“Surely you know what you’re getting into when you join a fraternity or sorority, right?” was one of the first responses heard among EM’s editors when the story about lamentable incidents taking place during RSC/RVSV’s hazing activities first broke.
Joining is cool
And it is true: the great majority of first-year students who sign up with fraternities or sororities (in Rotterdam and elsewhere) will have a pretty good idea of what happens during an ‘initiation period’. After all, their parents joined fraternities or sororities back in their day, or perhaps their older brother or sister is a member, or a cousin. And surely the societies tell prospective members during Eureka Week that they believe in the sort of intense initiation rituals in which students will build the vaunted ‘friendships for life’ by enduring things together?
This is what distinguishes fraternities and sororities from other student societies, study societies and sports clubs. Joining a society like that is cool. Your initiation period will make you a man or a girl to be reckoned with!
Forward rolls in cold mud
So it is not done to complain afterwards when your hair is so dirty from the three plates of spaghetti you had to smear across it that you feel like cutting it off, or when your limbs hurt after you finish two hundred metres worth of forward rolls in cold mud. And so most participants refrain from complaining. Over the years, we have seen many times that students who had had a hard time enduring the hazing activities ended up joining the very societies that had subjected them to these activities without feeling the slightest bit resentful (not of their societies, anyway; they saved their resentment for the next year’s freshers).
Does that make shouting at freshers, slamming them to the floor and exhausting them to the point of fainting or injury acceptable? As far as I’m concerned, it is not. Boundaries should definitely be established as to what constitutes normal behaviour, even with regard to hazing activities. For that reason, there are rules in place, which must be checked and enforced.
Surprise is hypocritical
That there is a reason why such rules are implemented was shown last year, when Groningen’s Vindicat society crossed the line several times. It is a bit hypocritical for universities and others to act surprised when first-year members are called names and scolded in a vulgar manner.
As far as I’m concerned, the university’s decision to sever its ties with RSC/RVSV is somewhat hypocritical. The incident involving the student who fainted was reported in accordance with the rules, and the Hovius Committee was already investigating the case.* Why did the university not decide to cut its ties with the society at the time? Because Rambam’s images said more than a thousand words? The show did not present that many revelations. Moreover, its various sources actually contradict each other.
Previous incidents went unpublicised
It should be noted that there have been other reports about, and investigations into, incidents that have taken place at student societies during the initiation period in recent years. And these incidents did not just concern RSC or RVSV either. At the time, too, the university took disciplinary measures, but did not publicise these.
Obviously, Erasmus University had to stop collaborating with RSC/RVSV in order to prevent damage to its reputation. However, I hope the move was also intended to give off a signal to the boys and girls who make up fraternities and sororities (and others) that in times of ‘safe spaces’, #metoo and a university that prides itself on its inclusiveness, it is no longer done to create friendships through physical abuse (or the threat thereof), intimidation and vulgar tongue-lashings.
Last year RSC/RVSV’s introduction committee opted for an interesting slogan for last year’s Eureka Week: It all starts here! – In 2017 we will bring about a new era! You have to give it to them: they were more than a little prescient.