Arthur Mol, rector magnificus of Wageningen University & Research, appeals to the Wageningen student societies to stop the initiation rituals. He states that better ways exist to create a bond within a group.
Photo: Guy Ackermans
Mol responds to the controversy that arose over the initiation ritual scandal in the student society Vindicat from Groningen.
According to Mol, initiations are not of this age. He says that better ways to create group bonding exist, ways without humiliation, verbal aggression, or possible danger. He realises that he has no means of leverage and therefore sees this as a moral appeal. Student societies determine their own rules, but according to Mol, that is precisely why they have the responsibility to take a critical look at traditions and customs, and to treat their new members with respect.
Violent initiation ritual
Wageningen University & Research never had to deal with problems due to violent initiation rituals, says Simon Vink, spokesperson of the Executive Board. ‘Once in a while, we receive complaints from parents or outsiders who saw something.’ Vink says that complaints are always taken very seriously and are always discussed with the societies. This year, two complaints were made about one incident. These complaints were discussed with the society. No further statements are made on that account, as the complainer does not want to be made public. It was made clear to the society concerned that another complaint on the initiation would result in consequences, says Vink. What these consequences would be is unclear as of yet.
Earlier today, the University of Groningen (RUG), Hanze University of Applied Sciences and the Groningen municipality announced that they want to put an end to initiation rituals. According to them, the time has come for a change in culture. The decision follows a number of recent scandals in which student society Vindicat was involved. One of these was in regard of a prospective member suffering cerebral injuries during the initiation. A ‘banga list’ was also making the rounds; the list contained photos, addresses and telephone numbers of 23 female members whose performances in bed were rated using a star system.
Even on a national level, the initiation rituals are increasingly criticised. Yesterday, the Dutch Labour Party (PvdA) asked questions in parliament on the subject of the prospective member who suffered cerebral injuries. Minister Bussemaker expressed her aversion to Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad, as did several former female members. The Landelijke Kamer van Verenigingen (‘National Chamber of Societies’) was ‘heavily shocked’ and ‘distantiates itself from all forms of violence’. Together with the members, the board wants to look at additional measures that would make the introduction time ‘even safer’.
It is not the first time there is a fuss about initiation rituals. In 2002, Utrecht University deprived the board members of student society Veritas of their compensation for board activities. During the initiation, the freshmen were not allowed to drink nor go to the toilet. Further investigation revealed that the society had not adhered to the protocol for introductions.