In June 2013 the sitting board “Coherent, versterkt elkaar” received an email from Jo Kobussen (a member from the first years of the association), who visited the website because of the 50 year anniversary of fraternity h* (h-star). The contents of this email can be found below.
Dear members of Van der Waals,
Upon some googling a little while ago, I was surprised to find that my name was mentioned on the website of SVTN J.D. Van der Waals. However, when I started to read the history of Van der Waals by Frans Snik, I was even more surprised. The way in which the sixties of the twentieth century at the THE are described has little to do with historiography.
In the text that I have included here, titled “Is this historiography”, I will add some comments to some citations from Frans Snik’s article.
Furthermore, I would like to point out that a mistake has been made on the website of the association regarding the board of 1964-1965. Instead of Frans Zonneveld, Jan Koken was chairman in that year. I am pretty sure that I succeeded Jan Koken as chairman of Van der Waals in October of 1965. Jan Koken himself also remembers this very clearly. I also checked this with Hans van Leunen who was another board member in 1964-1965.
I hope that with this email I contributed to a better account of the history of Van der Waals.
-- Sent from my old-fashioned Windows desktop computer.
Attached to this email was a document with the following content:
Is this historiography?
The history of Van der Waals has been chronicled by Frans Snik, secretary of the board of 1999/2000 “Evolutie: tempora mutantur”. It was first compiled as a contribution to lustrum book “Attractie” to celebrate the eighth lustrum of SVTN “J.D. van der Waals” (source: http://www.vdwaals.nl/index.php?article=202, currently http://www.vdwaals.nl/node/519).
Already in 19621 the boards stopped wearing tail-coats, although that was mainly caused by a big change in Dutch culture that happened around that time. The so-called democratisation. The official character of the association became a point of discussion2, and the number of General Member Meetings (GMM’s) declined3. During the occupation of the THE in 19644 Van der Waals received a letter that their support was not desired. The lustrum book of 1965 first mentions a decrease in members, and even a shortage of active members. In 1967 it all went wrong...
The board of 1967-1968 was not chosen5 by the ALV (GMM), but by a special committee. The year after they could not find any successors, so out of necessity this board had to continue for another year as a board ‘ad interim’.
1 There is a photograph of the entire board of Van der Waals in 1962-1963, presided by Cees Daey Ouwens, on which all five board members wear a tail-coat.
2 It is not really for whom the official character of the association became a point of discussion. In any case, at least throughout the entire decade of the sixties Van der Waals was seen as the official representation of physics students by the physics department of THE.
3 At least until the end of 1968 the number of GMMs did not decrease.
4 There was no occupation of the THE in 1964, and there probably never even has been one at all. In 1964 the THE was actually characterized by peace and obedience. No revolutionary activities have taken place. However, there has been a student demonstration near the main building to protest decisions of the board of the THE regarding student facilities, without consulting the student ambassadors.
5 As far as I know the board of 1967-1968 was formed and elected in the usual way. However, there have been some problems regarding its succession, which resulted in an interim-board in 1968.
Already in 19626 Jo Kobussen started to spread Marxist messages in the heartland of the Catholic province of Noord-Brabant. Around this time that message clearly resonated amongst the active members of Van der Waals, especially the board7. In the Koerier articles were published about the conflict between social classes within the faculty8. One remark once found the title of professor meaningless, and even proposed to start addressing the lunch ladies with that title.
6 Jo Kobussen first started studying at the THE in September of 1962. The he still was a Catholic and had a strong and vocal preference for the position of the VVD regarding their political views on New-Guinea. It would have been more probable to have found him handing out rosaries instead of Marxist pamflets.
7 The meaning of this sentence in not completely clear to me, therefore I will refrain from any further comments.
8 Articles about a conflict between social classes within the faculty have not appeared in the Koerier, at least not until the end of 1968.
The break between Van der Waals and the faculty was partly caused by the introduction of the WUB9 (Wet Universitaire Bestuurshervorming, or Law of University Management Reform). This channelled the student participation in university matters, to suppress further turmoil amongst the students. Communication about education became more difficult, therefore a new Education Committee10 was started in 1967. From 1976 on Van der Waals even had an education commissioner, however the students were not completely satisfied with that.
9 De WUB was introduced in 1970. Therefore events in the sixties could hardly have been influenced by this.
10 Van der Waals already had an Education Committee in 1965-1966. This might be the year that it was initiated, it might as well have existed even longer. This committee mainly strived for the availability of lecture notes, and acted as a representative for the students in the form of the SOK (Studie Overleg Commissie, or Study consultation committee). This SOK was a consultation committee, which consisted of three students (if I remember it correctly) and a representative of the department (professor Kruithof). The representative of the department reported to the study committee of the department, which entire consisted of lecturers. Later the SOK was rendered obsolete because students were allowed to be part of the study committee.
The author of these comments has spent September 1962 until March 1975 at the department of Applied Physics at the THE, first as a student and later as a PhD candidate and a Postdoc. I never noticed a revolutionary atmosphere in this entire period. However, sympathies for democratisation of the university were quite widespread.
But for something that resembled a revolutionary ambiance one should have gone to Paris instead of Eindhoven. Or a bit closer to home maybe to Tilburg, Amsterdam, or Nijmegen. And in all of those places even after 1968!
It seems that in these citations several events or persons have been mixed up in time or place. For more details or crude mistakes, look at the footnotes placed by the citations above.