International and European Law student Ruben Tan stares blankly at the 0.40 euro tag flickering on the screen of a faded red coffee machine. ‘Hot water was supposed to be free starting today, but clearly it’s not’, he groans.
Tan returns, sans-beverage, to his seat in the first-floor coffee corner at the University Library on Broerstraat.
Historically, hot water was free in the library. But in early 2018, the library started charging 50 cents per cup. Tan, who founded the OneManGang student party and holds a seat in the University Council, was outraged. He ran his campaign largely on the promise to bring free hot water back to the library.
One single red machine
‘Jouke de Vries, the new President of the University Board, was very responsive to my demands’, says Tan. ‘I thought the struggle for free hot water would take longer, but now it is just a matter of logistics.’ Those logistics would prove to be tricky.
The library announced last Thursday that free hot water would be available again starting this Monday: ‘It appears there is a great need for hot water among students’, the newsletter read.
But on Monday afternoon, as I moved with mounting confusion from coffee machine to coffee machine, each one charged me 0.40 euro for a cup of warm water. Eventually library reception clued me in to what felt like a carefully guarded secret: only a single red machine on the first floor would give me free hot water.
I eventually located this mystery machine. But the enigmatic appliance taunted me: 0.40 euro! It blinked. 0.40 euro! I started to doubt my ability to press the right button. I still had no hot water.
‘Sorry for the inconvenience’
I steadied myself for round two of verbal boxing with the impatient receptionists. But finally, a call to the Facility Department shed some light on the situation. ‘The system has not been put in place yet. The Facility Department says it will be fixed by this evening’, the receptionist tells me with a shrug. ‘Sorry for the inconvenience.’
And so, I stepped out onto the sunlit Broerstraat feeling victorious – even without hot water in my lonesome plastic cup.
The Facility Department was as good as its word: as of Tuesday, all red coffee machines in the University Library provide free hot water.
The more expensive silver apparatuses, also known as ‘kitchenettes’, still charge 0.60 euro for the same commodity, albeit in a larger quantity.