MAASTRICHT. Two weeks ago, Maastricht University’s crisis management team decided that there would not be a normal Inkom this year. The decision was taken in consultation with the Working Group Inkom (WGI). “Initially, we were of course very disappointed,” says chairperson Milou Berdenis van Berlekom. But after a brief period of time to recover, the working group is now slowly looking towards the future, to see what is still possible. Student associations meanwhile fear that the number of members will drop.
‘Enter the unknown.’ The WGI did not know just how apt this theme for ‘their’ Inkom would be when they chose it all those months ago. It will be an Inkom like never before. Mainly digital, with no more than a couple of small-scale real meetings. “We find ourselves in the start-up phase again, just like five months ago,” says Berdenis van Berlekom. “We are brainstorming a lot. We take the lead where it concerns ideas; we come up with them and we assess the input from others. But we also have to look at what is technically possible so that we can still give the new students a warm welcome.”
The WGI is working closely with the student associations, which normally play a major role during Inkom. They provide the mamas and the papas – the group leaders for the new students – organise open parties and activities to choose from. On the other hand, Inkom is very important for the associations because that is where they recruit new members.
Rosalie Bovy, chairperson of student rowing association Saurus, thinks that this will be much tougher now. “You are less able to present yourself.” The association is looking into activities that can be done safely at 1.5 metre distance. “Can we row, for example?” Furthermore, we are looking into digital options. “A virtual tour of the club? A Q&A session for new students via a livestream?”
Nevertheless, Bovy expects “certainly fewer new recruitments than is normally the case. I hope it is not an enormous drop. And maybe it will sort itself out later on. We always have a first introduction with Saurus and rowing for school-leavers in Spring. Maybe we can expand on that.”
Marc Albers, president of student association Tragos, is also hoping that things will be restored later in the year. “If we still have distance education and students spend a lot of time at home, there is not much opportunity to build a social life in Maastricht. Maybe this will actually increase the need for an association. We will be very active on social media over the coming months.”
For those who do become a member in September, the period of introduction at an association will be very different too. Normally, the first-year students would go camping during the introduction weekend. “Even if everything opens after 1 September, I don’t think it would be responsible to organise something like that,” says Albers. “It is all very tedious, but public health is really a priority.”
Circumflex is doing a lot of brainstorming “with committees, the university, the WGI, but also with former board members,” says chairman Stan van der Vleuten. Not just about the programme during Inkom, but also about the period afterwards. “The introduction time will certainly be different. We will have to follow the RIVM rules that apply at that time closely. As far as new members are concerned, it is wait and see how much impact this will have. Normally, physical contact is very important to us, but that is not possible at the moment. If we still have only distance education in September, maybe we will have to create a second registration round.”
At student association Koko, students can join the whole year through, “so that is an advantage,” says chairman Jordi Janssen. Otherwise, we will wait and see. “You have to work with what you are given. We are looking at various scenarios: what if the club is allowed to open, but students don’t come to Maastricht? What if we are only allowed to organise small-scale activities? What if we have to remain closed?”
In the latter case, a digital environment will have to be created, says Janssen. “We are thinking about that now, with people within the association who know about the technical issues.” He also sees a positive side to this. “Everything is being shook up, because we are doing everything so very differently. I think that when we look back on this next year, we will have gained so many new insights.”