Photographer:Fotograaf: Loraine Bodewes
Professor Matthijs Hesselink shares a meal with independent fraternity Silenus
“Oh, shit, we get scored on the food?” Loek Rekko hasn’t been following this Observant series. “Darn!” He apologises: he prepared the shoulder chops, but he didn’t buy it. “Also, it’s been in the oven for twenty minutes too long.” “My fault”, says Matthijs Hesselink. “I was late.” The professor feels compelled to give the fried potatoes with champignons the full score. And the broccoli? “Bit boring, three stars is really the max”, he laughs.
Earlier that evening: it’s 6.30 pm, the pans are on the table and the men are waiting on their guest. Jaap Jan van Beek shows off his pride and joy, “the one and only Most Beautiful Students Calendar”, an annual creation featuring students – both male and female – from various Maastricht student associations. Naked buttocks, manly chests and the occasional cleavage: if Van Beek had his way, next time it would be a little more risqué. Does Silenus choose the models? “No,” Van Beek replies, “they can decide that for themselves.”
As the evening draws to a close he gives a copy to Hesselink, who promises to hang it up in his office. First the scientist flips through to October. “Just checking if the photo is okay. I’m receiving guests from abroad tomorrow.” In the picture, a student lying on a bar is being doused in beer. “Seems fine to me”, he concludes.
“We’re kind of like Vindicat”, Van Beek jokes, referring to the notorious Groningen fraternity. “And this calendar is actually of all the people we’ve banged, together with their scores.” Laughter fills the attic apartment on the Sint Maartenslaan that Van Beek shares with a fellow Silenus member. He’s in his fourth year at Notenboom. “And that is?” Hesselink asks. “A sort of Hotel Management School, but smaller.” The other three students attend Hogeschool Zuyd. “That’s just a coincidence. Most of our members are at the university.”
Hesselink, professor of Human Movement Sciences, started his studies in health sciences in 1987 and obtained his PhD in Maastricht. “My thesis had an incomprehensible English title, something I’d never choose again. What it basically came down to was that muscle damage leads to a reduction in muscle function.” “So if I play sport and then have muscle pain, are my muscles damaged?” Van Beek asks. “Yes, but that usually rights itself within a week.” Rekko is the gym nut at the table; he works out two to three times a week. Hesselink is something of an athlete himself: “I’m into cycling.”
Silenus doesn’t have an official ‘beer chief’, but if it did Danny Bakkers would make a good candidate. Empty bottle of Grolsch? In one smooth motion, Bakkers opens the fridge behind him and pulls out a new one. “Do you start every evening with a beer?” Hesselink asks as a second bottle is placed before him. “Given that I didn’t ask for this,” he says, gesturing at the beer in front of him, “you could see it as hospitable – as I do – or as a little imposing.”
“We don’t see drinking as an obligation”, the students reply. “But to fair, it’s also not entirely unimportant.” Hesselink: “Is there peer pressure?” “If you don’t want to drink because you’re not well or you have an exam the next day, that’s no problem”, says Van Beek. “We don’t devote the entire introduction period to just drinking”, adds David Noorthoek. “And unlike other fraternities, we don’t have prospective members drink from five pm till late because ‘they need to learn it’. I wonder why people put up with that anyway.” As a rule, they do not speak the names of other student associations. But they make no secret of the fact that the Maastricht fraternities are competitive with one another, and so would rather go out drinking with sororities.
Hesselink never joined a student association or fraternity. “My student days were fantastic. I did everything I wanted and felt no need for a fraternity. I’m allergic to obligations. If my satnav tells me to go left, I’d rather go right.”
When Hesselink heard about the dinner at Silenus, he checked out their (old) website. “What a sad club”, he emailed Observant. He doesn’t shy away from sharing his opinion with his hosts as well. “That language, those pictures!” This is met with hearty laughter. Hesselink has his prejudices about student associations; it’s up to the students to take the edge off them. What’s so fun about all those obligations and hazing? Do you need a club like this to make friends? “I’m saying it in a loaded way, but in my day Circumflex was for the nice girls and Tragos was for toffs. Koko was more relaxed, they organised good parties.”
Koko is the odd man out, the students agree. “They’ll take anyone and they go camping for a week during the introduction. Singing songs all together around the campfire”, they laugh. “They appeal to a different target group, people who don’t want to go through a hazing”, Rekko says. “We don’t see the need for a tough physical initiation”, Noorthoek adds. “Our introduction period is long, but demeaning? Never.” Rekko: “You want them to join, to become good friends, so why would you go and degrade them first?”
Hesselink may be critical, but this is not to say he sees all students as drunkards and braggarts. On the contrary: “The majority are nice people with fresh ideas. I don’t feel all that removed from them; it’s as though I was a student myself just last week. As a lecturer you want them to have a fantastic time and to make room for that. But you also want them to graduate within a reasonable amount of time. It’s not 1987 anymore. Unfortunately there’s now a lot more pressure, less time and no more basic grant.”
Incidentally, Hesselink almost bought his old student house, just down the street. But the place was in poor condition and he pulled out of the sale. He was planning to live in it himself – without the students, of course.
Danny Bakkers * 22 * third-year student at Hotel Management School Maastricht * member of Silenus
Jaap Jan van Beek * 22 * fourth-year student at Hospitality and Events Management Business School Notenboom * member of Silenus and treasurer of Onafhankelijk Maastricht
David Noorthoek * 20 * third-year student at Hotel Management School Maastricht * secretary of Silenus
Loek Rekko * 20 * fourth-year student at Hotel Management School Maastricht * member of Silenus
Matthijs Hesselink * 48 * endowed professor of Human Movement Sciences * married, two daughters (19 and 16) and a son (13) * lives in Berg en Terblijt
Scores (maximum of five stars), given by Professor Hesselink
Hospitality: 5 stars (“I had a good time. I was late, but they let me in anyway”)
Food: 4 stars (“A dessert wouldn’t have gone astray”)
Cleanliness: 5 stars (“That’s not such an issue for me, it was cleaner than my old student house”)