Three new Elmers

Regarding: job application rector magnificus

In 2011, the Faculty of Economics and Business (FEB) said goodbye to Elmer Sterken when he left them to become rector magnificus. Photo: Jeroen van Kooten.
Rector magnificus Elmer Sterken is hanging up his hat soon, and so the University of Groningen needs someone to take over for him. UKrant asked three ‘unusual suspects’ to apply for the job. We’ve printed their applications, including a Sterken-esque selfie, below.

Outgoing rector Elmer Sterken is famous for his selfies. This one is without a doubt his ‘Magnus Opum’.

Dearly beloved alma mater, or whosoever represents her currently,

I beg your forgiveness if this missive should fail to comport with the conditions of a ‘brief letter of motivation’ – the last time I went in search of a professional position such a concept did not yet exist. But you may find solace in the comforting thought that mine is the only appeal you will ever have to read: it is I who is the new rector magnificus of the University of Groningen.

In fact I am so convinced of this that I am willing to return to the land of the living to fulfil the position. While I am most contented on the Other Side, methinks I would have some trouble cutting ribbons from here. In all seriousness: I feel I am needed in Groningen. It is high time that the RUG lives up to its claims about gender equality.

She once excelled at this. I should know: after all in 1871 I was the first female student in the Netherlands, at this very university. Would it not be a wonderful, even poetic twist of fate if the first female student in turn became the first female rector?

I have come to understand that in this ‘covering letter’ one is expected to assuredly yet not too ostentatiously stick several feathers in one’s cap in order denote one’s suitability to the coveted post. Born as I was to an assiduous and humble Groningen family, this has never come easy to me. Nevertheless, my feathers are magnificent. And I have many caps.

You seek someone to champion academic freedom; it was I who threw wide the doors of the university for an entire gender. You hold dear to healthy ageing; as a physician, I introduced women to the methods to prevent conception so they were no longer forced to propagate until they perish.

You also seek an ‘inspiring, motivating, and unifying’ as well as ‘honest character’, but I reckon you may not know yourself what you are alluding to. I bear you no ill will; it must not be easy, composing such a long and wordy vacancy text. Suffice it to say I can inspire, motivate, and unify with the best of them. After all, it is not for nothing that I earned my place in the canon of Dutch history.

Being on stage was not an activity befitting a lady of standing in my time, so I fear I cannot say anything of use as to my ability to ‘act well in a team with the other board members and deans’. Unless you simply meant you are in need of someone who knows to collaborate? I assure you, I am proficient at that. I await my new position with pleasure.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Aletta H. Jacobs

(Aletta Jacobs was the first woman to graduate from a Dutch university. She graduated from the RUG) 

To whom it may concern,

I, James Young, third-year bachelors student and freelance columnist, do hereby declare my candidacy for the position of Rector Magnificus.

One time, I grabbed a fly out of the air one-handed without breaking eye contact with the person I was talking to. I promise to bring that same insect-squashing energy to the job, because god knows this university has some insects that need to be squashed.

With me as Raptor Magnet this university will soar to new heights. I’d get rid of that Yantai controversy permanently; I’d “deal” with all those homeless Germans at the Psychology faculty; and why settle for one Nobel prize? I’d threaten the Nobel Committee with a bat until they give us another.

I would be a willing and enthusiastic puppet; I would only ask to be called “Your Excellency” sometimes; and after subsisting as a student for three years, you can bet that I will be able to stretch the RUG’s budget further than anyone ever thought possible.

Beyond that, my credentials are impeccable: I can eat with chopsticks, I have hardly ever had to resit a class, and I once got a 9 on a paper. I’m connected: both to Groningen student life, and to an extensive high-profile international network of broke recent graduates. Not only do I know my way around political circles, I also know other shapes, like triangles, and trapezoids.

Once appointed Tractor Magnanimous, my first act will be to open a nude beach at one of those gross ponds on the Zernike campus. Then, I’ll double tuition and instate a requirement all students must run an extremely difficult obstacle course before graduating.

This university is part of a proud, ancient tradition, and it needs a Rectum Magician worthy of the title.

I am that Rectum, and I will drag the RUG into the 21st century, kicking and screaming if necessary.

Yours sincerely,

James Young

(James C. Young is a satirical columnist at the UKrant. Twice a month, he writes the column ‘Alternative Facts’ and turns the world upside down)

Dear board,

I love applying for jobs. Scrolling through unnecessarily wordy job advertisement is a passion of mine, so your post for rector magnificus was a rare treat. And while science usually isn’t funny, somehow you’ve pulled off the unlikely with your (also wordy) descriptions of extremely talented RUG alumni:

‘(…) Wubbo Ockels, the second female professor in the Netherlands, Jantina Tammes, the first Dutch astronaut (…)’ link→

Transitioning Mr. Wubbo Ockels from a celebrated male astronaut to the second Dutch female professor was subtle; brilliant; hilarious. Are you trying to make sure applicants are paying attention? I am. Or are you doing your part to communicate that gender equality is safeguarded at the university, and that transgender people are welcomed? Well, hats off for trying.

When Wubbo Ockels was diagnosed with leukaemia, he went looking for solutions outside of the scientific field. He finally ended up with famous Dutch ‘iceman’, Wim Hof, who once ran up Kilimanjaro butt-naked. Hoff taught Ockels to control his pain by ‘breathing like he means it’, which is his usual prescription for the terminally ill.

Unfortunately he was unable to help Wubbo, who died. But we have a lot to learn from Hof, who jettisoned the scientific method altogether and still got great results, butt-naked. I could definitely bring this level of innovation to the RUG’s scientific endeavours.

Wubbo thought people are prisoners to their limited powers of perception. Science faces similar limits; microscopes and telescopes are just man-made instruments in the end. He wanted the field to get off the beaten path.

I have personally taken Wubbo’s calls to overhaul science to heart. As rector, I propose the Wim Hof method of alternative education. Classes, workouts: one and the same. We will run, jump, and dive right off the beaten path of science and forge new understanding with the sheer power of calisthenics. We will learn German and English by alternating hot and cold baths. Mathematics shall be taught on top of the Kardinge hill, after a sprint to the top. All of this will be done in the nude; the era of naked science has arrived.

My approach will also solve over-crowding in classrooms. I see it as a way to free up some real-estate. We won’t need all those classrooms and lecture halls: all we’ll need is a sports field. As you can see, I am more than capable of combining academic excellence with business acumen.

Contrary to popular belief, the university isn’t a knowledge factory. It’s a poultry farm where academics should be free-range. Science thrives on organised chaos; natural selection must rule the university. Only the strongest should survive, work pressure be damned.

I’d love to pop over to discuss my scientific visions with you. You may have some questions about the gap in my CV, but I promise I can explain everything. I look forward to your reply. In the meantime, I’m going to go lay in a tub of ice.

Your sincerely, Bram Esser

p.s. I look forward to wearing a toga and the rector’s chain. I love a good fancy dress party.

(Bram Esser is the author of ‘De Sollicitant’ (‘the applicant’), a collection of forty hilarious cover letters)


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