Monday, February 13, 2012


A couple of students from various faculties of most universities founded  a Student Union. They shared the same negative experiences in their study and sought improvement. I became President of the Utrecht Division. Although we could not change the law, we achieved a major improvement in student grants. It went as follows. My older brother had finished his professional exam, earning him a grade in civil engineering. Yet, he was enlisted for his military service time with air artillery. He wanted to join the Engineer Corps, making his service time more useful, and asked me to write a draft letter for a request to the Minister of Defense. The request resulted in a positive decision. 
So, my proposal was to have every Utrecht student send a request to the Minister of Education, asking for better pay. We also coined a sum, twice the amount we thought we could get. Then, we made up a general letter of request, and stenciled thousands of copies. We punched a hole in the corner, so we could tie them in bundles, and pin them to the Institute publication boards of Utrecht University. 
Within a couple of days, we were summoned to the Ministry in the Hague. A delegation of ours took the train, to be directed at the Ministry immediately to the Secretary-General himself. He proved to be very angry, and said that thousands of requests had reached the Minister. On toilet paper, that is!
So, our students had not written their own letters, we asked, not used our example? What a shame, what a shame. In this crucial hour of decision, we needed all hypocracy available. After apologizing for the very very bad manners of our students, the man calmed down. 
Well, he said, if you can stop this avalanche, the Minister is prepared to meet your request. We were perplexed at this sudden generous offer, far exceeding our expectations, and we promised to do whatever we could, to relieve the Minister of these letters. 
Never during later student uprisings, such a financial success was achieved again. Yet, the law was changed, and it would prove to be much to my benefit.
Regarding the stranding of my early study phase, I could long afterwards trace another cause for its collapse. A high school report I found, did show a very high mark for history. As we had to turn it in at the start of the study, I did remember a peculiar warning by the Almighty Professor. He had experienced that a student had used his study, to take a reroute to history, which apparently was very bad. As I had no plans in that direction, I now realized that quite other conclusions could have been drawn from my report.