Why is there no university culture center?

OPINION – The new Campus Plan pays too little attention to culture. Sport is in focus, culture is an afterthought, says fourth-year student and PvdA faction follower Mika Kraft. ‘Let us, in addition to a university sports center, also build a university culture center.’

Campus is changing fast. Stone provides space for glass and classic lecture halls are interrupted with space for collaboration and meeting. This is stated in Radboud University’s new Campus Plan, which takes a look at campus 2030.

Although I have always been charmed by Thomas van Aquinostraat as an academic maze, I welcome these plans. But I miss serious attention for a theme that deserves this: culture. Why does the management not take advantage of this moment to establish a real University Cultural Center?

Cyclops

Where there is an entire Sports Center with impressive facilities, surrounded by large fields, students are much more on their own for cultural activities and hobbies. Campuses are less likely to invite students to try an art or culture hobby than a new sport. Time for this to change. Culture is just as important as sport and therefore deserves its own place.

‘The big difference lies in the facilities that are for sports, but not for culture’

Do not get me wrong: a lot is really happening around culture at Radboud University. Cultuur op de Campus has an extensive program and there are several associations where you can get started with cultural hobbies. Think of the student photography association De Cyclop or the student theater association Op Hoop van Zegen.

The big difference lies in the facilities available for sports but not for culture. Cultural associations must arrange space and materials themselves. Furthermore, in relation to sports, there is hardly any range of starter courses arranged by professionals. Sport is in focus, culture is secondary.

Functionality

The campus plan contains a few ideas that try to meet the existing need for art and culture. For example, it examines whether ‘realization of rehearsal rooms is necessary’ and whether art can serve ‘to offer young artists a platform and connect people to a space’.

It is a pity that the plans for art and culture focus on necessity or functionality, while creativity is an important value that must be deeply rooted in the DNA of the university and campus. It would make more sense directly to encourage students to try a new artistic or cultural hobby. Like many students on campus are invited to discover a new sport.

If Radboud University inspires new students to art or music, it can become a breeding ground for new artistic talents. In addition, the art helps all future researchers to present their results to society in a more accessible way, thus strengthening the connection to Nijmegen. But at least as important is the fact that art and culture help us to develop as human beings.

World level

After all, culture contributes to self-confidence, fitness, social cohesion, empathy and general well-being. At the presentation of his honorary doctorate, author Adriaan van Dis emphasized that literature helps to better understand people in a different situation than you. My party colleague Frans Timmermans joined the presentation of the Peace of the Nijmegen Medal by saying that art allows you to better immerse yourself in people outside your bubble.

‘Art and culture must be anchored deeper in the university’s and campus’ DNA’

According to the Campus Plan, the space for the Lecture Hall complex will be replaced by meeting rooms and facilities such as the Teaching and Learning Center. Let us take the opportunity to not only meet in this place, but also to create together.

It is time to build a University Cultural Center in addition to the University’s Sports Center. There we can develop workshops so that students can paint, draw or sculpt. There we can make rehearsal rooms so musicians can meet each other – who knows, maybe a world-class band from Nijmegen will show up. And let’s replace the Cultuurcafé with a place where there really is room for art and jam sessions. Culture enriches the university and therefore deserves a real place on campus, just like sports.

Mika Kraft is a fourth-year student in Cultural Anthropology and Developmental Sociology. He is also a party supporter on behalf of the PvdA in the city council of Nijmegen.

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