The new reality
By Wilma de Koning
To my horror, I’ve once again noticed that there are stories in the media about the oak processionary caterpillar. Was it almost a year ago that I was itching like crazy and covered in welts? Just reading about it makes me feel itchy and leaves me with a stinging sensation.
In a previous column, I asked myself whether Mother Nature had caused us this inconvenience in order to make us face the consequences for our greed. She might have been worrying about which signal she should send us as the ultimate wake-up call. Through the coronavirus she’s now sending a very strong signal, one that includes fatalities, the grief of the victims’ relatives and so many heart-breaking stories. When it comes to the nurses and doctors in the hospitals and nursing homes, we cannot praise or compliment them enough. I do so hope that we can soon put this coronavirus crisis behind us.
Fortunately, in addition to all the tragedy that has been caused by the coronavirus crisis, there have also been some positive aspects. The air is becoming cleaner. For the first time in decades, the people of India can see the Himalayan peaks from up to 200 kilometres away. And the coronavirus crisis has given us all food for thought: Does it make sense to get into a car with so many people at approximately the same time every morning, sit through a really long traffic jam, and then sit at your desk for the rest of the day? Until recently, this is exactly what was happening all around the world.
Let us hope that this crisis is the wake-up call that is needed to fundamentally change the way in which we do things. This will not always prove to be easy. The new normal, the new reality forces us to confront our own habits and behaviour.
And what does this mean for Radboud University, for our own daily reality? While we may have had our doubts and biases about online education, off-campus assessment, and video calls and video conferencing before the coronavirus crisis, we’ve now embraced them all. The enormous degree of creativity and commitment and the large innovative capacity of both our staff members and students have ensured that a significant part of our work is able to continue. Within a short space of time, we’ve gone from one extreme to the other.
How wonderful it would be if we were able to unite the best of both of these worlds in the new reality. Because although we are in a position to partially keep the university going online, I do miss the interaction with colleagues and students: the face-to-face contact. In my opinion, this is essential to being able to continue to function effectively as a student or staff member of Radboud University. Therefore, let us look for a new balance that incorporates new and traditional means; let us find a balance that includes both on-campus and off-campus education, and both physical meetings and video conferencing. Let us continue to meet up with each other, also in an international context, but reduce our amount of travelling. And let’s not just reduce this amount of travelling slightly compared to how it was before, but reduce it considerably.
Together we can search for a new and sustainable balance, one that hopefully involves less chaos and work pressure and is more in balance with our environment and with nature. A permanent quest for progress that assists both Mother Nature and man rather than destroying them.
Let us hope that this terrible crisis allows us all to come to the realisation that it is really up to all of us to turn this terrible tide. And who knows, we might even be able to eradicate the oak processionary caterpillar infestation in the process.
Simply put: You have a part to play…