How I see Radboud - the story of Richard Spithoff

Portrait picture of Richard Spithoff
At the heart of society
Richard Spithoff
Current role
Student Public Administration and Theology

Staff and students breath new life into our university's values. This is the story of Richard Spithoff, student Public Administration and Theology.

I attended the dialogue sessions on behalf of CSN, the umbrella association of Christian student associations in Nijmegen. When we heard that our ‘Catholic’ predicate was being rescinded, it naturally raised many questions among our Christian members. Not that our Christian identity was something you noticed much on a daily basis, but it did show up in certain symbols: for example the prayer at the start of ceremonies, or the University’s logo. Also, some appointed members of the University Student Council came from the Catholic emancipation movement that originally founded Radboud University.

I personally saw the loss of the predicate not so much as a problem, but as an opportunity for something new. It provides a chance to reflect as a university community on what we stand for and where we want to go. An institution may say that it stands for certain values, but in practice these are often just pretty words aimed at the outside world. It’s also important to do something with those values, to attach real value to them.

That’s why I find it so important to hold on to the emancipatory nature of the University. It should certainly not be open only to an exclusive set of people. In the past, Radboud University focused mainly on Catholics, but these days it also targets other social groups. Think of how much is being done for refugees, to make sure that they can get an education and fully participate in society. Radboud University also has a high percentage of first-generation students. It’s important to make sure that everyone has equal opportunities. Emancipation is also expressed in the University’s focus on issues such as diversity or climate. In this way, Radboud University shows that it’s not operating from an ivory tower, but instead stands at the heart of society. Our students are also trained on the basis of these values: in addition to standard subject knowledge and skills, at Radboud University, you also gain a critical understanding of society, and of ways in which you can contribute. As a board member of the NSN Christian student association, I try to do something extra, with activities that focus on our direct environment. For example, one of our fraternities supports the Move Foundation, which is committed to helping disadvantaged children and young people with curricula and social projects.

A critical perspective requires you to remain alert to things that you think are wrong. For example, I believe university study programmes could focus more on students’ personal development. You can say that we’re training people for more than just a qualification, but we should all think a bit further about how we can make this ideal a reality

- Richard Spithoff