Initiation rituals still go much too far in Wageningen as well. This is what (prospective) members of student society KSV Franciscus stated in the Dutch newspaper De Gelderlander. ‘Beforehand, you are told it is not an initiation ritual, and then they make you crawl through the society’s building on day one.’
Student societies in Wageningen stated a very definite response to the moral appeal made by rector magnificus Arthur Mol: ‘What happened in Groningen could never happen here.’ The Rector Magnificus of Wageningen University & Research appealed to the Wageningen societies to stop with the initiation rituals. He stated there are better ways to achieve group bonding.
The appeal was made after the commotion that arose due to the initiation scandals around the Groningen student society Vindicat. Among these were the cerebral injuries suffered by a prospective member and a ‘banga list’ containing photos, addresses and telephone numbers of 23 female members whose performances in bed were rated using a star system.
Such scenes do not occur in Wageningen. Despite this, (prospective) members of the society KSV Franciscus are revealing disgraceful events during the introduction.
In De Gelderlander (paid article, in Dutch), students Bart van Kessel and Gijs Appels tell their story. Appels experienced the initiation he went through as a humiliation: ‘They kept yelling "Kneel before the executioners!" As many as a hundred times. You would sometimes be called forward to entertain the executioners. If you refused, or if you did not satisfy them, you would be told to bite down on a fish oil capsule or drink vinegar, for example.’
During the ‘introduction period’ in 2013, the humiliation went too far for Bart van Kessel, and he decided to quit: ‘I was naive. Beforehand, they told us it is not an initiation ritual, and then they made you crawl through the society’s building on day one. You had to memorise the names, positions and initials of the members of the committee, while going through the building. And when you made a mistake, you had to count the number of ridges on a heating pipe with your nose.’
However, there are opposing sounds as well. For example, those of Mike Luijten. According to him, an initiation in itself is not necessarily a bad thing: ‘What you don’t see as a klooi (prospective member) is the strict attention that is paid to your health. An example of this is that we minutiously keep track of people who have problems with their joints or health.’
However, Luijten does think some changes should be made: ‘I have also seen people cry. Neither is it a wise move to make the weakest member of a group take a punishment when another member refuses to take it. Small changes could therefore somewhat improve the introduction.’
Wageningen University & Research never had to deal with problems due to violent initiation rituals, said Simon Vink, spokesperson of the Executive Board, at an earlier stage. ‘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.