News - November 27, 2014

Are student societies responsible for their members?

First a torch incident, then a ketchup incident. Two recent cases of a student prank targeting members of rival societies ended with police intervention. Was it correct to hold the members personally responsible, or should the societies have made a deal between them? Are societies responsible for their members?

Lennart Beun, ex-board member of SSR-W

‘All the members of a student society are responsible adults. If the society did not initiate an action, then it is not responsible for it. And I don’t think people always understand the concept of a student prank. A student prank is not an excuse to break in, vandalize or dirty a property. A board could certainly bring some pressure to bear on its members and take them to task for their behaviour. But it is not responsible.’

Ellard Hooiveld, member of VGSW

‘I think it is the responsibility of the student society. If a group of stu- dents does something on the basis of their shared identity as members, they are automatically acting on be- half  of  the  society.  If  members  do something unacceptable, the society should tackle them about it. Partly because the society’s good name is at stake. It might even get into the newspaper. As a society, you should respond to a student prank with another student prank. But that only works if you see practical jokes as part of student life and don’t make too much of it. That hap- pens all too quickly.’

Joeri Groot, member of SSR-W

‘A society shouldn’t be held responsible for individual acts by members. It is difficult to draw a clear line between private initiatives and those of a student society as a whole. Often a practical joke is not even discussed with the society, in which case the board cannot form an opinion of it. In the case of a dubious prank, those on the receiving end have to assess whether it came from a society or from a couple of individuals. Subsequently the board can choose between the police or a light-hearted act of revenge.’

Sizèd van Enk, member of Ceres

‘I think you have to make a distinction between society activities and everything that takes place outside the society. The society is not responsible for the actions of members outside society activities. But at the clubhouse itself, a student society should keep its members a little bit under control. At Ceres, for example, we have a rule that if you go outside you keep the noise down so as not to disturb the neighbours. That is enforced by the society. I think it’s a good rule. A student society should not be a nuisance to the outside world.’

Veraar,, Not a member of a student society

‘I am not a member of a student society, and it doesn’t appeal to me very much. I had never even heard the word ‘studentikoos’ [studenty, ed.]. I don’t consider a society responsible for the actions of its members. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take action. You could certainly hand out a funny punishment. That is not only better for the relations between student societies. I think the members will learn more from it, too, than from the police coming in on it.

Sjors Verstege, not a member of a society

‘I think a student society has a responsibility but not sole responsibility. If members drag a society’s name through the mud with their actions, the society should do something about it. In its own interests, above all. I understand that it is quite difficult for a society to decide how to deal with student pranks by members. But I think any self-respecting society should react in some way or another. It doesn’t all have to be terribly serious. If members make a mess somewhere, the society could make sure that they clean it up the next day.’  

Yris Boonstra, member of Argo
‘I don’t agree that student societies are responsible. A society has no control over what members do. Only the members themselves do. I don’t think it’s fair to look at a student society when its members do  something wrong.  I think  member should realize that they are putting the society in a bad light. We all do silly things when we’ve had a few too many drinks. But it is usually embarrassing enough for the person themselves. I don’t think the society should get dragged into it as well.’

text: Carina Nieuwenweg / photo: Jeronimus van Pelt