‘We want to integrate culture in education and research’

Culture is losing out on Radboud University’s future plans, wrote student Mika Kraft last spring. Not true, say those responsible for culture at the university. But does this mean that there will be a cultural centre?

What will the campus of the future look like? Radboud University responded broadly to this in April this year. A small selection of the plans: The lecture hall complex and the Linné building will be demolished, while a new humanities building will be built on the site of the Spinoza building. The Erasmus building is to be renovated, among other things for student accommodation.

According to Mika Kraft, who is a student in cultural anthropology and development sociology, culture is not very good in future plans. Why are there no plans for a cultural centre, he wondered in an opinion piece on voxweb.nl, when the sport has ‘impressive facilities’. Kraft’s conclusion: ‘Sport is the focus, culture is secondary.’

Not the neglected child

Now, at the start of the new academic year, those responsible for culture on campus are responding to Kraft’s statement. Because he is wrong, they say.

Who are they responsible for? Firstly, cultural researcher Martijn Stevens, who two years ago made the transition from the Faculty of Arts to the Academic Affairs department, to start working as cultural coordinator.

In addition, development manager Ferry Soetekouw, who as a representative of the Campus & Facilities division is involved in the ‘bricks’, in other words the realization of facilities such as exercise rooms.

Thirdly, sports director Joris Hermans, who is also involved in culture in that capacity. The sports centre, which Hermans has led for a year and a half, not only includes spinning lessons and football, but also cultural activities such as photography, singing and theatre.

Why is the neglected child according to your culture not as Kraft writes?

Hermans: ‘The vision for culture and sport from 2019, which we are shaping, clearly states that sport and culture both contribute to the university’s core activities: education, research and knowledge transfer. Both themes are not approached differently.’

Soetekouw: ‘When Kraft reads the campus plan, he sees that money has been reserved for the development of cultural facilities and not for sports. It’s millions.’

‘We are not a sports organization or cultural institution, but a university’

Stevens: ‘Kraft talks about culture as a leisure activity. I’d rather take the culture out of the hobby sphere. My call is to use culture for personal development and to promote creativity in education and research. This can be done by integrating creative teaching methods into regular teaching. So my follow-up question is: should you have a cultural center for that or should you talk to the faculties?’

Hermans: ‘I think the university wants to see sport and culture less as independent functions. We are not a sports organization or cultural institution, but a university. A cultural center gives the impression that everything to do with culture takes place there. That’s exactly what we don’t want – we want to integrate it more into everything we do.’

Stevens: ‘Incidentally, this is already happening within the cultural sector, for example in collaborations with LUX, InScience and Wintertuin.’

Doesn’t it also have advantages to accommodate cultural offerings under one roof?

Stevens: ‘With a cultural center you only attract people who are intrinsically motivated to participate in culture. While many people have a latent need, but find the threshold for a center too high. Then they don’t come. That’s why I think you should enter the faculties. Collection of certain facilities can be inviting, but you should definitely not limit it to that.’

Pole dance association Lasya during the opening of the academic year. Photo: Johannes Fiebig

Hermans: “The same applies to sports. Sport is just one of the manifestations of movement. What matters to me is that students and staff also display vitality behaviors outside of the sports center, for example by reorganizing offices. Now if you were to ask me if I wanted to rebuild a sports center or if I wanted to integrate sports more on campus, I would choose the latter. Or at least think it through thoroughly’.

At the same time, there is simply a capacity problem. Indoor athletes have been begging for an extra hall for years, and cultural associations can only temporarily move into the Spinoza building. Shouldn’t there just be practice rooms?

Soetekouw: ‘It is a search with the culture and sports working group. Together we look at which facilities are needed. It is not certain that places will be added. We try to use spaces as multifunctional as possible and do not want to build facilities that are empty most of the time. We therefore also look at the facilities that our neighbors have to offer, such as the vocational college and ROC. We are currently investigating whether the chapel in the Berchmanianum (which during the day is used for graduation ceremonies, ed.) can be used in the evening as a practice room for the students’ big band and orchestras’.

“The current facilities for culture are inferior. Mika has a point in that’

Hermans: “In the past, the discussion was always focused on the third sports hall that was to be built. Building seemed to be the motto. But aren’t there other solutions that are more sustainable?’

Stevens: ‘The current facilities for culture are below par. Mika has a point there. It needs to be improved, and we take that into account, for example when we consider the new building for the faculties of art and FFTR.’

If the vision of culture and sport is implemented as it is now, what does it mean for the classical lecture hall?

Hermans laughs: ‘From my perspective of vitality, I say: all chairs out. In Scandinavian countries, you actually see this happening in some programs. And our offices are also arranged differently these days. It is also possible with education.’

Stevens: ‘We want to work more often with creative methods in teaching, for example by having students create a photo assignment or podcast. Then you must have facilities for that. Perhaps it would be better to teach in a theater instead of a lecture hall. That discussion is therefore not only about culture or sport, but about education as a whole.’

Soetekouw: ‘I don’t know much about education, but you really don’t have to renovate the entire tent to create more opportunities. If a teacher wants his students to model, we have to make sure there is no carpet in the room, because then we get into fights with the cleaners. With less intervention, you can furnish a room that is more flexible and multifunctional.’

Stevens: ‘That’s true. You don’t need to focus on new technology. Sometimes it is enough as a teacher to put a box of markers on the table, so to speak. However, this does not change the fact that there are currently few places on campus that invite innovative forms of education. We have to find out what such a space would look like together with students and teachers.’

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