“We are not going to force anyone, it would spoil the atmosphere”

Society chairmen about prejudices


They are allegedly a group of boozing students, who do the most terrible things to each other under group pressure, and who find hanging around in the pub more important than studying. Student societies do not have a good reputation among foreign students – and especially among the Germans. Is this justified? Observant asked the chairmen of the four larger societies – Circumflex, Koko, Saurus and Tragos – to respond to six prejudices.

Societies are conservative and reactionary

Niels van de Ven, Tragos chairman: “We are traditional, but that has nothing to do with political colour. I can imagine that when we are all in uniform, jacket, tie, that is looks reactionary.”

Nick van Boven, Saurus chairman: “In Germany, there are indeed societies that are right-wing extremists. But not here. The only thing that may come close is the macho culture. That could be interpreted in the wrong way.”

Van de Ven: “It fits in with the image that the Germans have, and it is very difficult to talk them out of that.”

Societies are all about boozing

Bart Kleine Deters, Koko chairman: “On the contrary.”

Van Boven: “That is really a side issue. It is not our policy to sell lots of beer. We could even do without it.”

Joris Wielders, Circumflex chairman: “I don’t think so.”

Van de Ven: “It is all part of it. When you go into town, you have a beer.”

Kleine Deters: “It is a good lubricant.”

Van Boven: “But there is no pressure to drink alcohol. If I spend the entire evening drinking mineral water, nobody would say anything about it.”

Wielders: “People who are drunk do not heighten the atmosphere.”

Van Boven: “We actually have rules that say that someone who is drunk will not be served alcohol.”


Members of student societies have all kinds of duties

Van de Ven: “You make a choice, which involves certain commitments. Everyone is free to choose. You can join and just be a member, or you can become a member of a debating society or a committee. That takes up more time.”

Wielders: “It is certainly true that we welcome active members with open arms, but the only real duty is to have dinner with your year club once a week. They like that. For outsiders it may look like an obligation, but for the members it is just having a beer with friends.”

Van Boven: “Members can only mean something for a club if they are in a place where they want to be.”

Wielders: “Exactly, we are not going to force anyone, it would spoil the atmosphere. There are no punishments for not participating, what are we talking about?! You go to the pub for your own good, because you enjoy it.”

Kleine Deters: “With us, there is not even the duty to attend a year club. You can make of your membership whatever you want. The only thing that is compulsory – apart from paying your annual fee, of course – is to help clean twice a year for two hours.”

Van Boven: “We have rules like that too. The organisation consists of volunteers. Everyone helps out.”


Hazing is degrading

Wielders: “It is not hazing, it is an introduction period. The idea is that you get to know the organisation better. The aim is to bring people closer together, not to have them eat dirt.”

Van Boven: “You quickly learn the organisation’s standards and values. In addition, we spend a lot of time on sports. There is a long list of guidelines for the introduction period. All participants must get eight hours of uninterrupted sleep, for example.”

Wielders: “We submit a script to the university every year. The UM knows exactly what we are doing there and the script has never been rejected.”

Van de Ven: “Of course it is exciting. You never know beforehand what is going to happen. What I personally found the worst, was the mental pressure. You have to learn rows off by heart in a short space of time, like all the members of the senate. After that you are grilled in front of everyone, but it is done in a normal way.”

Van Boven: “If you do not know something, they ask you why you don’t know. Not in an unpleasant way, and then you just ask who does know.”

Van de Ven: “It is also wonderful. You build up an incredible social network in a short amount of time. You get to know everything and everyone.”

Kleine Deters: “Our introduction period is in line with our value that everyone is equal. Regardless of whether you are a first-year or a senior student. We have a fixed programme of sports, a quiz, et cetera. You can participate, but if you prefer to stand outside chatting, then that is fine too.”

Membership of a student society is at the expense of your study

Van de Ven: “Your first choice is your study. Members who have to leave after their first year because they do not have enough credits, are no good to us. A survey has shown, by the way, that members of student societies do better in their studies.”

Kleine Deters: “I think this is because you have a safety net. If you have an exam the next day and you are in the pub, then someone will say something about that. And you can always approach a senior student. In the past, there were a few eternal students, but those days are over.”

Van de Ven: “We all take it into account. Everyone plans their activities outside the exam weeks.”

Societies are not inviting to foreign student members

Van Boven: “On the contrary, please come. We had eight German first-year students this year and they are very active, not just rowing but also within the organisation. This is real added value, but they do have to learn Dutch.”

Wielders: “German students have a different mind-set. They only come here to study, whereas Dutch students also want to enjoy life as a student. They need to be more open. Why don’t they try it just once? You can always cancel your membership.”

Van de Ven: “Nobody would look odd at you, it shows great courage that you tried it.”


Cleo Freriks

“We are not going to force anyone, it would spoil the atmosphere”
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