From 1 January the legal drinking age in the Netherlands is going up to 18. This means student societies have to find a way of avoiding serving alcohol to minors. What are their plans?
Currently young people are allowed to buy light alcoholic drinks from the age of 16 and spirits once they are over 18. This is set to change from 1 January, when all alcohol will be banned for under 18s. A good idea, says Anne-Marike Lokhorst, Communications scientist at the WUR. ‘Like this you convey a different social norm and you make clear that it is not good to drink under the age of 18. This strategy is more effective that trying to persuade young people not to drink under 18.’
MeasuresEffective or not, things are going to have to change at the student societies. But no society likes the idea of refusing membership, so there are no plans to bring in an age threshold. ‘Everybody can join and everybody can stay,’ says chair of KSV St Franciscus Marco Volgezang. Instead, the society is opting for what they are calling a ‘declaration of intent’: ‘We will ask every member under the age of 18 to sign an agreement in which they promise not to drink alcohol. The agreement states what the consequences of accepting a drink are for the society and for themselves. Like this we appeal to their own sense of responsibility.’
Ceres and SSR-W are introducing similar contracts. SSR is taking it one step further by naming specific sanctions. Chair Kim Duintjer: ‘If members under 18 are seen with alcohol, they are excluded from further activities for the rest of that day.’ The agreements of all three societies aim at making minors aware of the risks the society is taking.
One advantage for the society is that there are very few students under 18. ‘We get eight minors a year at the most,’ says Ceres chair Koen Weenink. ‘That is manageable through social control. You know exactly who they are.’ He sees another advantage for Ceres. ‘It makes organization easier. Now we have to make a distinction between strong and light alcoholic drinks, and that will end.’
Unitas is not even bothering to introduce a contract. Club chair Saskia Bosman says the club is confident its members will keep each other in line.
Open partiesWhat Ceres, KSV and SSR have in common is that they will no longer admit minors to their open parties. ‘We’ll check at the door. People who cannot prove with ID that they are 18 plus will be turned away,’ says Vogelzang of KSV. ‘The law is changing so we have no choice. Serving alcohol to minors will have big consequences from 1 January: we could even lose our license.’
Unitas is taking a different approach. Saskia Bosman: ‘We will still admit people over 16 to our open parties. We will check their ID at the door and work with a wristband system. Ages will be checked at the bar so that minors can’t buy alcohol.’ The familiar wristbands will be used again at the AID as well.
The AID board: ‘We shall probably have to come up with a new approach to something like the beer cantus, for example. It is likely that we will no longer admit minors, because it is impossible to keep tabs on whether minors taking part in the AID are drinking. There is just no other way of doing it. For the AID, a separate alcohol policy will be drawn up with the student societies, but things haven’t gone that far yet, says Kim Duintjer.