This edition is, I think, the most special edition I have worked on in my time as editor-in-chief, as it is both our annual theme edition as well as the issue that completes our 50th anniversary. On the 15th of September 2022, Splijtstof turned 50 years old. To celebrate this monumental achievement, the editorial team decided to focus on the theme of “metamorphosis”: has Splijtstof changed, or have we, in some ways, stayed – perhaps alarmingly – the same? Luckily for us, one of my predecessors, Bas Leijssenaar, wrote an excellent overview of Splijtstof’s history for our 40th anniversary.1 He traced many important events of the first 40 years of our existence, and I will partly rely on his insights. Almost everyone, not only Leijssenaar, emphasises Splijtstof’s activist aspirations:
In the early years, Splijtstof functioned as a platform for students, teachers and staff members who did not hide their involvement in the content of the curriculum, the organisation of the study programme, the role of philosophy in society and social developments in general.2
During those years, Splijtstof was a small magazine seemingly hastily stencilled together. We started out as the monthly magazine of the philosophers’ union, not of the faculty. So we were not a magazine “embedded” into the faculty as we are now, but rather one written and edited by the students that, apparently, had quite some quarrels with how the curriculum and study programme were organised.3
At the time, our fighting spirit was emphasised by our name – Splijt-stof – which wasmeant to express our tendency to look for sore points – to stir up discussion.4 Yet even though the editors of Splijt-stof made their opinions often loud and clear, they also had a tendency to do so without some level of, let’s say, delicacy or reflection. Interestingly, as Leijssenaar notices, this did not seem to interrupt the relations Splijt-stof had with the faculty.5 In every issue there were contributions of faculty members (staff and the like) and ongoing discussions in the form of responses to editions published previously. So one thing that has not changed is that Splijtstof is a magazine of the faculty. Not in the sense that we were always institutionally embedded in the faculty structure, but in the sense that it cannot be denied that Splijtstof would not exist if it were not for “our” students that spent their extracurricular time on writing and editing, and for “our” faculty members that sent in the occasional pieces. Concerning the latter, you will find two contributions of teachers in this edition too, both of which have been around for a while and thus know the faculty intimately.6
Yet, after a while, Splijtstof starts to wrestle with its character, and as the years go by, the magazine turns more towards publishing “philosophical content” and no longer functions as the “arena” where faculty members come to settle their disputes. During the second half of the 1980s, Splijtstof goes through what Leijssenaar calls a “midlife crisis”, which seems to end at the start of the new decade, at which point, the editorial board aims to fulfil its “journalistic aspirations” once again (meaning intervening in faculty politics).7 It seems as if this crisis itself may be one of the defining features of Splijstof’s character, as it has returned time and again. Even though we have always written about what happens here at the faculty, Splijtstof pivots between fulfilling the role of being a mere “innocent” spectator and reporter, to one of being an obnoxious stinging hornet. Two extremes that can both be found in our history.
I tend to agree that a philosophical magazine like this one has to offer some form of reflection; it should not just be about venting personal opinions. At the same time, however, I also agree with my co-editor-in-chief, Mireille, that Splijstof should be a platform on which all faculty members may voice their concerns8 – which means that, to a certain extent, it is always personal. In this particular edition, you will find these “personal” concerns in a variety of pieces. Pieter Theunissen wrote a letter to the Ombudsman regarding the lack of compensation for students that are from the Dutch “leenstelsel” generation, Marije Dümmer addresses the academic climate that characterises a student’s life today, and I myself raise some points concerning the dangers of seeing education as a financial investment (something which our predecessors were already concerned themselves with). So, in a way, Splijtstof’s fighting spirit has remained, and I hope it continues to seek confrontation when needed.
In order to celebrate this anniversary, the editorial team discussed all kinds of possibilities to honour our birthday. The most obvious one is, of course, to reach out to those who were there at the beginning, which is what Pieter and Kay Raphet Meeng did. They spoke to Jan Willem Dieten, our first secretary. 50 years of Splijtstof also means a window into 50 years of the faculty. Dani Lensen and I interviewed Veronica Vasterling, who was present for more than 30 of those 50 years. During our talk with Veronica, one of the things we discussed was the composition of the faculty members and, more specifically, the lack of diversity. To my mind, this is something that has changed and is still changing, especially over the last decade. The faculty is growing in size but is also becoming more and more diverse. For instance, since the start of the Philosophy, Politics, and Society bachelor (and now master too), the number of international students has increased radically. This is also reflected in the content of Splijtstof, as more and more pieces are published in English to make it accessible to the whole student body. And the editorial team, too, becomes more and more a reflection of this diversity – something which I hope will not change in the future.
Yet this edition is not only a self-indulgent testimony to ourselves9 – you can also find other pieces that we are fond of publishing. For instance, we were lucky to be able to print not one, but two Philosopher Abroad pieces in this edition. After such a long period of lockdowns (and God only knows what will be waiting for us this fall), some students were finally able to travel once more to explore philosophy outside the boundaries of the Erasmus building. Sidney the Laat reports on his stay in Sint-Petersburg, and Charlie Harden-Sweetnam and Felix Hohlfeld have written a dialogue about their musings while walking the streets of Athens. Furthermore, you can find reviews of books and essays by students that fulfil the task of producing the aforementioned “philosophical content”. But, importantly, especially the essays by Yan Merida Brockmeier and Esmée van den Wildenberg are not “mere” philosophical contemplations; they aim to intervene in a specific debate with a contemporary relevance.
Lastly, there is one more change that needs to be addressed. Another reason why this particular edition is special to me, personally, is because it will be my last as editor-in-chief. I will be succeeded by Max Schmermbeck. Together with Mireille, I am confident they will usher in yet another decade of Splijtstof and bring with them new insights that add more layers to an already complex character. We have also added new members to our team, Mylene van der Scheer, Charlie Harden-Sweetnam and Laura Schranz, while also saying goodbye to Esmée van den Wildenberg, Vera Naamani and Sidney de Laat. I am very curious to see what will become of Splijtstof. I want to thank all the editors that I had the pleasure of working with, for however long or short our time together was. There is no use in listing all the things I learned during my time as an editor and, later, editor-in-chief. So I will sign off with the thought that, for me, Splijtstof, above all, is a wonderful space where students are able to explore the many different faces of writing, editing, and publishing. It is a space to try, test, and learn, and I am sure that I will make good use of those experiences in my future.
Editor-in-chief of Splijt-stof
- Bas Leijssenaar, “Splijtstof sprak,” Splijtstof 40, no. 3 (2012): 53-67. ↵
- My translation. Leijssenaar, “Splijtstof sprak,” 55. ↵
- In one of the first editions of Splijtstof, published in 1973, the editorial team argues for hiring a “Marxist” professor, and later, in 1984, it dedicates a complete issue to (the lack of) feminism. Leijssenaar, “Splijtstof sprak,” 58. ↵
- See the interview with Jan Willem Dieten in this edition! ↵
- Leijssenaar, “Splijtstof sprak,” 55-6. ↵
- See the pieces by Evert van der Zweerde and Hans Thijssen. ↵
- Leijssenaar, “Splijtstof sprak,” 63. ↵
- See the editorial of the previous edition (50-2). ↵
- This edition is a double feature that contains pieces that are connected to out anniversary, as well as those that would be normally published in the summer edition. ↵