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Lie or truth

21 June om 14:55 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 7 July 2022
om 10:15 uur.
June 21 at 14:55 PM.
Last modified on July 7, 2022
at 10:15 AM.

Mural protest

This spring, student protests blocked the painting of an ‘academic mural’ depicting German philosopher Immanuel Kant. The UG had planned to honour the philosopher, known as the founding father of the modern principle of equality, with it. 

Students were angry, because the 18th-century philosopher was known to have sexist and racist ideas. They didn’t think someone like that deserved a mural.

False! The university did commission two murals this year: one of Aletta Jacobs, the very first woman to graduate from a Dutch university, and J.C. Kapteyn, the astronomer who put Groningen astronomy research on the map. However, Kant isn’t integral enough to the history of the UG to warrant a mural.

It is true, though, that Immanuel Kant had racist and sexist ideas. UG philosopher Pauline Kleingeld studies how that impacted his ideas of equality. 

Thongs in the library

Students leave the weirdest things behind after studying at the UB for a day. They’re not only good for 10,000 bags of garbage (two of which are filled with just gum), but they also leave things they probably still need. 

The UB decided to organise the items into an exhibition and filled display cases with phone chargers, calculators, jewellery, and credit cards. Some more interesting items include XTC and… thongs!

True! In 2019, the UB set up an exhibition with items from the lost and found department. In addition to the thongs, XTC, and chargers, there were hundreds of water bottles, sunglasses, and a bunch of Ritalin. 

Rector didn’t go to a fancy school

Not every academic gets their start in grammar school. Our current rector magnificus, Cisca Wijmenga, started out in lower secondary education. She worked her way up until she made it to university. She graduated with honours in Leiden, was scouted by American laboratories and became one of the most influential scientists in the field of genetics. In 2015, she was awarded the Dutch version of the Nobel Prize: a Spinoza Prize. And now, she’s in charge of the entire UG.

True! Not only is rector magnificus Cisca Wijmenga the first female rector in Groningen, she’s also an internationally renowned genetics expert. But she started out in lower secondary education. She loves to tell stories about all the people who’ve always encouraged her. She wants to do the same for her ‘lab children’. But for now, she’s too busy with her managerial tasks.

The ghost at the UB

Er woont een spook in de UB. Meerdere mensen hebben een vreemde schim waargenomen op de bewakingscamera’s. De bewakingsdienst is ook al regelmatig op verkenning geweest, maar er is nog nooit iets verdachts aangetroffen. Overdag laten de camera’s niets vreemds zien.

Medewerkers denken dat het misschien iets te maken heeft met het feit dat op de plek van de UB ooit een kerk stond. Met een kerkhof. En spoken.

Waar! Er gaan inderdaad geruchten in de UB over vreemde schimmen op de bewakingscamera’s. En er zijn schoonmakers die weigeren de kelder in te gaan tot iemand anders het licht aandoet. Het zou te maken hebben met een oude grap, uit de tijd dat je de intercom nog zonder waarschuwing aan kon schakelen. Medewerkers zouden toen spookgeluiden door het gebouw hebben laten klinken.

Coffee to lure students to class

The Faculty of Science and Engineering is trying to fill its empty classrooms with free coffee and a snack.

When classes started again after being online for months due to the pandemic, very few students actually showed up. Some of them were still afraid of the virus, while others preferred being online for convenience. The faculty tried to lure students back in with coffee and cookies.

True! After restrictions were lifted, classrooms across faculties remained empty. Faculties did everything in their power to motivate students to come back: it’s better for their well-being and for education itself. FSE decided to use coffee and a snack as an incentive. 

Menstruation hack

In January, the website belonging to independent university newspaper UKrant was the victim of a week-long DDoS attack. 

The hack supposedly had something to with a news article on the UKrant site concerning free tampons and pads. The hackers felt the article should have said ‘people who menstruate’, rather than ‘women’.

Board president Jouke de Vries said the attack was ‘shocking’. 

False! It was the Maastricht university newspaper Observant that was attacked by hacker collective Anonymous in January. In an email, Observant was accused of racism and transphobia.

According to higher education press agency HOP, Observant had been accused of transphobia before by student group Feminists of Maastricht. This group said that the site should have been talking about ‘people who menstruate’ instead of ‘women’ in an article on free tampons and pads on campus. If the article wasn’t amended, the group promised to ‘mobilise’ their ‘community’.

Student culture under threat

The emergence of Swapfiets is a threat to an old student tradition: painting your bike in the colours of your student organisation. Green and black for Veracles, black, white, and orange for Gyas.

But ever since Swapfiets came to Groningen, this phenomenon has been dwindling, as people aren’t allowed to modify the bike they lease. 

Associations have been forced to resort to stickers and bike bells in their colours. At least they can be moved from one bike to the next.

True! Ever since Swapfiets came to Groningen in 2017, the number of bikes with a blue front tyre has increased exponentially. There are currently more than 20,000 of them in the city. Student associations are bummed out that their members can no longer paint their bikes. ‘One girl was so desperate to paint it that she’d taped off her entire bicycle.’

Social contract to combat parties

Starting in 2023, first-year students will be required to sign a ‘social contract’. The UG, Hanze University of Applied Sciences, and the municipality hope to curb disturbances caused by students this way. There are too many parties, haphazardly parked bicycles, and cases of public intoxication. 

It’s not yet been announced what the contract will entail and what rules the students would have to obey. The UG wants to use the contract to send a clear message about what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour, said rector Wijmenga.

True! The deal was made this spring. The ever-increasing student numbers are causing a nuisance in the city. ‘They are both students and residents of the city. That should inform their behaviour. It’s time we properly express the behavioural rules that we have’, said UG rector magnificus Cisca Wijmenga.

Some people have voiced their criticism of the contract, claiming the phrase suggests some kind of binding agreement. Nonsense, obviously. Some people also worry the contract will amount to more than just informing students of the university’s standards. 

Basement room for 800 euro

In October 2021, residents of a Vindicat house posted an ad for a room that got 14,000 responses. 

The gentlemen were renting out the basement of their luxurious house to international students, at the cost of a mere 800 euros. The boys thought it was a steal. 

Angry students and other Groningen residents disagreed. They said the ad was ‘unethical’ and ‘immoral’.

False! However… some Vindicat members did try to rent out a tiny room for that price. The room was 9 square metres and was said to be ‘two minutes away from the Vismarkt and the Herestraat’ and to have a ‘large balcony on the sunny side of the Gedempte Zuiderdiep’. Rental agency Bulten Vastgoed found out what the boys were trying to do and was furious, as it constituted an attempt at illegal subletting. The boys were also chastised by Vindicat’s president.

Course in etiquette

Students are struggling to figure out how to address their lecturers. Should they go for ‘Hey’, ‘Dear sir/madam’, or something even more formal? Some students opted for writing ‘Yo professor’ in their emails, something which not all lecturers appreciated. 

The UG turned to etiquette expert Beatrijs Ritsema. She’ll be organising a walk-in clinic in the first week of class, where first-year students can go for advice on how to address their lecturers. 

False! It is true that students don’t always know how to address their lecturers. Some lecturers have been complaining about the rude emails their students send them. But students won’t be subjected to a course in etiquette just yet.

Tiger in the pub

There was a big to-do in 2012 when several photos of a tiger in the Albertus club house made the rounds on WhatsApp. Seven students posed proudly with the wild animal. The Party for the Animals was obviously angry and called it a disgrace. The association was then castigated by half the country. 

Albertus didn’t understand why people were making such a fuss. They only had the animal for thirty minutes and it was properly secured, the club president said.

False! There was a tiger at a club house in 2012, but it was at Vindicat. Having said that, Albertus hasn’t always been nice to animals. They were in the national news in 2007 for swallowing live goldfish.

Groningen in China

The Groningen university almost became University Groningen Yantai. The UG had plans to set up a branch campus in China. Groningen lecturers would go to China to teach and Chinese students would come here. The campus was finished and the president of the university signed the agreement in the presence of king Willem-Alexander and Chinese president Xi Jinping in 2015. That is, until the university council decided it wasn’t a good idea after all and cancelled the plans. Bummer.

True! The UG decided to set up a branch campus in the Chinese city of Yantai in 2015, and the whole plan was cancelled when the university council voted against it in 2018.

Then board president Sibrand Poppema wanted the UG to be an international top university, but too many people were concerned about freedom of speech and academic freedom. Student party Lijst Calimero was the final party to be won over, after which the plans were definitively cancelled.

Grade inflation

Any grade below a 5.5 is a failing grade. Right? Last year, the UG was looking to change this. In an effort to combat students doing the minimum to get a passing grade, the UG wanted to raise the passing grade to a 6.5.

False! However, this spring, people got upset about a piece by UKrant columnist Bauke. In his column, he claimed this is exactly what the UG was planning. After all, inflation was happening everywhere! Dozens of students were furious because they thought it was true…

Cat gets student ID

Students come in all shapes and sizes. But four years ago, the UG welcomed a particularly interesting one when they issued a student ID to a cat.

The cat in question is the famous prof. dr. Doerak, a cat who had been hanging out at the Harmonie building for years and even came to class sometimes. The UG loved him so much they decided to make him an honorary student. 

True! Professor dr. Doerak is even the official university cat, and you can follow him on his Instagram. He has become a bit more housebound since the pandemic, which means you won’t see him at the Harmonie as much. 

Conspiracy professor 

An academic teaching a course on critical thinking but who himself believed in conspiracy theories was suspended from the UG this spring. 

Students who disagreed with him were often afraid to express themselves. After one student finally submitted a complaint, the lecturer was exposed. 

He is now waiting for an investigation into his actions to be completed. 

True! The person in question is associate professor of cognitive sciences Tjeerd Andringa at the University College Groningen. Initially, he was only removed from his course ‘System views of Life’, on critical thinking. But after UKrant wrote about the issue, the university decided to suspend him until an investigation into his actions could shed light on the matter. The results of the investigation aren’t in yet. 

Drug test after an exam

An increasing number of students are using ADHD drug Ritalin as a study tool. It helps them focus when studying for exams.

The university is against this. The use of medication without a prescription can be dangerous to people’s health. That’s why the UG exam committees have announced they’ll start doing random drug tests.

False! It’s true that more and more students are using ADHD drug Ritalin to help them study. A 2021 study done by UG psychologist Anselm Fuermaier that questioned first-year students in Groningen showed that 16 percent of the students had taken methylphenidate at least once. Nearly 60 percent of that group took it ‘occasionally’. One percent admitted to taking it ‘regularly’. While Fuermaier warns of the drugs’ dangers, there are no plans for mandatory drug testing.

Female professors in skirts

A new promotion rule says that female professors have to wear skirts during a promotion ceremony. According to rector magnificus Cisca Wijmenga, it’s too late to change the rule.  

The garment was supposed to be optional in an effort to meet women’s wishes. But the text accidentally said it was obligatory. No one proofread the text before the rule was officially adopted.

False! But it’s close. The PhD regulations that were adopted in February 2022 by the UG’s PhD committee, which consists of all the faculties’ deans and the rector magnificus, said that women should take off their cap during the ceremony, while male professors were allowed to keep them on.

That was a mistake. It was based on the idea that female professors often get their hair done, while men don’t. Taking off their cap would mess up their hairdo. The regulations were supposed to say that women were allowed to keep their caps on. But after the text had been changed, no one went back to proofread it. Now the rule is set in stone for the next few years. That’s a shame, because the new regulations were supposed to be more gender inclusive.

Costliest building ever is too small

The biggest and most expensive laboratory the UG has ever built, the Feringa Building, is too small before it’s even finished. The new, 62,000 square metre building will have to house approximately 1,400 students and 850 staff. It will have the latest vibration-proof laboratories. Nevertheless, it won’t have enough room for all the students and researchers at the Faculty of Science and Engineering and the buildings it’s supposed to replace will stay up.

True! At 200 million, this is the most expensive building the UG has ever commissioned. But construction isn’t going very smoothly. The UG presented the building’s design as far back as 2015, and it was supposed to have been finished by this year. But the uni ran into trouble with the tenders and then the buildings costs were higher than they’d expected. Then the pandemic happened and contractors sued the UG. All this means the building probably won’t be finished until 2025. 

In the meantime, the Faculty of Science and Engineering just keeps growing. Because of that, the severely outdated Nijenborgh 4, which the Feringa Building was set to replace, will mostly stay up.

No women at Forward

This spring, the oldest student football association in the Netherlands, Groningen club Forward, lost its committee grant, a subsidy from the UG that allows students to participate in board work.  The reason is that the association excludes women.

Forward is angry and says that women actually are welcome, they just don’t apply. Why? Because there aren’t any other women’s teams to compete against. 

True! There was quite a to-do when the UG announced in May that they would take away Forward’s committee grants for excluding women from their club. UG president Jouke de Vries emphasised that the university ‘can’t propagate central values such as diversity and inclusion and then exclude half or even more of the world’s population’. 

Forward denied the allegations. They said they couldn’t help it that women weren’t joining their club. Even if enough women joined, they’d only be able to play themselves, since there aren’t any other women’s teams at the level Forward plays at. 

The UG was indifferent to their argument. The grants were still cancelled.

Tents to combat housing crisis

The housing crisis in Groningen just keeps getting worse. After more than a hundred students were still living in emergency housing by December last year, the UG decided on a more structural approach.

First-years who haven’t found a room by October will be able to rent large, heated tents set up at the Suikerunie grounds. The tents were purchased from the department of Defence which used them for emergencies in disaster areas. 

False! But it’s close. In 2018, the UG was forced to erect tents for internationals so they’d have a temporary place to stay. After the housing crisis abated slightly due to Covid, this year it was back in full swing. By Christmas, there were still 115 students in the Martinihouse emergency shelter at the Donderslaan – most of them internationals who hadn’t been able to score a room. This year, emergency housing stayed open for two more months as compared to the year before.  That’s why this year, the UG recommended everyone who hadn’t found a room by August to not move to Groningen. 

Student celebrates his own anniversary

This year, a 23-year-old student celebrated his anniversary with a big party. He was honouring… himself. 

The law student had been studying in Groningen for five years and thought it was time to celebrate that. He and his friends invited hundreds of people, wrote special anniversary songs, organised a gala, and even designed a lot of nice merchandise. All this in the name of megalomania. 

True! The student was Marc de Groot and it was really a joke that got out of hand. But the party was great.

Preserved babies

In one of the warehouses at Zernike, there’s a room with dozens of babies preserved formalin. 

Most babies are hundreds of years old, preserved so scientists could study birth defects. There are Siamese twins and a baby with hydrocephalus.

The warehouse is also home to other preserved body parts: ears, eyes, pieces of skin, and even penises. 

True! The warehouse is part of the University Museum. Human tissue has been preserved like this since the seventeenth century. The warehouse is closed, but part of the collection can be seen at the museum at the Stoeldraaiersstraat. Students get in for free. 

Student gets needle spiked

Dozens of Groningen students say they’ve been the victim of needle spiking. They were allegedly injected with an unknown substance while out on the town. This resulted in nausea, blackouts, or disorientation.

The Groningen Nachtraad set up a special hotline to collect reports. The municipal council also addressed the phenomenon.

True! The Groningen Nachtraad did indeed receive dozens of reports of needle spiking. But whether any of it actually happens remains to be seen. There is no evidence. Besides, experts say there’s every reason to believe this is an urban legend: a story people tell each other believing it to be true. This leads to people getting anxious that they’ve been drugged when in fact they’re simply hyperventilating.

International-friendly is a must!

Starting next year, student associations are obligated to be bilingual. The UG has said that ‘Dutch only’ is no longer allowed.

International students often don’t feel welcome at any of the social clubs because people don’t speak English. Associations are doing everything they can to keep them at bay. They wrote interested students they were free to join, but not to expect to make any friends. 

False! The university isn’t forcing the social clubs to be welcoming to internationals. They don’t have the authority. However, English-language students are having a hard time making friends. Many associations feel like they’re a typically Dutch institution and don’t see any reason to change that.