Erik-Jan Broers: ‘Lecturing is performing, that’s why I close with a bow’
Nightmares, daydreams, and unfulfilled wishes: in the column “13 questions to,” students and scientists show themselves from a different side. This time: lecturer in legal history Erik-Jan Broers. He was elected Lecturer of the Year in Tilburg and thus also nominated for the national election.
1. If you were not a scientist, what would you do?
“As a kid I wanted to be an archaeologist. Indiana Jones didn’t exist then, but digging in the desert in Egypt, I liked that. Then my father told me there wasn’t much money in that. Actually, I also wanted to be a writer. Novels or stories. I think if I hadn’t become a lecturer, I would have become a novelist.”
2. What are you most proud of?
“Now I have been named the best lecturer in the university, but before this I was also named the best lecturer in the Law School many times. So many times in fact that after the tenth time I let it be known that I was no longer competing. Yet in 2018–2019, I was suddenly nominated again. I had to give a major first-year course that academic year, all lectures and seminars. Because my parents had passed away in three days in a very unpleasant way, I started that course with a backlog.
“Then I made the switch and started lecturing. That I suddenly turned out to compete in the best lecturer election again that year, without knowing it, and became best law professor, was a surprise. Because I would get too emotional because of the death of my parents, I didn’t go to the ceremony. I couldn’t do it. But in retrospect, that’s the award I’m most proud of.”
3. What do you daydream about?
“A cottage in Greece. Preferably even two, so my girlfriend can have one too. You can say ’then get a bigger house,’ but I don’t want to do that to her. That’s it, a cottage in Greece, by the sea, far from people, with an ouzo in my hand.”
4. Your house is on fire, and you can only save one possession. What would you take with you?
“One of my hobbies is photography. I used to shoot with analog cameras with film. So I have a lot of folders with negatives of old photos. And also a lot of USB sticks with the originals of new digital photos. Probably I would get killed in that fire because I would hesitate too long which one to take. The folders with the old negatives or the new USB sticks?”
5. What wise lesson would you give to your younger self?
“That, when making important decisions, when I have to take the plunge, I should first take time to consider everything. Just think quietly about the consequences.”
6. What series do you watch to relax?
“I love watching English detective series like Midsomer Murders and Lewis. Not so much because of the story because it’s often the same anyway, but because of the wonderful setting. I also watch Netflix, for example Wednesday, a series by my favorite director, Tim Burton.”
7. Who is your great role model and why?
“My girlfriend. And for this reason: first of all, because she endures being with me. But also because she never gives up. She hasn’t always had it easy, but she has enormous willpower and therefore doesn’t allow herself to be stopped. The same was actually true of my parents. They didn’t always have it easy either, but they never let themselves be defeated.”
‘Humanity is meeting with disaster on its own accord at the moment, and we worry about whether we are using the right words for it’
8. What gives you a short fuse?
“I don’t really have that; I go through life quite cheerfully. No tantrums with throwing glasses against the wall for me. Although I do get extremely annoyed by today’s hypercorrectness in society, by the excuse and cancel culture. Humanity is meeting with disaster on its own accord at the moment, and we worry about whether we are using the right words for it.”
9. What really needs to be different about the university?
“My girlfriend says: everything. Personally, I think there should be more opportunities for people who can lecture well. They should have more opportunities to move up. And there should also be more lecturers who can offer large courses, lectures and seminars, instead of yet another new endowed professor offering a secondary subject. The focus now is mainly on research, which is also important, of course, but so is education. There needs to be more of a balance between research and education.”
10. What is the strangest thing you have ever experienced in a lecture hall?
“In my first year of lecturing, I went to a morning group at quarter to nine. When I entered the hall, I saw that it was all decorated. There was also a glass of Forbidden Fruit, which is 8% beer, poured for me. That was a thank you because the students had liked the course. Even though I never eat breakfast, I had to finish that glass. I was also given other bottles of beer to take with me. After that lecture, I walked around with a light head and rattling bottles in my bag and was met by the Head of my Department who wanted to introduce me to a new colleague.”
11. What do you do during the vacations?
“A mix of culture and chilling and ouzo. It’s always a combination, one day a great excursion, and the next day, we sit in the sun and drink a glass of wine. We often go to Greece. There, you have temples and beautiful old churches. And also good food and good drinks, that should definitely be there.”
12. First-year or Master’s students?
“Both actually, the variety is fun. It is quite a challenge to get a grip on five hundred first-year student in the legal history course, to get them interested. For Master’s students, I don’t have to do that anymore; they chose it because they like it. This is more relaxed; it is also a much smaller group. Still, it is wonderful to perform before 500 Bachelor’s students. Performing, that’s what I call it. I always end the last lecture with a bow. Often, I then get a round of applause, but this year it was even a hurricane of clapping and cheering.”
13. Never work again or never go on holiday again?
“Never work again. To that I must add: I’m 63, so I don’t have to work very long anymore…”
Translated by Language Center, Riet Bettonviel