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“We’re not those boorish, antisocial alpha males with their hair slicked back”

“We’re not those boorish, antisocial alpha males with their hair slicked back”

Photographer:Fotograaf: Loraine Bodewes

Prof. Klaartje Peters shares a meal with independent fraternity Extravaganza

“We see one another in extreme circumstances: very drunk or very emotional. We share everything, including when someone’s going through a difficult time”, Lars Vreuls is explaining when the doorbell rings around 18.30 in the student flat on the Burgemeester Lespinassestraat 1C03. It is Professor Klaartje Peters, frozen with cold and out of breath after climbing four sets of stairs. “I wanted to drive here, but I couldn’t find the car. I usually walk around the block and see it parked somewhere. Not this time. Then I call my husband and he says, good news, it’s not been stolen, I’m sitting in it.” So she cycled like the wind, and with a bag full of goodies: Spanish wine and chocolates. “You have to save these chocolates, they’re not for a Monday night.”

The pumpkin soup by Robbert de Veen is served. “Nice. Can I eat it with my right hand?” Peters laughs, referring to one of Extravaganza’s customs. You may, comes the reply, because there’s no alcohol in it. The first sip of wine is with your left hand. Vreuls doesn’t want to drink too much; he has to report to the International Business Examination Board first thing in the morning. “I accidentally left my phone in my back pocket during the exam. Stupid. My alarm went off on the way to the loo. I have a clear conscience; in principle I didn’t do anything wrong. Anyway, I didn’t pass the exam. Surely that’s the best proof it wasn’t intentional. If you’re going to cheat you’d make sure you at least pass, right?!” The students snigger, and Peters asks what the maximum penalty is for such an offense. “Four months’ suspension.”

Three of the men – Vreuls, De Veen and president Ryan Edgcumbe – are wearing their fraternity ties. Only Sebastian Kola is wearing his fraternity jumper. He would have been in a tie and jacket as well, but a housemate had taken his wet clothes out of the dryer, leaving him without a clean shirt. Peters is not bothered in the least. She has done her homework, and appears to know everything about the fraternity. Independent, nine active members, most of them SBE students. “Why is there no one from FASoS? And no international students?” It’s not exactly a policy, they reply, although it is “easier with Dutch guys. Otherwise we’d have to speak English at the pub”, Kola explains. But they pick up the language in no time? responds Peters.

The discussion turns to the differences between nationalities. “Dutch students want to be entertained more, whereas Germans will concentrate on a lecture for two hours, even if it’s boring”, Kola says. Peters finds German students “a lot more polite and well-behaved”. She prefers having female Germans in her tutorials; they work hard. Dutch guys mainly just talk a lot. Kola nods in agreement. In a recent assignment his German classmates did the statistical analyses in exchange for him presenting them. “Everyone was happy.”

“That smells so good. This is really a high-quality dinner. Did you make the risotto?” asks Peters – “I can’t cook at all myself” – as De Veen places a large pan on the table. Yes, he’s tonight’s chef. Peters wants to know whether they have any other customs. “If you screw someone over you have to down a shoe”, Vreuls says. “Imagine I throw a beer over Ryan’s trousers; as punishment I’d have to fill my shoe with beer and drink it on the spot.” Peters pulls a face and asks why they opted for a fraternity. “There are mixed student associations as well,” Edgcumbe explains, “but if members get together and then break up, you’ve immediately got problems.” Surely that can happen in a fraternity too, Peters says. True, the students reply, but it’s much less common. And the dynamic in a group of guys is very different; “we go our own way at the pub, play football, drink beer.” But, Kola adds, “with us it’s more than drinking for drinking’s sake.” Vreuls adds: “We’re not those boorish, antisocial alpha males with their hair slicked back that you often see in other fraternities.”

Which student association did the professor join during her studies in Leiden? Edgcumbe asks. “None. I started in the same year as Willem-Alexander. My parents had never told me about the studentencorps; I had no idea what it was and it didn’t even occur to me to join. When I rode past the Minerva club as a first year, the students were falling all over themselves to meet Willem-Alexander.” De Veen: “Did he ever stumble along the canals drunk?” Peters: “He did like having a drink. I sometimes saw him at the pub playing darts. I never felt the need to get acquainted.”

After dessert Peters brings up ‘her’ subject: politics. They talk about the PVV (the party of the right-wing populist Geert Wilders), the Greens, D66, the VVD, prime minister Rutte, Islam. “I have no problem with Muslims in our country, but they do have to adapt”, Vreuls says. “It’s their country too”, Peters corrects him. “And the vast majority just want to participate. But because we in the Netherlands are always emphasising the differences, that just stokes the fire. My husband once said to me, if they constantly called you a dirty Brabanter and put [football club] PSV in a bad light, just see how quickly you’d feel like a real Brabanter again.”

Are they planning to vote in March? The students nod vehemently. “Guys often don’t vote, out of laziness but also because they feel untouchable. You saw that recently in the UK with Brexit. If the young people had turned out, the UK would have stayed in the European Union.” Peters is passionate about this: “You’ve absolutely got to vote, if only to stop [pensioners’ party] 50PLUS. I get so annoyed by old people who say ‘we built this country up, we want to hold on to what we have’. You won’t have it as good as my parents’ generation now. It’s very bad for the country to emphasise the generational conflict like that.”

Klaartje Peters * 47 * endowed professor of Local and Regional Governance, independent researcher and writer, chair of the Maastricht Audit Office * married * lives in the Maastricht city centre

Ryan Edgcumbe * 26 * second-year Visual Communication at the Academy of Fine Arts, president of the Maastricht fraternity Extravaganza

Robbert de Veen * 22 * third-year medicine * secretary

Lars Vreuls, * 20 * third-year International Business * treasurer

Sebastian Kola * 21 * fourth-year International Business * member of Extravaganza and board member of the International Student Network

Scores by prof. Peters (maximum of 5 stars):

-food: 5 stars “A high-quality dinner”

-hospitality: 5 stars

-cleanliness: 4-5 stars

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