Over the past few weeks it was revealed that Vindicat had published a slutlist of first-year female students in its unofficial yearbook. This was followed by a hazing incident where a potential new member ended up in hospital with a cerebral oedema after a Vindicat member stood on his head.

Special EUR committee

“It has never gotten so out of hand in Rotterdam,” says professor Steven Hovius, chair of the EUR advisory body Commissie Kennismakingstijd Studentengezelligheidsverenigingen’ (a committee monitoring the initiation period of student social clubs). Twice a year, in May and November, the Rotterdam associations meet with the committee to discuss the initiation period and for recommendations on how it should be conducted.

The committee also trains members who will conduct the hazing activities for potential new members. “We give them a first-aid course, a course in recognising psychological, physical and medical risks and a course in recognising symptoms of psychological disorders.” The committee also drafted a medical log book. All somatic and psychological symptoms appearing during the hazing period must be noted in the log, regardless of whether these symptoms are related to the initiation period or not.

The committee investigates these reports and if it is determined that the symptoms were caused by hazing, the committee could advise the association to change its practices, or, in more severe cases, recommend the EUR Executive Board impose sanctions. These sanctions include suspension or conditional suspension. In 2000 Rotterdamsch Studenten Corps (RSC) was suspended for one year and in 2013 an association was cautioned with a conditional suspension. “I won’t say which association it was as our collaboration is based on mutual trust.”

No reason to discontinue hazing practices

The associations aren’t planning to change their hazing policy as a result of the incidents in Groningen. At RVSV the initiation period was ‘already thoroughly evaluated’ two years ago, states president Henriette Claus. The RSC feels that no changes are needed, because the initiation period ‘proceeded very smoothly,’ according to RSC president Ewout Ketelaars.

Laurentius also has no plans to institute changes. Ted Bolsius of Laurentius wrote in an email: “There is close and constructive contact with the university regarding the initiation period. There is no reason to make any changes in this respect.”

The associations see the hazing period as a way of getting acquainted with the association’s traditions and history, with the city of Rotterdam and with student life. It’s important that the associations do not lose sight of this goal, says Hovius. “The tradition of hazing should serve the purpose of that goal. Every association, from a hockey association to a student association, has its traditions.”

‘Publishing slutlist is not part of our culture’

The list published by Vindicat once again rightly or wrongly confirms the opinion that with regard to women’s lib, Dutch student societies are stuck in the previous century. According to Henriette Claus, president of RVSV, this is not the case. She believes her generation will be the one that actually makes a difference when it comes to women’s liberation. “If I look around me, I see many women who occupy positions in student associations and carry out their duties with authority and dedication. At the same time I also see how few women are visible in the academic world and the corporate world. ”

As a result of the incidents at Vindicat, the student associations won’t be added to the cultural heritage list just yet. This is regrettable, feels Laurentius president Bolsius. “Student associations have been part of a dynamic culture for more than 200 years. A culture that focuses on students’ friendships and social development. The disgraceful events that took place in Groningen are not part of that culture.”

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