Student societies sign code of conduct after years of scandal

In total 49 Dutch student societies are signing a code of conduct to combat sexual harassment, aggression and excessive drug use on Tuesday.

The code was put together by society umbrella organisation LKVV in a reaction to numerous incidents of sexism, the latest of which involved the circulation of so-called “banga lists” by an Utrecht student society.

An earlier incident involved the Amsterdam fraternity (ASC) in which four male speakers were overheard issuing a string of obscenities about women, and led members in chanting of ‘whore, whore, whore’ during a celebratory event to mark its 170th anniversary in 2022.

Ares, another Amsterdam society, was suspended for setting  “degrading” tasks during a hazing ritual in Bucharest in November 2022.

Aspiring members of Ares, whose 1,100 members make it the second biggest student association in Amsterdam, were told they could earn points by executing tasks from a list, including having sex in an alley with “a bucket” – a denigrating term for a woman – and “organising a refugee” for sex.

Vindicat in Groningen, whose latest feat involved the abuse of two geese, has also signed the code following several hazing incidents, one of which ended in a charge of serious assault when a first year student was stamped on the head in 2017.

LKVV chair Linde van Mechelen said it was time to put a stop to these incidents and that the move was prompted “not by political or societal pressure but by the societies themselves”. Some 47,000 students are members of a single sex or mixed club.

The LKVV code proposes a central registration point for incidents and a zero tolerance policy towards the use of hard drugs.

The new document follows the “student pact”, another code of conduct initiated by sexual harassment commissioner Mariëtte Hamer, and signed by the LKVV.

“Our code is broader than that. We also want to show what the added value of student societies is,” Van Mechelen told broadcaster NOS.  Van Mechelen said the code will “impress” students and perpetrators. “But a culture change takes time,” she said.

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