Thursday, August 23, 2012

Hat trick - room service

My job as a PhD student at the Vrije Universiteit started smoothly: I had been offered the position right after graduation. I was given a small office in a quiet corner of the fifth floor, close to the library, at a respectable distant from the class rooms.

The only inconvenience of the place was the fact that there did not seem to exist any key, and the room was completely empty. Despite repeated requests from my side, and promises from the office of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, the room remained empty and the key non-existent. I confess that, eventually, I stole furniture from other rooms, and I had an illegal copy of a master key made, to create a workable situation. I was perfectly happy in my little corner, but the situation did not last very long.

The fifth floor was taken from our department, and to be given to another department, so the office was really, really, really sorry, but I had to leave my office, to share an office with a colleague. Now, I had never had any problem with this young man, but scientific research needs focus, and I really needed a place where I could concentrate. To sum it up: it did not work. For about nine months, I spent most of my time in a little corner in the university archive, where I had created a little office space for myself.

Those days, the two powerful facilities of the department's secretary and manager were combined into  the single person of Corry van Rossum (dubbed 'College van Rossum' or even 'Corruptie van Rossum' by some), and on top of that, she was in a relationship with the chair of the department's PhD Committee, prof. P. Holewijn. PhD Confidante Ilse Thomson was part of the same clique, which rendered PhD Students utterly powerless when it came to issuing complaints about this or that.

Not long after I had vacated my office on the fifth floor, a new name appeared on the door that once was mine: Ira Pohl was a good friend of the chair of the department. The floor remained in use by our Department for at least three more years, and while, eventually, I managed to get an office for myself, it became very clear to me that the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science was not just about Mathematics and Computer Science.

1 comment:

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