It seemed a good idea to Wolbodo to hold a drawing workshop using a live naked model at the Ladies Intro. Accompanied by tea and biscuits, they believed it showed the artistic nature of the association. “We submitted the plan, but apparently we did not communicate clearly enough,” says Jeroen Manders, a Wolbodo general board member. It was a costly oversight.
OWee held the Ladies Intro on 12 June to let women (and any others regardless of their gender identity) mingle and enjoy ‘a time when Delft is not a male dominated city’, states the Binas (in Dutch), the information booklet for new students. As part of the programme, student associations organised hour-long workshops among which the attendees were divided. Wolbodo’s workshop was drawing a live model and was supervised by a teacher who also teaches this subject to students of Industrial Design Engineering.
“We thought it was great and I thought that the participants would enjoy it,” says Manders. The Supervisory Committee (CvT) appointed for the OWee thought differently. “Ten minutes before we finished, the Committee dropped by to see how things were going. They were shocked and took me aside. They apparently thought that the participants would not feel safe. I did not think this at all as nothing felt unsafe to me and the door was open all the time.”
One week later it transpired that TU Delft took the CvT’s concerns seriously. Rector Tim van der Hagen signed a letter – that Delta has seen – in which TU Delft accused Wolbodo of having committed an ‘infringement’. ‘TU Delft sees a workshop with a naked male model as we observed at your club building very inappropriate, irresponsible and unsafe for participants, including minors’, states the Executive Board. The letter invites Wolbodo for a meeting. Only, when the student association reads the letter, the proposed date has passed. Wolbodo sent an email to make a new appointment but, as Delta read in the email exchange, TU Delft was only available in September.
‘Everything students do reflects on TU Delft and vice versa’
In the meantime, the Executive Board has excluded Wolbodo from the official OWee programme (the association’s own programme at its premises will go ahead as planned, but is not announced by or during the OWee). TU Delft’s OWee supervisor, Alex Lokhorst, says that the OWee Board was not part of the decision. “Everything students do reflects on TU Delft and vice versa. So we seriously try to meet first and then take decisions.” Lokhorst also says that TU Delft did not confer with the other academic institutions – The Hague University of Applied Sciences and Inholland University of Applied Sciences – whose students attend the OWee.
He believes that bad timing is responsible for the fact that the meeting which may have solved the problem could not be held before the OWee. “It happened shortly before the OWee was to start in a period when everyone was working all out to get everything done on time. We try to do everything properly, but we too sometimes have to let things drop. This is very regretful and I sincerely hope that they can join in as usual next year.”
Wolbodo, meanwhile does not know which rule it violated. Delta read the contract between the student association and TU Delft, but it stated nothing about norms, values or decency. To Manders, the only point that TU Delft might have is that the attendees are assigned to workshops and thus did not consciously choose for live figure drawing. This applied to all the workshops though.
Now that the issue is in the hands of the Executive Board, the OWee Board and the Supervisory Committee do not wish to respond. They point to Lokhorst as the spokesperson, but he is reluctant to go into the infringement or TU Delft’s response in detail. What he does say is that social safety and sexually transgressive behaviour are ‘at the top of the urgent issues list’ for TU Delft. “If we even get a hint that something may go wrong, we have to intervene.”
‘Fortunately we usually do not withdraw our new members from the OWee’
Lokhorst says that inclusiveness also played a role in the decision. “Imagine it is your daughter who comes from a certain background and experiences this for the first time. In the past, we talked to parents who contacted TU Delft or the OWee Board about certain words that appeared in the Delft Dictionary that they found shocking. While we may wonder why this was the case, we recognise that some people have a background, culture or belief where it is unacceptable.” It is not always easy for TU Delft. “The world has become a sensitive place and TU Delft is doing its best to navigate around it. With regard to the Wolbodo situation, we said that we first want to verify the situation and then move forward.”
To Manders, banning Wolbodo from the OWee is ‘an extreme measure’, “And certainly if there are no complaints and I have not heard any.” The measure also seems hard compared to other cases. The last time that an association was fully or partly banned from the OWee (in Dutch) in 2017, was because of an incident in which a prospective member incurred a severe concussion during the initiation, which the association only reported two-and-a-half months later and then did not cooperate in the investigation. Nevertheless, Manders is not highly concerned. “It is not nice, but fortunately we do not usually withdraw our new members from the OWee. People can become a member whenever they want.”
He does note one contradiction though. While Wolbodo was banned for a live nude drawing workshop, the film Good Luck to You, Leo Grande was shown on Tuesday evening at the Markt as part of the OWee. Not only are there nude scenes in the film, but also explicit sex scenes.