Photographer:Fotograaf: Flickr.com/Matthias Ripp
MAASTRICHT. “What if a fire were to break out in a house where two hundred people have gathered,” says Pascal Breuls, director of Student Services. The police regularly receive reports about illegal house parties, in particular at the end of block periods. Maastricht University makes students aware of the risks.
House parties have been popular among foreign students for years. “They are not used to getting together in a pup or club, it’s a cultural thing,” says Maurice Evers, project manager of Student&Stad. “They organise a party at home to celebrate the end of a block and invite people through closed Facebook groups or other obscure ways. Kind of like Project X. Anyone who wants to come, can do so. In this way, they have no grip on the number or type of visitor.” Breuls adds that elsewhere in the Netherlands there are groups who comb these types of parties with evil intent. “They steal things or provoke fights.”
Visitors to these parties usually bring their own beer, spirits or drugs. The end of the party is “when the police arrive,” says Evers. Some even put money in a kitty beforehand for the fine that the police issue when there is a raid, which is approximately €300.
Student liaison officer Paul Vermin can’t give any figures for the number of reports each year, but he has noticed that there are peeks after exams, “sometimes three in a single weekend. It is not the intention of the police to ruin a party, because I understand that it is part and parcel of being a student, but it becomes unsafe when too many people get together. Generally there are at least fifty visitors; often even more than a hundred.”
Fire or panic may have disastrous consequences. In the town of Ede, the floor in a student house collapsed during a party two years ago. The wooden floor couldn’t hold the weight of twenty people dancing and jumping. Four people were injured. Evers points out that the organiser may be facing criminal prosecution if a visitor is seriously hurt or even dies.
“If something like that were to happen in Maastricht, all eyes would look to the UM and the press would be on my doorstep,” says Breuls. “But we can’t do anything, we aren’t law enforcers. There is no legal ground for deducting credits or expelling students. What we can do, is pass on information: ‘Make sure that it doesn’t happen, go to an officially organised party’. We also hope that the need will diminish with the arrival of the International Students Club in 2018. The place already organises Social Mondays and one large party every month.”
Last year, the anti-riot squad was called in to evacuate people from a house party on the Franciscus Romanusweg. Breuls invited the two organisers, both UM students, for a talk. “I wanted to know how things got so out of hand, why they hadn’t thought about the risks.” The students had learned their lesson; the owner of the building evicted them at the end of the month.