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Wijmenga’s World

This column should have been about how alumni can lend students a helping hand. It’s an interesting subject, but the situation has changed dramatically. Corona is now dominating our lives, including mine. I have been in isolation since we decided to stop in-person teaching until September. As have my fellow-Board members, in an attempt to prevent ourselves from all getting sick at the same time. These are confusing, hectic times for all of us. For students, who can only follow their degree programmes online. For lecturers, who must give online lectures. For PhD students, who are about to gain a PhD. For researchers, who don’t know how best to continue their research projects.

Photo: Reyer Boxem
Photo: Reyer Boxem

I read in the UKrant that in 1826, almost two hundred years ago, the University was also closed for months due to a disease. The ‘Groningen Disease’ claimed numerous victims and the UG closed its doors until December. Academic teaching also ground to a halt at the end of World War II, although the University itself remained open. Our oldest alumni will remember this. But for most of us, the situation around the Coronavirus is completely new.

Something we didn’t have in the past, but which thankfully we do have now, is the digital world. It means that we have not had to stop everything, and that we can still study, conduct research and work wherever possible. I am proud of the resilience being shown by our students and lecturers, who immediately switched to online methods. Teams meet in digital hangouts and end the week together with a digital drinks: everyone at home, raising their own glass. There is a tremendous sense of solidarity and we have become inventive. This is true of society, and certainly true of our University.

I can’t see into the future, but it seems fairly clear that this crisis is going to take its time. And we are all painfully aware of the serious consequences. They are affecting all of us, and we need each other more than ever at the moment. We can't meet physically for the time being, but we can support each other online. Later, when this is over, we will be able to reach out to each other in person. I want to wish everyone all the very best in the months to come. We will get through this together.

Cisca Wijmenga, Rector Magnificus

By Marjan Brouwers

Last modified:03 April 2020 1.53 p.m.
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