Universiteit Leiden

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Jasper’s day

On January 1st Jasper Knoester started as our new dean. How is he finding it? What kinds of things is he doing and what does his day look like? In each newsletter, Jasper gives a peek into his life as dean.

Monday 3 October

 'Today is the first time I will get to experience Leidens Ontzet. I let the reveille at the City Hall pass me by, but am ready at 8 o'clock for the chorale songs in the Van der Werf Park. I find so many people singing together quite beautifully impressive. I understand that there was an opportunity to practise a week ago and, audibly, they have taken advantage of that. I sing along to the closing national anthem at the top of my lungs.

'3 October shows how strongly the city and the university are connected through common traditions'

The singing is followed by a speech by Mayor Henri Lenferink, after which we parade to the Waag. On the way, I manage to connect with my fellow deans, who can give me an explanation as to what is happening. At my previous job, I experienced the Gronings Ontzet, popularly called Bommen Berend, for years. There, too, is a big fair and a day off for locals, yet in Leiden it seems more intense, with much more folklore and festivities. Suddenly I can see where our university gets its strong sense of tradition from: it’s the character of the city. Something in which city and university undoubtedly reinforce each other. 

 At the Waag, we push our way into a crowd of a few hundred people, eat a sandwich with some delicious herring and watch the city's notables, including our rector Hester Bijl, eat the herring in the traditional way. We are told that as many as 21,000 herrings have been prepared for this feast and see the mayor give a detailed verdict on its taste. Understanding that he has been in office for 16 years, I admire that he still participates in this feast as if it’s his first time. You would think it would get boring one day, such a ceremonial role, but nothing seems less true.

 After the herring eating in the Waag, we go to the Thanksgiving service in the Pieterskerk. Pastor Henk Boter spent his youth in Leiden and, together with the Royal Marine Band 'Johan Willem Friso' and the Leiden Cantorij, holds the audience's attention well. Here, too, we conclude with the Wilhelmus and I slowly come to understand why Leiden is one of the Dutch municipalities with the best command of this national anthem. We then went to the Town Hall, where we’re offered more herring and Corenwijn in the beautiful, crowded room of the Mayor and Aldermen. I let the alcohol pass me by. Corenwijn is nice, but not at this time of day.

 I have to pass up the rest of the festivities. I return to The Hague, to have three consultations at home about the new STEM sector plans. As a science domain, we are embroiled in a heavy discussion with the umbrella organisation UNL (Universities of the Netherlands) about the distribution of resources among science faculties. Together with my colleagues, I’ve spent a lot of time on this file the past few weeks, so I’m well prepared for today's key consultation. We don’t yet reach an agreement, but we are coming closer together, which is encouraging. Next week we will talk further.

 After dinner, I play basketball with Kamiel and help Jasmijn with a German test. I also prepare for tomorrow's board meeting and a brainstorming session with the science directors. No herring on the menu this time, but surely another interesting day!'

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