Wheel of the year

| Wiendelt Steenbergen

If someone starts talking to you about the wheel of the year, they are a modern-day witch, a practitioner of wicca, a follower of a form of modern Celtic paganism - or someone from the University of Twente.

Only a select few think in wheels of the year and no other university has one. “Wheel of the year” sounds organic, regular and peaceful. It brings to mind an eternally repeating cycle of growth, bloom, decay and silence. It sounds like nature itself which goes through all these stages with constant chances in tempo or like a tango that sweeps you along in quadruple time.

You probably know that real life is nothing like this. At the university, all four seasons happen at once. The rhythm of the university is like the quadruple time of a military march or even a seven-eighth time. Listen to Pink Floyd's Money and you will hear a rhythm in which the measure is not finished, where the next episode begins before the last one ends and before you even have a chance to catch your breath. The resit of a course is barely over before you are expected to start discussing the next iteration. The need to find new funding starts weighing on your mind before your current project is well and truly under way.

But that time of silence, that university winter, isn't that what summer recess is for? A time to go on holiday for a few weeks and do the things at university that you otherwise have no time for: reading, thinking, developing ideas, talking to colleagues. We don't get summer recess like that. You have to start preparing your classes or encounter a summer activity that you cannot turn down. Perhaps you have just come back from holiday and now have to race to finish your project proposal before the September deadline.

It must be possible to take a break and catch our collective breath by tacking on a few weeks. If you think that cannot be done, just look at other universities in Germany, Belgium and the United Kingdom. They've all managed it somehow. They have adopted the leisurely quintuple time. Listen to the opening measures of White Room by Cream and you can hear it for yourself: the postponed next measure. If the wheel of the year is a pie, let's divide it into five equal pieces: four for the students and one for ourselves. 

Wiendelt Steenbergen is a professor in Biomedical Photonic Imaging at the UT. 

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