“It is an honour to wear them,” says president of Maastricht University Martin Paul, pointing to his new red Bed Talk socks. He is a fan of the Red Socks, Boston's baseball team. During the opening of The Student Hotel Maastricht last Friday he jumped into bed with Frank Uffen, one of the directors of The Student Hotel.
“Maastricht is the oldest city in the Netherlands, but has the youngest university,” Uffen starts off in room 111. “That creates an interesting tension,” says Paul. People from Maastricht are still trying to get used to students and the university. He says that this is much less of a problem in a city like Leiden, which has been a university city for centuries.
Maastricht University is the largest employer in Limburg and indirectly provides a lot of jobs elsewhere in the city, but many people from Maastricht mainly see the disturbance caused by students. Besides, citizens think that they are only here to party and drink. This is incorrect, according to Paul: “There are a lot of students who dedicate themselves to the city and we try to stimulate that. Some give computer lessons in retirement homes, others babysit, repair bicycles or help citizens fill out tax forms. There is even a special project in which students pay low rents in exchange for community services.”
There is a reason why the theme of the series of Open Days for those in 4th year pre-university education is ‘Go the extra mile’. That doesn't just mean that students have to come from far to get to Maastricht, but also that they develop themselves outside their studies. “We really want them to be active in society, politics and sports. I think, for example, that it is great that there are students on the list for the upcoming city council elections,” says Paul.
“But it is difficult to come in contact with students,” according to someone in the audience. “Correct,” says Paul. “That is why it is also important to create more public meeting places and facilities. The Student Hotel here may be a good place for that.” On the other hand, the President adds, very few citizens accept invitations from students. There is room for improvement on both sides.
The idea behind these so-called Bed Talks - a total of 48 - originates from the famous bed protest by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, who protested against the Vietnam War in the Amsterdam Hilton hotel in 1969.