Is Orion now a conference centre?

With its good catering and plentiful space, Orion is a popular place for lunch or to work in. But there are also frequent events in the building, and then students and staff have to make way. Sometimes they can access part of the building, and sometimes they are directed to a tent for a takeaway…
Tessa Louwerens,Luuk Zegers,Gina Ho

Text Tessa Louwerens, Luuk Zegers, Gina Ho Illustration Henk van Ruitenbeek

Léa Dolimier

MSc student of Organic Agriculture

‘I don’t want Orion to be reserved for conferences. I eat there every day because the food is better than in other buildings. It’s hard to find a table when everything is reserved for conference guests. We are usually quite large groups too.’

Ton van Lierop

Events staff at Orion

‘As it happens, we discussed this internally last week, because we are hearing more and more negative reactions too. Per year, about 100 events are organized in Orion. Almost 90 per cent are internal, such as symposiums, Studium Generale, student events and this year a lot of activities in connection with the centenary. Along with the Forum, Orion is one of the few buildings whose size and location lend themselves to large-scale events. The Wageningen Dialogue Centre, to be built next-door to Atlas, will only be finished sometime in 2020, and that will also partly take the place of the Aula. So I don’t see any good alternatives in the short term. And it is only going to get busier. At the moment I only have two rules for bookings: the timetable comes first, and first come first served. Maybe we need to set some limits. Perhaps by only giving up a maximum of one section of the canteen at lunchtime. But we have to make clear agreements on that first.’

Garreth Kratz

MSc student of Organic Agriculture

‘I don’t care a whole lot because I usually bring my own lunch. I am happy as long as I can buy soup and I can get that in other buildings as well. However, it sucks if you can’t get a table in Orion because it’s a good place for group work.’

Marcel Gerritsen

Building manager at Orion

‘I haven’t been working very long as site manager at Orion, so I can’t say much about trends. But I can see that there have been a lot of events this year, so that there is indeed a lot of pressure on the lunch facilities. One of the main tasks of a site manager is to make sure that the various user groups can make good use of the building. Orion is primarily an education building, so that should have priority in the management of it. Events are certainly important too, but I sometimes get the impression that the interests of students get squeezed out. Orion is also an important lunch facility for both students and staff, and WUR only has a few of those. I shall certainly discuss this and see whether there are already any guidelines on it, and if not, whether we should draw some up. And I shall keep my finger on the pulse to see if this gets better once the events connected with 100 Years of WUR are over.’

There is a shortage of venues for events on campus at the moment

Sophie Galema

Voorzitter studentenraad

‘Orion is first and foremost an education building so all the facilities, including the Spot, the restaurant and the dining rooms are all meant to be for students and staff. The Student Council receives complaints that there is often not enough space in Orion, and conferences and other events make it even busier and cause a seating shortage. It is also not always clear what the link is between a particular event and Orion’s function as an education building. We don’t think that’s the idea. Thanks to the new timetable, students have more free periods and they need places to have lunch, chill out and study. So it’s not practical if some or all of the rooms in Orion are reserved for events. In short: it’s not a good situation. Although we do expect it to calm down soon, as a lot of the events this year were to do with the WUR centenary. The Student Council is now investigating why so many events are scheduled in Orion, and what the agreements are. If the policy is that an education building is genuinely meant for students and teachers – and therefore not for events – we will try to make sure the policy is adhered to.’

Evelien Joosten

Catering manager at OSP Orion

‘On the one hand, as caterers we want to make our regulars welcome. And at the same time it is nice to host occasional events. It livens things up and brings in a lot of new guests. I understand that it’s annoying for students that we can suddenly be full, which is why we try our best to keep them informed about events. We do that through screens in the building, and Facebook. We also let the caterers in the Forum know that they can expect more people, and we provide takeaway food. But it is annoying if you’ve been turned away three times because you didn’t know there was an event. We understand that. We are open to feedback on how we can be communicate more clearly, so if you have a good idea for improving this, just come and see us. As a catering company, we can’t just turn clients away. At the moment there is a shortage of venues for events on campus. There is going to be new building for them but until it is built, Orion is a popular venue for events.

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