Think you’re in “an earthquake” because they jump on the floor with two thousand students at the same time. “Sleep with beer fumes in your nose” because at night tens of liters of malt liquor are thrown into the building next to you.
Noor Wiersma (61), mother of three children in Amsterdam, does not lack examples of almost thirty years of living next to “the biggest drinking palace in the Netherlands”. Sometimes her words are drowned out by the excited voices of the students, which splash up from the narrow Warmoesstraat. Wiersma quickly closes the thermal windows. It makes a difference.
Unlike most other student corps in the Netherlands, the Amsterdamsch Studenten Corps (ASC) directly adjoins dozens of residences in the heart of the city. “Of course, we realize that you can’t expect absolute silence here,” says Wiersma, “but next to the corps, things get out of hand.” Between the ASC and the neighborhood, a mixed group of former squatters, artists and typical Amsterdam entrepreneurs in the Red Light District, there has been a tense relationship in recent times without the municipality intervening.
More than an ordinary neighborly quarrel
When the ASC made negative headlines in late July with statements about women as ‘sperm buckets’, Wiersma and the hundreds of other residents were hardly surprised. They no longer have illusions about the behavior and views of their young neighbors. Their anger primarily affects the congregation.
“I am angry about it,” says entrepreneur Thedoor Van Boven (67) in Condomerie, two buildings away, “that the municipality does not respond to complaints. He has been of the opinion for years that we should solve this together.” At the end of July, Wiersma, with Van Boven, secretary of the neighborhood association, decided to contact NRC.
Their story goes beyond an ordinary neighborhood dispute, they say. Their story is mainly about a metropolitan government that believes in self-regulation, ‘nice and easy’, as Van Boven says. And about an “elite club that thinks it’s untouchable” and buys off complaining residents with a night’s stay at a hotel a little further away.
And that while for a long time things went quite well between students and residents in the Warmoesstraat. For almost fifteen years, from the beginning of this century, there was a semi-annual meeting between the corps, residents, police and municipality. After that, Wiersma, Van Boven and three directors of ASC went to Stopera for “sometimes no longer than half an hour”, says Van Boven, to discuss things that had played or were going to play. The local police officer at the time had taken the initiative after ambulances had come and gone because yet another person had passed out after excessive drinking. After pressure from the police and the municipality, the corps and the neighborhood entered into a pact in which they promised to discuss and solve problems among themselves.
The society had to close
ASC agreed in part to take a fresh start. It had moved in April 1994 from the Raamgracht to the old, abandoned building of the printing house Debussy on the Warmoesstraat. “One of the main reasons for the move was the bad permit situation and bad relations with the neighbors on Raamgracht,” the association writes on its website.
At first things didn’t go much better in the Warmoesstraat, primarily a shopping and entertainment street with apartments here and there. As early as 1995, local residents complained about noise and stench from the club and its visitors. Together with the lawyer Phon van der Biezen, beloved in squatter circles, they successfully applied to the Council of State. ASC had to close for six months to build better ventilation installations. Theodoor van Boven proudly takes the folder in his archive at the back of the Condomerie to show the procedural documents from that time.
Then the balance of power between the corps and neighbors tilted slowly but surely. The municipal official who took part in the Stopera meeting retired. His successor did not respond to emails from Van Boven and the others. The Stopera consultation no longer exists. This was not necessary due to coronalockdowns in 2020 and 2021. The community closed. Wiersma: “How nice it was!”
With the reopening of corps life, all the old demons returned. Some residents pragmatically moved along. “I would like to be able to sell my art to the neighbors when those boys and girls will soon be in director positions,” says Hans Mantje, for example, who has a studio just behind the ASC building. Tom Sandfort (63), on the other hand, who bought a building near the clubhouse where he once squatted, remains militant: “It’s like a branch of the Ku Klux Klan here with all the white boys and girls,” he says. . “You have to deal with it hard. It is a shame that the municipality does not help us and, if necessary, revoke the liquor license.”
Full of resistance
Noor Wiersma also decided to completely resist. No more consultations, no more pacts, no more agreements to solve problems among themselves. She was tired of the polite words from yet another new board that promises again and again to make a new beginning. And when last spring ‘those brats’ offered her a night at the Krasnapolsky hotel, almost around the corner, because another big party was coming up, Wiersma had indignantly rejected the offer. “What are they thinking?”
A neighbor accepted the offer to stay in Krasnapolsky (Booking.com does not offer rooms there to under 400 euros per night) to spend the night during the corps’ annual four-day winter festival. Since then, the woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, spends four days a year at ASC’s expense in hotels, sometimes also abroad. “The brilliance of that party is so great that this appointment is very necessary,” she says.
In theory, Wiersma only has the ultimate option: to move out of his social rental housing in the heart of the city. “Of course I sometimes have on Woningnet [naar het aanbod van sociale huurwoningen in Amsterdam] looked at,” she says. Only to quickly conclude that it will only deteriorate in terms of rent for space and atmosphere. She pays a reasonable rent to housing company Lieven De Key for the spacious apartment, not the grand prize.
She has decided to stay and hopes that other parties such as the municipality will still take their responsibility.
Also read this article: Loud singing, vomiting, screaming and fucking
After questions from NRC Both the corps and the municipality move on the complaints from the residents. On behalf of the newly appointed board of the ASC, principal Sebastiaan Klaver sent an email: “We (…) attach great importance to the relationship with the neighborhood in the coming year.” In the meantime, ASC has contacted complaining residents. A neighborhood drink is planned for October, to which all residents are invited. At upcoming parties, the board will make “measurements with a decibel meter” to detect excesses in time.
ASC also wants to breathe new life in consultation with the municipality. The municipality thinks the latter is a good idea, says security coordinator Wouter Bernson. He finds that the consultations have not yet started, “as bad as the residents”.
Noor Wiersma no longer has to think about that meeting. For her, the days of friendly resolutions, decibel meters and neighborhood drinks are long gone. In her view, strict enforcement by the police and the municipality is the only thing that can keep the noisy corps in line.
Years of complaints from local residents, such as over the Amsterdam Student Corps, are less common in other university towns, according to a tour of NRC. Notorious association houses can be a nuisance, however. The internationalization of the student population also causes problems here and there.
Rob Stikkelman from the residents’ association Oude en Nieuwe Delf in Delft, districts where a number of student associations are based, says: “Generally things are going well. Delft’s student body is quite isolated on a wide road. It is different at Virgiel and other large associations, especially in introductory weeks like last month. Many residents who live in the center of Oude Delft know by now and then leave the city for a few weeks.”
Delft mayor Marja van Bijsterveldt herself lives in a neighborhood with many student houses. “Once in a while I knock on the door,” writes the former minister in an answer. “Once in a while a signal with a bit too much bass or sound through the app works great. Usually such a signal is picked up immediately, and it always happens in good harmony.”
In Rotterdam, many students are active for the neighborhood and the city, report involved neighborhood associations. As a result, the nuisance of student unions in city centers is more easily accepted. (Incidentally, the Amsterdamsch Studenten Corps helps refugees in schools and visits lonely elderly people.)
Paul Driessen, board member of Rotterdam’s resident association Kralingen-Oost, says: “Many students are active in the neighborhood: join the Opzoomeren [schoonhouden etc.], with neighborhood barbecues or children’s parties. Never in the news, but important.” Nevertheless, there were many complaints in Kralingen about students drinking, belching and vomiting. This has led to continuous consultation with students, residents, the municipality and the police.
Driessen is more concerned about ‘students who are not affiliated with anything, which makes it difficult to make appointments’. Among them are many international students. “You are not bothered by the Chinese; they study hard. But Germans, Brits and Spaniards regularly throw a party.”
The city council in Rotterdam could also be more active, says Driessen: “Enough of promises and nice emails after complaints about nuisance, then not much happens. Despite promises, the ‘commuting’ of buildings here in the district still takes place, sometimes with eight rooms at the same time.”
“It’s actually going quite well here,” says Aart Martin de Jong from the Pal Leiden neighborhood association in the center of Leiden, where four student associations are based, including the student corps Minerva. Just like in Rotterdam, students are also active here for the neighborhood and the city. Members take part in the Leids Cabaret Festival and Museum Night and sometimes sit on the board of the neighborhood association, says De Jong.
Associations such as Augustinus publish a newsletter for local residents with upcoming activities, so they are warned of possible nuisances. “And I heard recently that students were helping maintain the gardens of people in the neighborhood,” says De Jong.
Neighborhood associations cannot possibly express all the feelings of concerned local residents. Discomfort is also experienced subjectively, for example in Groningen. The area where the Vindicat association is based, which has been in the news a few times before, does not have its own neighborhood association. “There is no relationship with Vindicat, we are not very bothered by it,” says Henk Boldewijn, from the neighborhood association Binnenstad-Oost.
Neighbor Pauline Sarkar made another noise. she wrote NRC in response to the vicissitudes surrounding the Amsterdam corps: “I now live in Groningen in a neighborhood with many students, and I notice that at the age of 81 I am so angry and stressed that I would like to do something about every Vindicater, I meet. . . When I walk through my neighborhood, I feel exactly the same uncertainty and rush that I felt sixty years ago.”
A version of this article also appeared in the newspaper on 18 October 2022