However reasonable such comments appear in these times, they completely ignore the unfortunate circumstances under which students had to sit their final school exams this year, and under which prospective first years will experience 2020. Of course there are worse things than missing a final exam party or an initiation, but aren’t these exactly those moments that the many who have experienced these remember for the rest of their lives?
The excesses involved in initiations to certain student associations have received a lot of negative press in recent years, but lifelong friendships are made during the introductory weeks. The new cohort of students will now have to make such friendships in another way.
What many young people will really remember is the direct way in which Prime Minister Rutte addressed them. “Too many people sit too close together, mainly young people”, stated the Prime Minister. “I say to them: if too many of you flout the rules, you are a danger to your parents, grandparents and everyone around you. Corona has not gone, it’s not a joke and it’s really stupid to act as though that’s the case.”
Rutte didn’t use such direct language towards those adults who’ve been going to bars for weeks, or squeezing themselves into so-called virus-free planes en route to that so-called essential holiday in the sun. Neither did these ‘grown-ups’ face such sanctions as alcohol-free events that have to end at 10.00 pm, a measure that was announced by the Prime Minister for the introductory weeks. The smart lockdown, based on people using their common sense, has now been replaced by a selective prohibition. Isn’t the risk greater, after the introduction of the not understood measures, that the parties will really get going in the city after 10.00 pm? Historian Rutte should know that.
However important it is to take firm action against those who consciously ignore the risks of spreading the coronavirus, more sympathy for students is definitely due. And that’s certainly not a case of double standards.
Arjan Paans is interim editor-in-chief of Erasmus Magazine.