WUR continues to grow and improve at a fast pace across the spectrum. This includes the quality of the education and innovative research, numbers of students and staff, and an improved working environment with buildings and facilities. It is hard to miss the new buildings mushrooming on campus, such as Upfield, Unilever’s Hive, Aurora and Omnia. Some of these buildings have attracted critics in relation to the activities and institutions hosted in them. Omnia is a good example. I’m curious: since its opening last year, has Omnia lived up to its objective?
In 2017, a plan was hatched to build a Dialogue Centre on the campus to replace the Aula. The Aula, famous for its WUR academic ceremonies, was viewed as outdated because it didn’t have enough rooms or adequate catering facilities. The new Dialogue Centre (now Omnia) was designed as a multifunctional building for the university and other diverse campus communities to hold meetings, debates, seminars and official events.
While Omnia’s objective is to be a centre for Wageningen’s dialogue with society, at present the dialogue is often about Omnia itself, particularly its Hall of Fame. It consists of portraits of previous rectors and professors, showing a patriarchal history (and weirdly a mystery man in a portrait that the university couldn’t identify).
While Omnia’s objective is to be a centre for WUR’s dialogue with society, at present the dialogue is often about Omnia itself
But there is also criticism of the inconvenience and poor accessibility (lack of parking close by) and the expensive catering fees. Interestingly, the building naming process experienced rejection by the Executive Board, which arguing that the suggested names didn’t reflect its intended functions, and the jury had to go back to the drawing board.
Omnia is the Latin word for ‘everything’. However, ‘everything’ seems not to be everything considering the criticisms of Omnia shortcomings. I believe Omnia’s managers have heard these critics and are able to take action on things to adjust or improve. I miss the Aula’s organ, so maybe the Hall of Fame with portraits can be decorated with organ pipes to blend in music and melodies to offer a welcoming atmosphere. It is time for the dialogue to be about the university and society rather than about Omnia.
Joshua Wambugu (40), from Kenya, is a PhD candidate in the Marine Animal Ecology and Environmental Policy groups. He is a Social Safety Guide with the DARE Project and a member of the project’s coordinating team. He loves cooking, hiking and birdwatching.