a multitude of black socks. The rack occupies the spot where, until recently, a glass dining table stood. According to the students, the table recently had to be retired; the matching chairs were thrown out too.

“Fresh spinach, fresh pasta, chicken breast, diced tomatoes, pine nuts and mascarpone sauce”, the four announce proudly. And no, they assure Odekerken (“just call me Gaby”), their meals are not usually up to this standard. Tomorrow it will be back to their regular, simple fare.
“Is the potential coming too then?” Van Laak asks.
“The potential?” Odekerken looks around quizzically.
“A potential new member”, explains Van Aken.
“What do you look for when meeting new members?” asks the professor. A prospective member has to be himself, to dare to speak up, say the students. There needs to be a good click and it should be interesting to talk to him. “It’s all a bit vague”, says Oderkerken. True, Van Aken agrees. “It is vague. We’re a small fraternity, just eight active members, so it has to be a good fit. Were you in a student association too?”
She chuckles. “Yes, a very small sorority. On the way here I was trying to remember the name. What was it again? I even tried calling a friend to figure it out. When you’re over 45, the grey matter starts to recede.” The conversation turns to her hosts’ studies – Odekerken wants to know all the ins and outs. In passing, she mentions that she did not really map out her own career. While studying business economics in Maastricht she decided do an internship with Shell in London. “It seemed like a great idea, doing an internship with a multinational. The working conditions were good, I had an apartment, everything was well organised. I was in the ‘spouses’ department, organising things for the partners of international employees. The idea was: if the partner is happy, the employee will be too. In the end it didn’t make me happy though. I had about one square millimetre of responsibility, which is typical for very large organisations.” She returned to Maastricht, became a tutor and developed a taste for research. After 22 years, she is still at UM. “I recently became head of the Department of Marketing and Supply Chain Management.” It’s a bit nerve-racking, she admits, but: “Our new rector recently said on Facebook, ‘I’ve never done it, so I can do it.’ That’s how I see things too.”

Later, during dessert – a choice between a mini cheesecake or Dolce Limone from the supermarket –Odekerken explains that as a student she never touched alcohol. “Not then and not now.” She laughs. “I was such a good girl.” Or was she? As she confides to her hosts, during her internship she secretly poured the red wine her boss gave her into the flower box. The students are surprised. Drinking, especially beer, is “really a thing” for Cerberus. Even now the table is dotted with half litres of what Van Aken describes as “dirty, cheap beer”. Vollebergh very occasionally drinks white wine, but only when he gets it from his girlfiend’s parents, who live in France and make their own wine.

“What if your potential fraternity member doesn’t drink?” Odekerken asks. That would be difficult, they admit. “Drinking beer together is the most important thing there is”, Van Aken intones. It’s a standard part of every event, be it a fraternity night, a weekend away (soon the group will be heading to Texel) or any other kind of get-together. How much do they drink in an evening? asks Observant. Ten beers? Twenty? “Or thirty?” Odekerken guesses. But the students would rather not say – their drinking behaviour doesn’t need to be in the paper.

So, Odekerken concludes, “alcohol is a thing, sexual orientation is not.” With this she is referring to Van Aken’s assertion, shortly before, that he “never talks about the chicks in the pub, because I don’t go for women.” This sets him apart from his fellow fraternity members, who are into women and talk about them too. Van Aken’s sexual orientation was briefly a “point of discussion” years ago, back when he became a member of Cerberus. “They wanted to know if I’d try to start something with a fellow member.” So far that hasn’t happened, he adds with a laugh.

“We’ve never known otherwise”, Vollebergh says. “Ischa is the oldest, we all became members later. It’s never been an issue. Ischa is also very open about it.” It’s a tolerant group, Sie adds. “After all, our mayor was gay, right?” Chuckles all round. “We do make jokes about it”, Vollebergh says. Van Aken: “I do that myself. Our founder Fred Akkerma – the club is now 25 years old – is gay too. But he only came out of the closet at the end of his studies. During Carnival I was there snogging a guy in the Boschpoort; nobody seems to be bothered by it.”

Gaby Odekerken * 45 * ‎professor of Customer-Centric Service Science * married, one daughter (14)

Ischa van Aken * 25 * sixth-year medical student * member of the independent Maastricht fraternity Cerberus

Glenn Sie * 25 * second-year Health Sciences student * president of Cerberus

Niek Vollebergh * 23 *master’s student in Healthcare Policy, Innovation and Management * member of Cerberus

Arjan van Laak * 21 * research master’s student in Biomedical Sciences * secretary of Cerberus * member of the board of De Boschpoort student bar

Scores (up to 5 stars) given by the guest, professor Odekerken: 

Hospitality: 5 stars (“I felt at ease from the first minute”)

Quality of food: 4 stars (“Would have been five stars if the dessert had been homemade as well”)

Cleanliness: 2 stars (“There was a layer of dust on the TV and all sorts of things in the stairwell”)

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