Together with Jacob Fokkema, former Rector Magnificus, they are the honoured members of the OWee. Max van der Laan and Hans the Knegt helped organise the first OWee and continued doing so until they reached the age of 70. At a drinks with former OWee board members, in honour of the 45 year anniversary of the OWee, the two continue to shake hands, pat backs and kiss cheeks.
How did you come up with the idea of the OWee?
Hans de Knegt: “The idea originated in the VSSD. They thought that the way TU Delft welcomed new students was not good enough. At the time, the welcome was two days where the Rector gave a speech, you received your student card and timetable, and you could visit the fraternities in the evening. The Board agreed that it had to change. The week had to be organised by and for students.”
Max van der Laan: “We were supposed to help the first Board. We were already in our 30s. I worked as Secretary Manager at Applied Sciences and Hans worked at the information desk. I was supposed to be the Chairman for just one month, and then a student would take over. Just after I left, a delegation of students came to see me to ask if I wanted to finish the job. Well, yes! I was the Chairman for 36 years.”
What was that first OWee like?
Hans de Knegt: “At first, there was a big difference between members and non-members of the fraternities. The members wanted to involve the fraternities. The OWee was a right-wing group at the time. The left-wing group consisting of the VSSD and AAG, didn’t want the fraternities involved with the OWee. People walked away angry. The meetings were long and a lot of doors were slammed.”
Max van der Laan: “In the first OWee, there was a welcome speech by the Rector and Major, an information market, a sports day, an evening programme by the fraternities and a visit to the relevant faculty. The faculties’ introduction weekends came later. All the fraternities participated. There were almost 1,000 attendees.”
Are the rules stricter nowadays?
Max van der Laan: “About alcohol, yes. TU Delft is careful about alcohol related incidents. At this time of year there is not a lot of news, so the media loves these kinds of stories. We once found a ‘Telegraaf’ photographer in the bushes. He wanted pictures of drunk students. The DSB used to organise a bierestafette at the Boterbrug during the OWee. They don’t do that anymore. And the cantus was called beercantus, they changed that name.” De Knegt: “I don’t think TU Delft should encourage these kinds of events.” Van der Laan: “I think it’s one of the best events of the OWee. The band is nice and I like to visit it.”
What was one of the most special moments?
Hans de Knegt: “When Prins Friso came to study here, he also participated in the OWee. I had to welcome him and accompany him to the Rector and Major - I made it to the gossip magazine ‘Privé’ with that picture. Beforehand, we had a lot of contact with the Royal Family, that was special as well. The rest of the week he was with his mentor group. We saw him eating an ice-cream on the bridge and at Virgiel. He was a nice young man.”
Was there a year where you thought that the OWee was not going to happen?
Hans de Knegt: “In 1976, the Aula wasn’t available for the OWee. Something went wrong in the communication and the Aula was occupied by some congress for the whole week. That was a difficult one for our organisation. We did the registration at Civil Engineering and the welcome speech in the New Church. After that, the Aula was reserved in time every year, ha ha!”
Max van der Laan: “Another year, almost nothing was organised on Monday. We had to arrange a lot of things at the last minute. And another time, all the meal coupons went flying everywhere. Nowadays, there’s a digital system, but before that people used paper coupons for every meal. Hundreds of coupons, every OWee. They fell off the table and got all mixed up. We had to start all over again, sorting them all out …”
The OWee Chairman of this years’ OWee talks about an ‘OWee-family’ of former board members. Do you also feel that way?
Max van der Laan: “Yes, I sometimes have that feeling as well. All kinds of old OWee board members drop by the organisation when the OWee is about to start to help the Board with all kind of things. It was such a special time for everyone. There were almost no disagreements.”
Hans de Knegt: “Well, no disagreements… Before the OWee starts, the mentor groups of the faculty weekends must be taken over by the organisation of the OWee. Once, there was such a fight about that, that the Board almost stopped working. Luckily, they finished the OWee, but I think they never saw each other again.”
Hans de Knegt: “Up to now, two marriages have come from OWee boards. I saw the relationship between Michiel and Celine grow. They have been married for a year now.”
Has a lot changed since the first OWee?
Max van der Laan: “Nowadays, the sponsors get much more exposure. At the start, the companies had to be less visible, the money came from TU Delft and the students.”
Hans de Knegt: “Today, students from The Hague University of Applied Sciences and Inholland can join the OWee. That was not the case in the beginning. Now, more and more students at universities take part. But they rarely become members of the fraternities because they live with their parents longer.”
Will you continue to be involved with the OWee?
Max van der Laan: “Yes, probably the rest of our lives. But not as intensely as before. We are available for the Board, at a distance and on call.”
- This week Delta will regularly feature the OWee. Keep an eye on our website to read about: how the fraternities handle international students; an interview with two members of the OWee Board; how to cook a nice meal for hundreds of people; a real OWee marriage; and our daily visit to a student house.