News in Brief – Delta 9

Downgraded diplomas
When applying for visas in the United States, older engineering degrees from Dutch universities are credited as being Bachelor’s degrees, not Master’s degrees, according to the Trustforte Corporation, based in New York.

TU Delft’s International Office directs its alumni to agents, like West World Education Services in New York and Educational Perspectives in Chicago, which can help upgrade diplomas to the Master’s degree level. TU Delft has asked Nuffic to get involved. According to Trustforte Corporation, the actual problem lies with the evaluations of the immigration service and the database on which these evaluations are based, called the Electronic Database for Global Education, which evaluates foreign diplomas. “This database is far too conservative, often in-consistent and in many cases just plain wrong,” said a spokesperson.

Satisfied neighbours

Duwo has involved itself in the discussion about disruptive students. According to the student housing agency, research showed that the satisfaction levels of neighbours increase if they have students as neighbours. This satisfaction level research that Duwo references was conducted in 2009 and involved surveys of regular people (that is, non-students) living in two buildings on the César Franck- and the Lisztstraat. During that year, 60 flats in buildings in that area of town were renovated and converted into student rooms. Before the flats were renovated, the area’s residents gave the ‘residential building in general’ a grade of 5.4. After the students moved in, the rating rose to 5.9. Some 90 households completed the survey. “For us, that was a sign that we were heading in the right direction, and therefore we proceeded with the renovation works on the César Franck- and the Lisztstraat. In the meantime, we have renovated more than 100 residences there,” said Duwo spokesperson, Joke Rienmeijer.

Top-ranked Delft

The British journal Times Higher Education has published its 2012 World

Reputation Rankings of the world’s universities, and TU Delft was the big Dutch winner, ranking in 51st place, which makes TU Delft the highest ranked of all Dutch universities in this global survey of academics. The universities of Amsterdam (71), Utrecht (78), Leiden (87) and Wageningen (100) were also among the world’s top 100 universities. As usual, the United States led the way, with 44 of the country’s universities in the top 100. Harvard was the world’s top ranked university.


The students of TU Delft’s faculty of Industrial Design Engineering do not know how to design cool stuff, or at least that is the opinion of Ger Bruens, a teacher of design aesthetics. He is one of the organizers of the symposium ‘The Essence of Cool’, which will be held this Friday in TU’s Aula. Bruens has also compiled a book – which will be presented during the symposium – with the same title, in which designers and architects explain how they design ‘cool’ things.

Best building

The 2011 Building of the Year Award has been won by an access bridge

stretching across the moat of Fort de Roovere, according to the architectural website ArchDaily. The winning bridge is located in Halsteren, a town in

southern Netherlands. The bridge is designed to look like a trench and to blend in with the surrounding landscape. The bridge was designed by the architecture agency, RO&AD, and is called the ‘invisible bridge’, because it can’t be seen from a distance owing to the contours of land and water seeming rising above it.

Water prize

TU Delft Professor. Mark van Loosdrecht has won the 2012 Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize, a prestigious award honouring his contributions to sustainable wastewater purification technology. The prize will be presented on Monday, 2 July, during the Singapore International Water Week.

Summer fest

Tickets are going on sale on 5 April for TU Delft’s big Zomerfestival on June 1, which expects to draw some 6000 visitors to the event held on the grounds of the Sport & Culture Centres. Tickets are 12.50 euro in advance, but the first 170 tickets sold cost only 7.50 euro. The event will feature four stages offering a jazz, hip-hop, rock, pop, world music, DJs and disco, and featuring acts including 2 Unlimited, Blaudzun, Case Mayfield, Mr Polska, Gers Pardoel, F and Bombay Show Pig.


He types something, looks around – no one’s watching. As he presses enter, the hacking begins: today it’s about ‘scientology’. He again looks around, uploads the hacked information, gets up and leaves. He smiles, knowing he’s done the job and has now uploaded information that’ll be viewed by millions across the globe within hours. 

The above scenario is one playing out across the world, including here in Holland, as Wikileaks, Anonymous and the computer-savvy hackers (criminals or heroic rebels, depending on your political views) behind these organizations make headlines. As Wikileaks continues creating furor by bringing secret documents into the public domain, many clever computer users are using and sharing their computing knowledge to ‘fight the enemies’ of their choosing. 

In a world controlled and driven by computer and internet, enormous power goes to those who have the knowledge to commandeer computing systems. At TU Delft, this especially would be the self-styled ‘nerds’ of the computer science section. Here then would be the likely place to find an Anonymous member, or at least to learn more about such underground movements. 

TU Delft Professor Sodoyer Bernhardt, from France, believes that we cannot stop people from undertaking such activities. “Like water or money, such people and activities always find their way,” he says. “It’s human nature.” When asked if he knew any Anonymous members at TU Delft, the professor replied: “We don’t get to interact closely with the first- and second-year bachelor’s students, so I don’t know if they’re involved in such activities”. The professor further said that, as a teacher, he didn’t want his students to learn how to hack nor get involved in it: “Such activities usually create more problems.” 

While the professor’s sentiments are unarguably true, the fact remains that Anonymous and today’s other emergent hacker collectives are partly peopled by computer engineering students and graduates. Anonymous, for example, one of Wikileaks’ three identified successors, represents the concept of many online community users simultaneously existing as an anarchic, digitised global brain. From around 2008, Anonymous has become increasingly associated with collaborative, international ‘hacktivism’, undertaking protests and other actions across the globe, including in the Netherlands, often aimed at promoting internet freedom and freedom of speech. Anonymous members hide their identities and thus, theoretically, could be anyone, anywhere. 

To try to answer the question of whether there is an ‘anonymous’ among us required a trip to university’s CS department and informal interviews with many MSc and PhD students there. Mentioning ‘Anonymous’ reminded some students of the famous ‘Tom Cruise Scientology video’ incident, in which Anonymous members gained worldwide press for their ‘Project Chanology’, a cyber attack as form of protest against the Church of Scientology, with hackers from the Netherlands featuring prominently in the attack.

Generally, though, conversations with various TU Delft CS students revealed divided opinions on the subject. Wai kon Tse, a Dutch computer science student, stressed that Anonymous was both good and bad. “Wikileaks is informative, because governments are hiding stuff from the public. It’s like freedom of speech,” he said. But like many others, Tse also has his doubts about the impact of Anonymous and Wikileaks. ”Some information can destroy or worsen relationships and institutions,” he added, “so Anonymous must be careful. I think they’re fighting for a cause and are activists.”

Indeed, in 2009, Anonymous, along with various Iranian hackers, launched an Iranian green party support site called ‘Anonymous Iran’, attracting over 22,000 supporters.  Similarly, Zimbabwean government websites were targeted by Anonymous due to censorship of WikiLeaks documents, and more recently Anonymous conducted ‘Operation Tunisia’, again targeting government websites, while earlier this year the websites of Egypt’s Ministry of Information and of President Hosni Mubarak’s National Democratic Party were knocked offline by Anonymous in support of protesters calling for Mubarak’s ouster.  

When asked about Anonymous and Wikileaks, some TU Delft CS students felt that involvement in such activities can corrupt people’s minds. Imraan Ashraf, an MSc student from Pakistan, believes that there are better things for computer engineers to do and “the focus should shift from hacking to constructive development”. Apurva Dargar, an Indian computer engineering student, agreed, stating that she does not approve of what the Anonymous does and believes that ‘better’ things could be done with computers. “I’m not sure if they do the right thing and such powers could be really misused”. 

These views however were countered by Sander Vermolen, a Dutch PhD student at the CS faculty who approves of what Anonymous does, although he doesn’t agree with the methods they adopt: “I think it creates a poor image of computer guys in general and I don’t think it makes us cool. Also, I’m not aware of any anonymous in TU Delft”. 

Generally, though, most of the computer science students interviewed said they did not regard hacking as ‘cool’, although they were aware of the power that comes to those, like them, who can expertly commandeer computers and computer systems. Or as Tse humorously made clear regarding CS’s ‘coolness’ factor: “In front of another computer science student it can be ‘cool’ to talk about hacking, but if CS guys were trying to pick up girls with such ‘cool’ talk, we’d fail every time!” 

If not ‘cool’, these students do acknowledge that an intricate understanding of computers and internet does make them powerful – although fortunately the overall perception was that they planned to be ‘ethical’ in how they wielded such powers. 

Anurag Bajpai, a second-year telecommunications student from India: “I understand that I could reach a million users in a second and this makes me powerful but also responsible at the same time. I don’t find computer hacking or even programming cool, but I know it has a huge potential.”

Redacteur Redactie

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