“I wasn’t expecting everyone to go ahead and actually do it.” Two female Cedo Nulli members look a little dismayed when they arrive at Rotterdam Central Station’s HEMA branch wearing their best outfits. Of course, they were asked in the invitation to wear onesies to the annual event during which the society expresses its gratitude to its board members. And while not everyone is conforming to the dress code, the majority of those attending the event are, meaning that the two ladies are the odd ones out.

“It would have been great if everyone had properly read the invitation, but it won’t matter much to the rest of the day. We’re going to have a good time, anyway,” says Daantje, the secretary of Cedo’s 33rd board, who is wearing a purple jumpsuit to mark the occasion. So the two ladies are welcome to join the group. They board the train in the company of a pineapple, a penguin, a Teletubby (Laa-Laa) and a Minion, among other interestingly dressed persons.

Washed too hot

Image credit: Aysha Gasanova

It is not just the costumes that make this travelling company of Psychology, Public Administration, Sociology and Educational Sciences students a motley crew. “We welcome everyone, and I think that’s what makes us work,” explains Daantje, while four other students are trying their fellow passengers’ patience by singing the Cedo anthem. “So we don’t leave people at the station just because they are not dressed up. What you look like or how you act doesn’t matter to us. We are open to other people’s points of view. We’re a very close-knit group.”

On the way to the meeting point in Delft’s town centre, a pineapple (“My suit is a bit of a tight fit, as I accidentally put it in the wash with my underpants”) tries to explain what Cedo is all about. “Many student societies, and some study societies, too, have a certain image that you are expected to conform to. We don’t have such an image,” says the third-year sociology student, who is named Roel. “Whether you’re an ambitious psychology girl or a woolly-minded sociologist, it just doesn’t matter.”

Perfect alternative

However, many students have a different impression of Cedo Nulli. Although the society has some two thousand members (about 120 of whom are active members), Cedo is often criticised for being a very closed society, both by people from within the faculty and by outsiders. “I’ve heard that complaint before, but I have no idea where people get that idea,” says Roel. “Maybe it just looks that way from the outside because we all get along so well, but it really isn’t true.”

Closed or not, the society does present itself in Delft as a genuine student club. The idea is that groups of members carry out certain assignments all over the city, but many students soon lose interest in the assignments.

Image credit: Aysha Gasanova

The company’s giraffe, board member Sarina, manages to motivate her group to complete the first few assignments by promising them beer afterwards, but they soon stop focusing on the work at hand, only to focus on more important matters such as making fun of former boards, complaining about being poor students, reviewing the hassle it took to organise the recent gala and – obviously – Snapchatting.
“Cedo is the perfect alternative to a student society,” says penguin Salim, who is enjoying some kibbeling (battered white fish) and his first beer of the day at the respectable time of 2.45pm. “Student societies have heaps of rules. You’re expected to behave and dress just like everyone else. With us, such things don’t matter. We’re basically just like a family.”

Getting creative in the Cedo board room

Later that afternoon, we learn that in some respects, Cedo is a rather special family with customs that are not all that customary. The members have long since stopped caring about the assignments. Their focus is now entirely on gossiping about other members’ love and sex lives. Although ‘gossiping’ may not be quite the right word. It’s more of a discussion about stories known to all Cedo members. From the Cedo room being used by the board in creative ways to a certain student’s first sexual escapades during a study trip, it is clear that the members keep no secrets from each other. There is a reason for this. “The members of the board have a kind of competition going on: the Greatest Stud competition,” Sarina explains. “Which does indeed mean that not many secrets remain hidden.”

Image credit: Aysha Gasanova

In short, board members get to earn points for every sexual act in which they engage. The weirder the place where the sexual act takes place, and the higher-ranking the bed partner, the more points a board member will be awarded. This might sound a bit odd to outsiders, but to the close-knit Cedo community, this is simply how things are done. “Do you look like a slut if you acquire a lot of points? No. Actually, it’s a bit of an honour. A few years ago, two board members – a boy and a girl – were tying for first place before the last party of the year. They had to decide the competition on the night itself. The girl won.”

Spiritual presence

The first part of the day ends with a self-proclaimed well-deserved pint of beer in an outdoor seating area in Delft. When we preview the rest of the evening, the question arises as to how many beers the members expect to drink that night. “Not too many, I think, as I have a 9am seminar tomorrow,” says the penguin. However, two minutes later, following some objections by his fellow group members, he has changed his mind. “Well, I’m only required to be present in the flesh, not in the spirit, so I think I may have a few more.”

Image credit: Aysha Gasanova