Today I have my last class of African Philosophy; it is one of those precious live classes. Paradoxically, given the critical content of the course, it takes place in Plus Ultra II. Not even a five-year-old would call their cardboard robot Plus Ultra II. It exhibits a complete lack of imagination quintessential to the single-minded techno-optimism of Wageningen University.
Interestingly enough, Plus Ultra II is actually not even owned by WUR. It is owned by ‘Kadans Science Partner’. I’m quite sure classes are only a temporary solution until the real tenants, ‘OnePlanet Research Centre’, startups and StartHub, will fully take over the concrete and the glass. A company in a company in a university; Plus Ultra II is the Matryoshka doll of the privatisation of science. It’s a setup only perfectly illogically logical within the tiny world of finance.
I’m quite sure classes are only a temporary solution until the real tenants will fully take over
To WUR, Covid and Zoom have proven that students taking up precious entrepreneurial space on campus is not as inevitable as they thought. Therefore, I wouldn’t get too emotionally attached to the interior as a student. But then again, it is not really designed with attachment in mind, nor any other emotion, for that matter.
Speaking of the interior, it is everything that IKEA aspires to be. The first keywords that the architects wrote on their whiteboards while designing this building must have been ‘minimalism’, ‘transparency’ and ‘industrial chic’. I cannot say it is ugly, but that is also not the point. It is beautiful in its own ugly way. With artistic precision, the concrete box covered by a thin veneer of FSC-certified wood breathes the ethos of WUR. Looking up in the central hall, one cannot help but touch their wallet and consider the tax benefits of registering as a self-employed professional.
Sometimes I understand the logic behind businesses on campus. But it’s an ugly, dangerous and cold logic
After the class is done, I hurry from the building, put on my headphones, play ‘Working Class Hero’ and cycle home over campus with my head low. The Upfield construction site on my right, the Orion glass behemoth on the left. I pass Unilever, Campina, and finally the construction site of the WUR Monologue Centre – or ‘Dialogue Centre’ as they like to call themselves. Sometimes I understand the logic behind businesses on campus. But it’s an ugly, dangerous and cold logic, which I then quickly try to excommunicate from my thoughts. It’s the logic that got us into this mess, and it sure as hell won’t get us out. Back in my house full of colour, people, plants, music and books, I lie in my hammock and recover my dreams.
Luuk Slegers is masterstudent Internationale Ontwikkeling, richting Sociologie, en woont in Wageningen op Droevendaal met zijn vijf huisgenoten. Hij gaat graag ’s morgens een stuk wandelen in het Bennekomse bos.