By Cille Kaiser
— Last Thursday, 15 December, housing agency DUWO issued an official warning to all students residing near KinderRijk, the daycare center located in the courtyard of the first building of the AUC dorms. The warning was issued in response to an incident that took place on the night between 9 and 10 December, during which a couch was thrown out of a window, straight into the childcare’s garden. The email, in which DUWO urges those responsible to come forward, states that they will be “forced to hold the complete block responsible” should nobody take responsibility over the incident. If this were to happen, all students residing in this block will receive a formal warning from DUWO and a note in their AUC file — three of which may lead to social probation.
The couch was found by third year Social Science student Ellen Ackroyd on Saturday, 10 December. Within 1,5 hours after the incident was reported on the AUC students’ Facebook page, three students who were uninvolved with the incident had removed the couch from the kindergarten space. “It wasn’t only a sofa that had been thrown out the window, but half the common room,” said second year Social Science major Frank van der Wulp, one of the students who cleaned up the garden. “This includes lights, chairs, beer and wine bottles”, van der Wulp said.
“We find this behaviour extremely dangerous and unacceptable”, said DUWO in its statement. “Behaviour like this damages relationships with neighbours and with the kindergarten located on the ground floor.”
KinderRijk’s location manager said they regularly find unwanted objects in the garden, which is located underneath roughly 50 student- and common rooms. “We inspect the garden every day before we take the children outside,” she said. “We find cigarette butts every day, even more after the weekend.” She also said that they regularly find bottles and bottle caps in the garden, and that last summer, a plant that fell down from the 5th floor nearly hit one of the children’s parents. KinderRijk’s location manager said that the co-use of the courtyard by students and a childcare center is “not an ideal combination”, though she regrets that it has to be this way.
In their statement, DUWO made clear to the students living in the block by the daycare’s garden that AUC has been notified of the incident. DUWO states that all residents will receive a formal warning and a note in their AUC file if those responsible do not come forward. DUWO further warns that “tenants who do this sort of thing (…) will be dealt with and prosecuted”.
“We actually composed this email in collaboration with AUC’s Student Life Officer (Vinika Porwal) and Belinda Stratton”, said Marja Weverling, Communication Advisor for DUWO. “We hope that the social cohesion in this building ensures that those responsible come forward”, Weverling said. “If we do not know who is responsible, we will have no choice but to ascribe the incident to those tenants whose common room borders the childcare’s garden.” Porwal and Stratton were unavailable to comment at the time of the writing of this article.
Ackroyd, the student who found the couch in the courtyard, said she finds “linking [the incident] to punishment for everyone is slightly drastic”. However, Ackroyd does believe action needs to be taken — also on behalf of AUC. “Dorm life is fundamentally part of your education at AUC, whether you like it or not,” said Ackroyd. “In this sense, it is absolutely necessary for AUC to be involved in upholding the same values in the dorms that they work to achieve with the classroom setting”, Ackroyd said.
Third year Humanities major Laura van Kins, one of the tenants to receive DUWO’s warning, said she does not deem it fair that the incident may have repercussions for such a large number of students. “First of all, it could have very well involved students from other blocks as well”, van Kins said. “But mostly, it’s not fair to just blame everyone if the culprit can’t be found. DUWO is obviously trying to prevent future incidents as well, but I don’t think this is the right way. It might raise more agitation amongst students.”
Third year Science major Martine Keulen agrees. Van Keulen also believes DUWO and AUC will have no legal grounds upon which to penalize a large number of students for an incident that they know the vast majority of them were not responsible for. “Honestly, I don’t think they are allowed to do so, which makes it a ridiculous empty threat”, Keulen said.
First year Social Science major Timen Vierling, who lives in the string adjacent to the the string from which the couch was allegedly thrown, said he is not particularly disturbed by the threat, but that it nevertheless seems unfair. Like Vierling, van Kins also does not feel too threatened about the possible repercussions for herself. “I am uncertain about the consequences, so if this actually happens then I’ll probably ask AUC and DUWO for further explanation”, van Kins said.
DUWO’s Communications Advisor Marja Weverling, however, said the warning is to be taken seriously. “If we do not stay true to our words, such e-mails will be meaningless”, Weverling said.
Note: When The Herring informed Weverling that students whose common room is not directly above KinderRijk’s garden nevertheless received the warning, she responded that these students may contact DUWO to communicate this information and have the warning retracted: according to Weverling, the warning was only intended for those students whose ascribed common room is located directly above the garden itself.
None of the students mentioned in this article were directly involved with the incident, nor did they know who was.