Elected student leaders meet with the Director of Student Services and MoTiv staff at the MoTiv centre. Anneke has again prepared a four course meal that starts with drinks and patte snacks, then a lovely pumpkin soup, and for mains, large pork chops with baked potatoes, beans and asparagus; a large comport of fruit for dessert; and then the obligatory fine chocolate assortment and tea and coffee. It is lovely to see the student leaders dressed up for the occasion, the President wearing his bright green President’s tie and the other male student, the orange tie of the faculty/school he represents. They have an obvious respect for MoTiv. This is a special occasion.
The university Director arrives a little late. The MoTiv staff had already negotiated with the students to “make this a practice international meeting” and to speak in English, for my benefit. I shake hands with the Director, but it is clear he is here on business. He takes a dominant seating position opposite the students by himself, takes out his notebook and, unbeknown to me, tells everyone in Dutch that the meeting will be in Dutch.
I watch the flow of communication for the next two and a half hours. It seems cordial and everyone seems free to participate. But appearances can be deceptive.
I noticed that the Director controlled most of the communication until about the main course. Then the flow moved to among the students themselves. Maybe the red wine was having a relaxing effect! And finally, over coffee the interaction was mainly between the students and the MoTiv staff.
I later discovered from the students and MoTiv staff that while there may have been listening between the students and the Director, there was disagreement. “The University can no longer just make authoritarian demands of the students”, said one of the MoTiv staff, afterwards. “Like the Arab Spring and what is now happening in Turkey, they will not accept it! Yes they listened, smiled and seemed to agree with the Director, but we know that deep down they won’t do it. That is a difference between the University and MoTiv’s approach to students. While the Director funds the student programs we come up with as a result of these discussions, MoTiv is about empowering the students. They know what they want and we help them get it.”
Last year the student leaders wanted to visit some other students leaderships in other countries to see how they operated. So MoTiv used their network of European chaplaincy contacts to arrange such an interchange. Risto in Tampere, Finland, agreed to host the students and arranged some leadership experiences with executives at Nokia, which has its centre nearby. That kind of student interchange is on MoTiv’s agenda for discussion at the forthcoming Conference of European University Chaplains next week.
I suppose I should have expected that the chaplaincy at UTDelft would be innovative, serving as it does, a technical university which focusses on creativity and innovation. They have branded themselves MoTiv – technology and spirituality, alluding to the spiritual requirements for motivation. But the extent to which they have developed the medium of hospitality, as we know it at Oasis, was impressive – the intellectual, spiritual and social hospitality embedded in the way they go about their ministry. Their foundations are Christian, but I’m sure they will absorb the challenges of multifaith when it becomes necessary for them, because they are open and hospitable to all. They have chosen to be independent of the University, with a building away from the campus. No-one ‘drops in’. Yet clearly their contracted programs with various parts of the university belie a network of well-established positive relationships. The quality of their programs and their professionalism in all things has won strong respect and trust.
Hi Geoff, you made an tremendous effort not only to describe what you’ve seen but also to understand what is going on. Your analysis and intuitions are very helpful to us. We are part of an overwhelming world. Thanks for your visit.