Board calls for self-reflection by student associations
MAASTRICHT. The Executive Board has put the student association Tragos on probation for contravening the code of conduct for the initiation period signed by all associations. If it violates the code of conduct again, one third of the grant Tragos receives from the university will be withdrawn.
The decision follows a number of incidents during the initiation period reported to the Executive Board. According to Pascal Breuls, director of the Student Services Centre, prospective members were allowed too little sleep (“no more than two or three hours”) on the final night from Sunday to Monday. The code of conduct requires “at least six hours of uninterrupted sleep per night”, a rule associations can break once, “but certainly not on the final night before classes begin”, says Breuls. This qualification does not appear in the code of conduct itself.
In another incident at Tragos, a female student was “injured due to reckless behaviour by an older student”: she was hit in the ankle by a chair or table and taken to hospital, where the ankle turned out to be bruised but not broken. There was also “sadistic behaviour by senior students: a ban on looking at the Senate, shouting at the new students, those sorts of things”, Breuls says. Finally, students apparently burnt their tongues after being forced “to drink a certain concoction that was served too hot.”
The Tragos board has already acknowledged all these incidents. This does not hold, however, for the complaint that first-year students had to mop up vomit with their own T-shirts and then put them on again. As for the violation of the ban on demanding confidentiality from first-years about the initiation period, which came to the attention of university administrators via Observant, Tragos has already publicly expressed its regret about that.
Breuls is pleased with the response from Tragos following a number of “intense discussions” with the new board, which was appointed after the initiation period. “They immediately made changes to their procedures to prevent it from happening again.”
Nonetheless, rector Rianne Letschert, whose portfolio includes student affairs, decided to err on the side of caution: on her initiative the Executive Board put Tragos on probation, with the threat of 30 ‘administrative months’ being withdrawn if such incidents recur in the coming year. This amounts to approximately one third, or around 8000 euros, of the grant given to association boards. Further, the Executive Board is requiring all associations to “write a self-reflection report on the objectives of the introductory period and the accompanying activities and behaviour.” These reports are to be submitted by 15 January, after which the Board intends to enter into an “open discussion” with the associations. The backdrop to all this is the negative image of student associations, particularly following the incidents during the initiation period in Groningen this year.