Photographer:Fotograaf: Loraine Bodewes Fotografie
Dies: the university’s thirty-fifth anniversary
They kept well away from the guests who had come to the university’s thirty-fifth anniversary; across the street, opposite the entrance of the Vrijthof Theatre, a group of animal activists led by a cantor relentlessly and loudly chanted: “Stop animal tests”, answered by the group as a choir: “All dogs free.” All in an uninterrupted rhythm. None of the commotion was audible inside, certainly not when the spectacle started with the traditional entrance of the cortège of professors into the hall, expanded with almost all national rectors this time because of the thirty-fifth anniversary. A dreadfully blinding light that was directed from the stage to the side of the hall announced their coming; at the same time there was live coverage on the large screen of the arrival of the procession at the theatre. Then the familiar ritual unfolded before our eyes: the audience was urged to stand, the beadle led the procession into the hall and the first few stumbling members could be seen. The small steps in the hall are a problem every year for those whose gown is just that little bit too long. The risk is even greater when leaving the hall: then the gown must be lifted up to prevent the toe of the shoe from getting caught. Professor Onno van Schayck made an unintentional attempt at what could have been quite a somersault, but with supreme effort he was just about able to remain on his feet.
Between this joyful entrance and the “festival of prizes”, as rector Gerard Mols described the rest of the afternoon programme, the rector held his foundation day speech, which had quite a political tone. On the principle that knowledge is first and foremost something of all people and for that reason the government should pay more rather than less, he condemned the obstacles that exist or threaten to be raised by the present government and others.
The main theme was the internationalisation that Maastricht University feels is of paramount importance and which is not just meant to educate the “tomorrow's world leaders” but which also offers economic advantages for our country and this region. Nevertheless the government is currently considering - prompted of course by the need for cutbacks - to no longer allow students from other European countries to benefit from government-funded education. Within this framework, it would be a good idea, according to Mols, to scientifically verify the prosperity effects of internationalisation in education (of which Mols is convinced).
He also pleaded for a ‘European charter’ that should iron out any deviating national regulations that affect student and staff mobility. These include such things as the mutual recognition of diplomas and tax and retirement laws. Lastly, the rector mentioned that the expansion of a progressive university like Maastricht was not always met with applause from the rest of the Netherlands. The recent resistance from the technical universities and science faculties throughout the country against the new UM science programme, reminded him of the resistance more than thirty-five years ago when the eighth medical faculty was set up, which later developed into the UM. He thought that “It only makes us stronger”.