Columnist Menno Blaauw recalls his rough student days. Is alcohol still such a big problem for today’s students?
"Kees evolved into a violent mean drunk." (Photo: Sam Rentmeester)

Columnist Menno Blaauw recalls his rough student days. Is alcohol still such a big problem for today’s students?

Lees in het Nederlands

As a student I led a regular existence. I spent every day from 20:00 to 3:00 at the fraternity, got up at 12:00, then coffee and the compulsory practicals in the afternoon. After the first semester, I had hardly attended any lectures at all. How much beer did I drink in an evening? I really don't remember.

Clubmate Kees drank like a fish. It made him boisterous, he stole and damaged things on the way home. One early afternoon I had arranged to meet him and it turned out that his bed had not been slept in. His girlfriend was very upset and didn't know where he was. In her mind, we was either in bed with someone else, or had drowned in the canal. After many phone calls, we found out that he had spent the night in a police cell. Girlfriend ecstatic.

Clubmate Joost studied law and drank much more. His room was a rubbish dump, a bare mattress with a horse blanket in the corner. He conned me and others with uncovered cheques. My record was an evening with Joost where we finished four bottles of heavy wine and a bottle of brandy. My left eye saw green, my right eye pale pink, and it was better to avoid using both at the same time.

Cool, huh?

The next afternoon I woke up in my own bed and realised I had driven those 500 metres from Joost home. There were no new dents in it, I checked immediately. I was deeply ashamed. What if I had killed someone? I never drank and drove again after that. I leave the car at home when I go to a party, as a preventative measure.

‘I couldn't accept that he kept on drinking’ 

Joost died last year. The first time he broke his neck drunk, they only had to bolt a few vertebrae together. But the second time was fatal, exacerbated by the decreased flexibility of his spine there. After six months of mechanical ventilation he died of lung complications.

Kees evolved into a violent mean drunk. After about 20 glasses he would start arguing, and this happened several times a month. He abused girlfriends and later his wife with increasingly heavy blunt objects, until he beat her up with the oak coffee table and she really thought she was a goner. She fled to her parental home with the children and only then broke her embarrassed silence. I ended my friendship with him because I couldn't accept that he kept on drinking while he knew what alcohol made him do.

My academic studies only lasted two years longer than nominal and I ended up quite well. I only drink on Fridays and Saturdays, and then only some three glasses. How would I have turned out if I had managed to stay off the booze during my college years?

Most of my fraternity friends drank too much. According to the Trimbos Institute, as a member of the Works Council discovered, 20% of current students have an alcohol problem. The drinks at the last dies natalis celebration were alcohol-free. We would like to exchange views with the Student Council in the next meeting. Is alcohol a problem among TU Delft staff or students? I'm not sure. But I did get that impression in the 10 years that I lived three doors from the Delft Studenten Corps fraternity building. And my letterbox was regularly urinated into.

Dr Menno Blaauw is IMS Manager at the Reactor Institute, after having worked there as a scientist for 20 years. He is also a member of the Works Council