How do you hold the OWee during the corona crisis?

The OWee Board is facing a huge challenge this year. How do you hold an introduction week in these uncertain times? Vice Chair Mennolt Verhaar explains.

Mennolt Verhaar (left), Suzanne Post (Chair) and Sven Tervoort (Logistics I) in the Board’s ‘pen’. (Photo: OWee Board 2020)

In the face of the coronavirus, preparations for the OWee, to be held from 16 to 20 August this year, are not going as planned. Normally the eight person Board works from an office on campus. Now they are mostly in contact virtually. Will the OWee go ahead? We asked Vice Chair and Head of Communications Mennolt Verhaar on Zoom.

What are your working days like now?
“Just like everyone else at TU Delft, we are working from home as much as we can. On campus we have an office of 30 square metres so three of us can be there every weekday. We keep two to 2.5 metres distance from each other so that works well. I work in our ‘pen’ about twice a week and really look forward to these days. We try to maintain a nine to five routine to avoid having to work in the evenings. I talk to many of our supervisors during the day and am now working on the BINAS (the important information booklet for new students, eds.). It needs to be published soon and is one of the most important tools in providing information for new students.”

What is the most difficult aspect of working at home for you?
“My laptop is running overtime and I am having a lot of discussions on Skype and Zoom. The trickiest thing is not being able to consult someone quickly when you’re at home. At the office I just turn around and ask a question. The Board is now working with Slack, a sort of a workflow app where you can easily ask questions and look up information, so we don’t always need to phone each other.”

‘We are doing everything we can to organise the best week possible’

Has it changed the group dynamics at all?
“We normally see each other every day, so we have to get used to working like this. Luckily, during our policy making week this spring, we spent a week together in a holiday house. It really helped us get to know each other. Now we’re trying to do enjoyable things insofar as we can. We have drinks together and with the previous Board members on Zoom. We are holding an online pub quiz and one of the Board members will soon hold a work-out. I wonder how that will go.”

Are you running into any organisational problems?
“Yes, the announcement of our theme was planned for last week but had to be pushed to Friday 17 April at 20:30. We will launch our theme presentation in an online première on YouTube. We had filmed 80% of the film before the corona crisis, and did the last part at the beginning of this week. We were in the middle of the Markt, trying to keep social distancing and were being closely watched by two enforcers. It was a new situation for us.”

How is the contact with suppliers going?
“We see that they are preoccupied with other things and some are having to work really hard to keep afloat. So it feels uncomfortable to ask them to supply products in a few months time. Fortunately, OWee has worked with a couple of regular suppliers for a long time and we have maintained close contact with them.”

Are you afraid that the OWee may have to be cancelled and that your work will have been for nothing?
“Afraid may not be the right word, but there is a degree of uncertainty. We think about it every day and are working on different scenarios to try to ensure that the OWee can be held as usual. For example, we are looking at how to show new students as much of the city and TU Delft without them having to be there in person. Another option may be to meet no more than 100 people over the whole week. We also have to consider the measures already taken that will have an impact. One is that the registration deadline for the courses for new first years has been postponed by a month. So we will probably only know how many people will join the OWee later.”

When will the decision be taken whether the OWee goes ahead or not?
“We don’t know. We are following the RIVM guidelines and are in contact with TU Delft and the crisis team. We well understand how important the introduction week is for the first years who want to study here, do sports or become a member of a club. They make friends for the rest of their lives in the first week. We don’t as yet know how we will do it, but we promise that we are doing everything we can to organise the best week possible.”

And the Ladies Intro? This is planned for 8 June, one week after the official ban on large events has been lifted.”
“The Ladies Intro will unfortunately be cancelled this year. While it may be officially allowed again, we don’t think it would be responsible for these types of event to take place so soon after the ban has been lifted. It’s a real shame, but safety first.”

  • The OWee, the welcome week for first year students at TU Delft, The Hague University of Applied Sciences and the InHolland Delft University of Applied Sciences will be held from 16 to 20 August. The Board will present its theme on YouTube on Friday 17 April at 20:30. More information about the OWee is available on its website. 
Editor in chief Saskia Bonger

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