While sipping my coffee on a beautiful Monday morning disbelief stroke me when reading the Observant (28). I read an opinion article called The fraternity and nothing else, which implied that membership of an association leads to a more asocial attitude towards others. A huge photo of Tragos members during the Inkom showed whom this meant.
Unbelievable. In my eyes the purpose of societies is twofold. First, associations provide a social safety net for students. Everyone is allowed to join the society he or she prefers; some choose traditions, others sports or gelled hair. Fact of the matter is, one finds a strong base of students with similar interests, creating a solid social foundation for a successful student life. Second, associations provide the possibility for self-development. By participating in social, academic and business events, and by doing committee and board member work, members of associations obtain the necessary practical experience to get a head start in their adult lives. My point: the whole purpose of associations is stimulating students to become more social, rather than inconsiderate of their environment.
I do recognize an “integration” problem exists within the student body of Maastricht. Many international, Dutch and German students do not mix very well. I think this is not so much an integration problem as it is a cooperation problem. Diversity within a student body is a good thing as long as the different groups of students are willing to cooperate and learn from each other. This is why I am very glad Tragos cooperates with ESN, UNSA, and AEGEE in many shared events, including for instance an International Rave. Only by cooperating with each other can one appreciate each other’s differences and can this ‘integration’ problem be solved.
To conclude, the implication of asocial behavior as a result of being an association member is invalid. It is interesting to see that students who are not a member sometimes stigmatize associations and fraternities, while the reverse never seems to be the case: it is very understandable and OK not to be a member. I say we stop making strange speculative assumptions about correlations and start cooperating.
Joshua de Kroes
Joshua de Kroes is praeses van Tragos