‘New kind of orientation’

Student associations should exist in harmony with their environment, make a positive contribution to the city’s image, and turn their initiation and hazing rituals into a ‘new kind of orientation’.
By Peter Keizer / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

That was the statement of the Board of Directors in a memo for the University Council. In October, it was announced that from then onward, student associations would have to write a ‘critical reflection’ in order to qualify for money from the graduation fund, the pot of money which is used to pay for committee grants. The Board of Directors has now announced the conditions that this reflection needs to meet.

The associations should at least indicate the norms and values within the club, what risks exist (such as alcohol or drug addictions, psychological pressure, or lack of hygiene) and how these will be managed. They should also have their members fill out an anonymous survey about club culture and find out how first-year students experience the orientation period.

Furthermore, the associations should be open and transparent, as ‘isolation is no longer allowed’, according to the Board of Directors. ‘We have chosen a positive approach, based on Groningen as university city where the students’ social safety is important’, according to the memo.


In October, a five-man committee was set up to judge the associations’ critical reflections. Student association Vindicat is up first. The Association Accreditation committee will assess their document before 1 March and report to the RUG and Hanze University of Applied Sciences boards. The association’s reflection will be treated confidentially, but the committee’s report will be made public.

The committee was founded after it became known that an aspiring Vindicat member was seriously injured during the orientation in August after another member stood on his head.

A report from the Advice Committee Orientation (ACI), the committee founded in 1998 in order to advise the associations on their orientation periods, said that the Board of Directors had been informed of the incident several days after it took place. At the time, the RUG felt there was no reason to call out the association on their hazing practices. That changed when, in late September, minister Bussemaker called the university’s response ‘entirely inadequate’. The next day, RUG president Sibrand Poppema said: ‘We will put an end to hazing in this city.’


Following the abuse at Vindicat, the ACI concluded that they ‘do not have the ability and means to provide effective oversight’. The committee was founded in the late nineties after Reinout Pfeiffer, a first-year Vindicat member, died after being forced to drink a litre of gin. Since then, the ACI has assessed the safety plans for the orientation periods of almost all associations. But the committee has concluded that this is an insufficient method to ensure that nothing drastic happens. The ACI has a mere advisory function, and only responds when the associations come to them with an incident.

Promises made by the associations are ‘not always properly kept’, the committee writes in a letter to the RUG board. ‘It is our distinct impression that the associations involved – who helped found the ACI – do not take the ACI seriously.’

The RUG board will now oblige the associations to share experiences with the ACI and to actively cooperate with the committee’s reports. The RUG will also enter talks with the Hanze and the ACI to work out how the committee can be given more power to enable them to act quicker and more efficiently.



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