The stay-behinds on an empty campus

08 Apr 2020

Even on an almost empty campus, work hasn't entirely come to a hold. Sorting the post, correcting exams, maintaining the sports centre - someone has to do it. These are the stay-behinds.

Wil Rubrech, doorman Erasmus building

’I normally do a lot of little things at the front desk: sorting the post, giving out keys, making the lecturers’ microphones work. Now, the only thing I’m doing is checking the entrance. I have to make sure that everyone entering and leaving the building is signing a list. That’s for security reasons, so we know how many people are in the building. I send this list to the university’s Department of Property Management every two hours. We’re talking about approximately one-hundred people every day. Visitors are not allowed in anymore, only teachers, employees, and external people for maintenance.

’What I think about it? It sucks. Mind you, not because I’d rather sit at home. I’m glad that I can do this work. But a 4.5-hour working day now feels three times as long. I’m also afraid of a possible infection, even though they implemented enough measures like the glass panel in front of the front desk, rubber gloves and disinfectant. Every time I touch something others have touched as well — the list, the keys, the post — I disinfect my hands. Around twenty times a day. I have a 72-year-old mother and I don’t want to endanger her.’

Tim van Delft. Photo: Rein Wieringa

Tim van Delft, allround caretaker Radboud Sports Centre

’We are now occupied with a big clean-up of the sports centre. We usually do this during the holidays, when no-one is here, but this works as well. It’s the usual chores: disinfect the fitness equipment, clean the hallways, fix broken lockers, those kinds of things. I just swept the track with a colleague.

’We have a ten-page Excel sheet with all the things we have to do. During the three weeks that the sports centre has been closed, we got approximately halfway through it. The next things on the list is clearing out the storage and update the map of the grounds. Right now, we are still completely occupied. But that will change once the only thing left to do is weeding the grounds.

’On the one hand, it’s nice that it’s so calm right now. Usually, there are a lot of little things coming up in-between. Now, we can work through them without being interrupted. But on the other hand, it’s very quiet now. That leaves a somber feeling. At the beginning, I still had to send people away who were climbing over the bushes to train on the empty grounds, but they aren’t coming anymore either.’

Huub Vromen. Photo: Rein Wieringa

Huub Vromen, lecturer and researcher Philosophy of Language and Logic

’Under normal circumstances, between twenty or thirty people are working on this floor. Now I’m alone with another colleague. I work from home as much as possible, but I have to correct exams together with my colleague at the moment. When I’m done with one pile of exam papers, I put them on a table and walk away, so he can pick them up. It might have worked with digital notes as well, but it’s more efficient this way.

’It’s very quiet and also quite lonely, which is also true for working from home. Having lunch together isn’t possible anymore, only video calls. In logic, it’s often helpful to discuss something at the table. That’s obviously not possible at the moment. Seeing students’ confusion on a computer screen is difficult as well. But well, it’s good that there are still lectures.

’I’m concerned for students who live in a flat or a student room. To have that little contact seems terribly lonely to me. That might not be bad for a week or two, but it’s getting more difficult now. I can’t do much for them from a distance.’

Ingeborg van den Boorn. Photo: Rein Wieringa

Ingeborg van den Boorn, archivist at the Berchmanianum

’I’m now alone with my boss at the office. Three colleagues and I are rotating who’s working on campus to register and send the post, look for information in the open files, and go to the Gymnasion where 1.7 kilometers of archive material is stored. At the moment, we are primarily concerned with tasks for the Executive Board and Radboud Services. It’s important that there’s always someone at the archive, so they can do their work.

’Obviously, it’s much quieter than usual here. Even sparring with a colleague is reduced to apps, video conferences, and mails. Not that many exciting things are happening here at the moment. The rest of the Berchmanianum is almost empty: only the Human Resources and Organisation and Marketing and Communication departments are still occupied. I have to say, I miss my colleagues. I’d like for things to go back to normal as fast as possible. On the other hand, it’s easier to concentrate on work without noise around you. The work is just as hard as usual, sometimes even harder, because I’m here alone. But it helps that colleagues who work from home can help digitally if needed.

’Sometimes, we also receive corona related documents to file. It could happen that someone asks themselves in thirty years: how did the universities handle the crisis? If that happens, the information is waiting for them here.’

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