‘Down with hazing’

‘Cancel your membership!’, the Personnel faction tells members of student associations that haze. With that, the University Council party renounces the old adage: ‘Haze responsibly.’ Hazing is a perverse mechanism and can’t be done responsibly, the faction now says. ‘Down with the pseudo-romanticism of hazing.’

Recently, the Universiteitskrant published photos from student associations that showed new members being hazed. Disconcertingly enough, it turned out these photos hadn’t been leaked, but had been plainly printed in the associations’ almanacs, which can only mean that the associations are totally fine with these hazing practices, and are in fact proud of them. The photos confirm the reports concerning other recent hazing practices.

Van Dale dictionary defines hazing as ‘initiation into a group by harassment’. The practice is revolting. Students defending hazing always try to soften it: ‘It’s an initiation ritual.’ And: ‘It’s just part of student life.’ Untenable arguments. Let’s examine them one by one:

  • But it’s tradition. . This is the age-old flawed argument that existing things must be right. But just because something has been around for a long time does not mean it is automatically right. Slavery, for instance, was a tradition for centuries.
  • We were hazed when we first started, and now it’s our successors’ turn. There’s no such thing as the Law of Never-ending Hazing. Break the cycle.
  • Students that haze can quit at any moment. Perhaps. But peer pressure is often enormous.
  • University staff doesn’t know what hazing is. Another misconception: that we need to have experienced something ourselves in order to be able to judge it. But it’s not true that we can’t properly picture the practice through talks and photos just because we never experienced hazing ourselves. It’s not as mysterious as they’d like us to think.
  • Students aren’t real students until they’ve been hazed.A typical case of category confusion. Students are only real students when they are studying.
  • You sticklers and moral crusaders are trying to take the students’ autonomy away: they undergo hazing voluntarily. I sincerely doubt it. Often, hazing is a requirement for a student to become a member of an association. But that’s not the point we’re trying to make: we feel that even voluntary participation is reprehensible. In the infamous Wackenheim case, a dwarf who, for a fee, allowed people to toss him as high and as far away as possible, fought the decision of two French counties to ban the practice of dwarf-tossing. Wackenheim argued that he derived his income from it. But not just the French Council of State, but also the European Court of Human Rights and the UN Human Rights Committee found him to be in the wrong, citing that human dignity was at stake. And that is exactly what’s wrong with hazing: it attacks human dignity. The fact that people undergo this voluntarily (which, as we said, we doubt), does not change any of that.


Students like to think of themselves as society’s future elite. We shudder at the thought of them as successful professionals unleashing the power dynamics they learned while being hazed on their subordinates. How in the name of God can people see humiliating students as a prerequisite to their flourishing? The number of students who’ve been traumatised by hazing should not be seen as a negligible by-product of these practices. We also keep seeing that students refuse to say what happened to them during hazing. Sometimes they only confess years later. Down with the pseudo-romanticism of hazing and the misinterpreted heroism: human dignity is at stake here.

For years, the Personnel faction has said, ‘Haze responsibly.’ But now, we sadly see that this is not a possibility: hazing − as defined by Van Dale − cannot be done responsibly. Hazing is a perverse mechanism that has no place at a university − it has no place anywhere. End hazing.

We ask all students not to join a student association that hazes; to cancel your membership if your student association does engage in the practice; to tell them that this is why you’re quitting. We ask the University Council to cut funding to student associations that haze. We ask the Board of Directors to unconditionally speak out against hazing; to ask other Boards of Director to do the same. Shame the hazers. Enough in enough!

Antoon De Baets, Bart Beijer, and Gert Jan Bokdam are members of the Personnel faction in the University Council.


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