Professor Jos Lemmink shares a meal with independent sorority Kokkepel
Jos Lemmink actually thought it would be fun to cook with the students. Not because he lacked faith in their culinary skills, but for nostalgic reasons. He once lived in a student house in Groningen, and still recalls the communal act of chopping and stir-frying vegetables. Which is not to say this always resulted in Michelin-star delights: “In my day those chow mein packets were popular, with the pre-cut vegetables where you only had to throw in noodles or rice.”
We’re sitting in the studio of Kokkepel president Minte Siegert, in a block of students’ flats a stone’s throw from Café Thembi in Randwyck. The place is so small one occasionally needs to clamber over the couch to get from the kitchen to the dining table.
As the courgette and mustard soup is served, Siegert shows the guests a group photo of the full sorority. Established in 1984, Kokkepel means butterfly in the old Maastricht dialect. It has twelve members.
“So were you lured in, or did you plan to join?” asks Lemmink, who was briefly part of a student association in Groningen (“No, no, no, not Vindicat”, he says, referring to the notorious northern fraternity).
Eva van Oorschot was determined not to, but her resolve was broken immediately. “Kokkepel was just so much fun! We party a lot but we also study together sometimes. In the library till midnight and then off to the pub.”
Lemmink chased his daughters out of the province, and now wonders whether he was too strict about that. “They both ended up just over the border in Nijmegen. I think it makes sense to move out – that way you build up your own life and learn to make your own decisions.”
For Siegert it was the other way round. “My parents wanted me to stay at home in Utrecht, so I moved to the southernmost point of the Netherlands. I really wanted to live in a student house.”
Lemmink ended up in Maastricht after moving from Groningen to The Hague, where he worked at KPN. He served as dean of the School of Business and Economics for eight years, and is now, he says, free once more to pursue his research on social media and digitisation, among other topics. To set the cat among the pigeons, he opens by suggesting the students should not be surprised if robots take over their future jobs.
“I don’t see that happening in my specialisation, mental healthcare”, responds Lotte van Laar.
“Well, you’ve already got those plush robots – there are all sorts of experiments going on with those”, Lemmink says. “By the way, how do you guys use social media?”
They use Facebook often for their studies, WhatsApp for recreation and Twitter not at all. “It’s so not interesting to know that someone’s sitting on the loo or just knocked over his tea”, Siegert says.
The food arrives on the table. Pleasantly surprised, Lemmink leaps up, rummages around in the pockets of his coat and returns with his phone. “We have to take a picture of this. Beautiful composition.”
“Oh no, you have the ugliest plate”, Siegert says and swaps it for a nicer one. “From left to right, we have sweet potato with panga fish on a bed of tomatoes.”
Lemmink brought the students a special bottle of red wine from the Montefalco region in central Italy, where he has a cottage in the country. He was there last August when, not far away, three hundred people lost their lives in the earthquake. “I didn’t feel anything, strangely enough, but my neighbour felt the ground shake. Norcia is one of those villages where practically nothing was left standing. That’s why I bought this wine, to support the farmers in some way.”
The students buy the no-name wine from Jumbo. “The €2.50 one is undrinkable, but the €3 one is okay”, says Van Laar. “We never pay more than €5.”
It would be a waste, Van Oorschot adds. “We just down it. I mean, it’s not like we’re getting together for a wine tasting.”
Siegert: “We do have beer tasting though. And beer games and cantussen; then we just pass those big jugs around.”
“Not quite the setting for a connoisseur”, Lemmink says, tongue-in-cheek.
Next Siegert asks if Lemmink has ever lived abroad. She herself is looking forward to her upcoming study trip to the USA (where, she adds, she doesn’t otherwise plan to live, work or grow old). Not really, replies the professor. “A few months in Australia.”
As dean he did visit many universities abroad to organise student exchange partners. “There’s huge variation in quality, including in the US. You’ve got great universities there but also lousy ones.”
“I’m going to Richmond, in Virginia”, Siegert says. “It has a good reputation, but we’ll see.”
A country you may not expect to have high-quality education is Turkey, according to Lemmink.
“I wouldn’t want to study there”, Van Oorschot says. “Me neither”, Lieke Weernink chimes in. “I wouldn’t feel at home. Not as a woman.”
Istanbul has become a popular destination for SBE students, Lemmink says. “There are three very good universities there. That’s why I find it so sad what’s happened, how Erdogan has wrought havoc and fired a whole bunch of researchers.”
He is deeply concerned, and goes on somewhat emotionally: “I wonder what the best thing is for SBE to do. Should we support the business schools there, or not? They’re not asking for it. But lots of professors do want to leave and are applying elsewhere. You see the same thing in Venezuela, where entire universities are emptying out.”
Weernink turns out to be an intrepid adventurer. Last summer she went to Nepal on her own, more or less spontaneously. There had been earthquakes there too, a few years earlier admittedly, but the mess was by no means cleaned up.
“At some point you were apping us about mudslides”, Van Oorschot recalls. “Yes, there was still a big risk of landslides. Some of the roads were closed. And not long before a bus had crashed into a ravine”, Weernink says. “At one point I really thought, what am I doing here?”
Minte Siegert * 19 * second-year University College * sorority president
Eva van Oorschot * 21 * third-year medicine * former president
Lotte van Laar * 20 * third-year health sciences * secretary
Lieke Weernink * 20 * second-year fiscal economics * treasurer
Jos Lemmink * 59 * professor of marketing * married, two daughters * lives in Maastricht
Scores by prof. Lemmink (maximum of 5 stars):
-food: 5 stars
-hospitality: 5 stars
-cleanliness: 4 stars