RSC/RVSV received the largest number of membership applications: 689. Laurentius received 540. SSR-R and RSG received 204 and 168 applications, respectively, while NSR signed up 102 new members. Rowing club Skadi, which is not an RKvV member, proved very popular as well. The club received 340 membership applications, even though it only has 270 spots available.

'Buitenproportioneel groot'

Laurentius allowed students to sign up online in early August. “We had to close our registrations portal on the Sunday before Eureka Week because we had an extremely large number of people signing up”, says Laurentius president Lars Ahsman. The association received two hundred more membership applications this year than it did last year. As a result, there will be a draw this year to decide which new students will be allowed to join the association. For its part, RSC/RVSV will have a draw as well. According to RSC/RVSV President Pita Elhorst, the fraternity/sorority-like society will accept 380 new members, ‘which is just over half the number of people who signed up’.

‘We had to close our registrations portal on the Sunday before Eureka Week because we had an extremely large number of people signing up’

Student association Laurentius

RSG has stopped accepting new members. The first 134 students to sign up were accepted, but the 34 students who applied for membership after that ‘unfortunately had to be rejected’. SSR-R, too, has as many new members as it is going to accept this year. Two hundred and four students signed up, which means the association has arrived at its maximum number of members.

Home away from home

The associations’ presidents all agree that the huge influx of new members is due to the pandemic. “People have spent a lot of time at home recently, so they have this need for contact,” says Elhorst. In addition, Ahsman adds, students are seeking alternative ways to get in touch with each other because the university can’t offer them many opportunities for contact with others. “We’re getting a lot of pupils from various parts of the country. They’re trying to find a home away from home in these uncertain times, and student associations offer them just that.”

Same rules as cafés

At present, associations are not allowed to organise parties and events for their members, but they are not too worried about that. They can still organise all sorts of small-scale events. “We measured our clubhouse and arranged things in such a way as to allow people to keep one and a half metres’ distance, so we can still organise drinks sessions and getting-to-know-each-other nights in a responsible manner,” says Ahsman.

RSG still

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RSC/RVSV and RSG’s clubhouses are formally recognised cafés. RSG reopened its doors for drinks sessions in June. Students can reserve tables at the clubhouse, which RSG President Doolaard says works just fine. RSC/RVSV, too, served as a café for several weeks prior to the summer holidays, with members being able to reserve tables in the association’s outdoor seating area. “We’re currently checking what else we can do to offer first-year students a nice home away from home,” says RSC/RVSV President Elhorst.

Nice challenge

SSR President Mooij is optimistic. “I do think a time will come when associations will be allowed to organise events again, particularly to welcome new members.” For instance, SSR holds information sessions for first-year students. “Some of it is done online, and some of it is done at our clubhouse,” says Mooij. “We divide members into very small groups, and we use our evenings to allow new members to get to know each other.” Laurentius, too, is focusing on its new members for the time being. “Although we are not hosting a boot camp for new members this year, we do wish to welcome our new members and help them get to know their new environment. We’re just not quite sure yet how to go about it,” says Ahsman. “It will be a bit of a challenge, but it will be a nice one.”

Numbers going up nation-wide

Figures published by the National Chamber of Associations (LKvV) show that the same trend can be observed in student towns all over the Netherlands. The 48 student associations represented by LKvV had 10,000 new members last year. This year that number has risen to over 15,000, and it’s early days. The greatest increases were recorded in Eindhoven (+79 percent), Utrecht and Groningen (+66 percent). The figures for Amsterdam and Utrecht are not yet definitive, as several associations there are still accepting new membership applications. In other words, the overall number might go up even more.