Groningen University wants to put a stop to hazing activities at its student societies, the Lower House is asking critical questions, and former members of fraternity-like student societies are weighing in on the matter, all in response to the matter of the prospective Vindicat member who recently sustained a head injury during a hazing activity. It is the umpteenth incident which has been reported in recent years. This sort of thing is unacceptable, Groningen University, Hanze University of Applied Sciences and the Groningen municipal authorities have now stated.
“Culture needs to be changed”
The three aforementioned parties have discussed the matter in the last few days and have arrived at the conclusion that “societies must change their culture in order to stop such hazing activities”.
The parties seek to establish an external committee which, in association with the Vindicat society, must ensure that a culture change takes place. It is up to the societies themselves to take the first step. Vindicat has indicated that it will take a long, hard look at its introduction period.
Freedom of speech
Members of the Lower House feel that misbehaving senior students must be able to be prosecuted even in cases where, as now, there has not been a formal police report. And for that matter, how does the Minister of Education feel about the €25,000 fine imposed on members of student societies when they share details about the hazing activities to which they were subjected? Are such contracts even legal, and do they not violate students’ freedom of speech?
NRC Handelsblad reports that Minister Bussemaker expressed her disapproval yesterday. She said that Groningen University’s first response to the recent incident, which passed the buck to Vindicat, was “completely inadequate”. On Thursday morning the University, along with Hanze University of Applied Sciences and the municipal authorities, released a statement to the effect that they wanted to abolish hazing.
Time to report excesses to the police
Previously, the Chairman of the Board of Hanze University of Applied Sciences, Henk Pijlman, expressed his opinion on Twitter. He said Vindicat was “a mess” and that it was about time bad hazing experiences were reported to the police. He told national broadsheet Trouw that Hanze University of Applied Sciences and Groningen University together pay grants to the students running Vindicat, which, in total, are worth €33,000 per year. He wants to talk to the student administrators running Vindicat before deciding on whether or not to cancel their grants.
If Vindicat’s administrators were to lose their grants, it would not be the first time this happened. In 2002, Utrecht University stopped paying the tuition fees of the students running the Veritas student society, after it had transpired that freshers had not been allowed to drink and go to the toilet during their introduction week. Studies showed that the student society had not observed its own introduction week protocol.
Former members of fraternity-like societies are now joining in the debate. In NRC Handelsblad two women responded to the so-called “slut list”, which described the sexual prowess of 23 female Vindicat members. “This is not an incident,” they wrote, “but rather a symptom of the prevalent culture.”
They warned against playing down the severity of such activities: “They are not innocent, because many club members take this culture with them when they enter into business or politics, and often they will hold senior management positions.” They called for a zero-tolerance policy for “sexist organisational structures” and “incidents”. Temporarily suspending the Vindicat members responsible for drawing up the list would not solve the problem, they felt.
The National Chamber of Student Societies (LKvV) has expressed its “great shock” at the events and “rejects all forms of violence”. In association with its members, LKvV’s Board wants to look into additional measures designed to make introduction week events “even safer” in future.