This summer has seen a substantial increase in the number of coronavirus infections among young people in the Netherlands, leading the government to tighten the rules for orientation weeks at colleges and universities.
Whereas student sport and study associations were still allowed to organise introductory activities under the new rules, student associations would not be granted the same leniency: they would have to move all of their events online this year, Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced on 6 August.
The decision was met with raised eyebrows in the House of Representatives. Why should some associations be allowed to host face-to-face meetings while others would have to resort to online activities?
At the House’s insistence, the security regions re-examined the issue on Monday. During this meeting, it was decided that student associations would also be allowed to organise face-to-face events, provided they are academic or athletic in nature, or aimed at recruiting and onboarding new members.
This means there will not be any mixers or initiation events this year, a spokesperson for the Security Consultation Council confirmed, but student associations will be allowed to host a tour of their headquarters, or organise a presentation on the various committees new members can join. They will also have to observe the same strict rules which apply to sports and study associations: all events must finish before 10 p.m., and alcohol is strictly forbidden. In addition, student associations must receive approval from their institution or security region.
The National Federation of Student Associations (LKvV) welcomes the government’s revised decision. “From the beginning, we have argued that the nature of the event should determine whether or not it can still go ahead – not the nature of the association”, says the federation’s president, Yorick van der Heiden. “So it’s great that we’re being given the opportunity to host introductory events after all.”
Does this last-minute green light mean that the associations are now scrambling to come up with face-to-face activities? Not really, says Van der Heiden. “The associations have been working together with the universities and security regions to ensure corona-proof programmes since the beginning of July, so they can simply pick up where they left off.”