Corona on Campus

The student campus Uilenstede is, with its 3,400 residents, the largest student campus in Northern Europe. Living here means experiencing the ‘real student life’, including thirteen housemates, a dirty kitchen, and numerous parties. According to Dutch media, nothing has changed since the coronavirus. However, students and the Uilenstede residents’ association VBU claim otherwise. “The reporting is often
one-sided and it sketches a wrong image.”

Uilenstede in a bad daylight
Last week the police shut down an illegal party with two hundred people, held outside on the student campus. When enforcement arrived, most of the party people immediately disappeared. “It was then clear that most of the attendees did not live on campus themselves,” the police stated on Facebook.

Grass field in the middle of Uilenstede where the party was held, photo by Hedwig Goudsmit

It is not the first time Uilenstede was put in a bad daylight. When corona just hit the Netherlands and the ‘intelligent lockdown’ was implemented in Dutch society, a news item about ‘illegal lockdown parties’ appeared. According to the police, students at Uilenstede were hosting illegal raves. Later, this seemed to have been incorrect reporting. To make the lockdown more fun, several houses organized ‘balcony parties’, just like people were doing in Italy. Multiple students commented on the police’s Facebook post: “Everyone participating in this event was maintaining the RIVM guidelines. It is sad to see so many negative comments on what was supposed to be a moment of light in dark times.”

Cathelijne Immink, chairwoman of the Uilenstede residents’ association (VBU) makes clear the VBU does not support the news reports about Uilenstede. “I would like to point out that there certainly have been cases in which residents did not comply with the measures.” According to Cathelijne, it is then justified that action is being taken. “That aside, in our opinion the reporting is often one-sided and it sketches a wrong image. Take, for example, last week’s party. The police have admitted that a large part of those present does not live on campus. However, by using titles like ‘​Party with 200 people shut down by police on Uilenstede​ ’ another idea is aroused.”

Student housing, but no household
At the beginning of the corona crisis student housing did not fall under the term ‘household’. “That caused a lot of stress with students,” Cathelijne states. Students at Uilenstede share their kitchen and sometimes their bathroom, which makes it more challenging to keep distance indoors. “You have to acknowledge the fact that it is more difficult to comply with the measures if you live in a student room of twelve square meters than if you live in a terraced house with a garden.”

Il Caffè, the student cafe on campus, photo by Hedwig Goudsmit

Nonetheless, Aurelia Locatelli, resident at Campus Uilenstede, says she and her housemates take corona very seriously. “We set up our own rules regarding corona,” Aurelia says, “If someone shows symptoms, he or she will stay in their room and somebody else will cook them dinner.” Cathelijne also states that students living on Campus Uilenstede take responsibility and keep within the measures as much as possible.

Room to breathe
Now that student housing is seen as a household, the tension between the police and students has also reduced. “Today students from one household can exercise together or have a drink together at the campus cafe together,” Cathelijne says, “It feels like there is more room to breathe.”

written by Hedwig Goudsmit
photos by Hedwig Goudsmit