Members of Vindicat are increasingly being harassed because they are part of the student association, says its president Silvester den Boer. Take for instance the break-in at a Vindicat house this past weekend.
This past weekend, an unknown person sneaked in, drew a swastika on the countertop with grated cheese, and turned on the oven. ‘Thank goodness someone came home late,’ says Den Boer. ‘They smelled smoke and realised the oven was not only on, but there was still a sheet of baking paper inside.’
The student house is known as a Vindicat house, so there is a strong suspicion that this was a targeted action against the association. And they have been seeing this happen more and more in recent years, says Den Boer.
Unrecognisable on the street
‘Unfortunately, yes. Several times last year, people were harassed on the street. People have been spat on or verbally abused. Two people from the board have also been beaten up,’ he says.
It has gone so far that Vindicat has now implemented rules to prevent members from being recognisable in public. ‘Such as not wearing the fraternity blazer on the street.’ The association also knows when to keep a low profile. ‘When FC Groningen has a game, for instance, we really have to be careful.’
The rules are all a precaution, says Den Boer. And the same goes for the behaviour of Vindicat members themselves. ‘For the past three years, we have been emphasising what we call ‘external honour’. This means that people are aware of their behaviour outside the walls of the association. What they do there leaves a mark on the entire association.’
Vindicat has received less than positive media attention due to incidents of violence during initiation rituals, inappropriate behaviour towards women, or drunken misconduct in public. This has created a negative perception of the student association among many people.
But there is another side, says Den Boer. Vindicat is also the association that cleans streets, holds dinners for the homeless, organises children’s camps, and, last weekend, had 368 members run the Amsterdam Marathon together to raise 166,442 euros for Cancer Research Foundation KWF.
‘I won’t deny that things have gone wrong in the past, but the way the association is currently operating is something to be proud of. It is a pity that this negative stigma is persisting like this.’
Especially when people take action based on the negative stereotypes. In the Vindicat house where there was a break-in last weekend, the material damage was limited to a blackened sheet of baking paper. But the residents are quite shaken.
An unknown person entered and exited their house unnoticed, likely gaining access through the terrace at the back, and things could have turned out very differently. ‘At the moment, we are spending most of our time reassuring the students and providing them with the right support,’ says Den Boer.
Additionally, he is talking to the police in the hope of finding the perpetrator. ‘The problem is that no one in the house saw anything. We are now trying to find out if neighbours may have noticed something, but it’s difficult.’