The RUG and the Hanze University of Applied Sciences announced the news on Monday morning. An assessment by the Accreditation Committee for Student Associations has determined that the culture at Vindicat is not sufficiently improved. ‘We will therefore not be awarding them with accreditation’, says Accreditation Committee chair Martin Sitalsing.
Vindicat became the talk of the town in 2016 after several violent incidents during the initiation period and their publication of a ‘bang list’ of female of association members that included pictures, telephone numbers, and degrading commentary.
The RUG and the Hanze responded by creating the Accreditation Committee. Vindicat was ordered to take measures to create a safer environment and to prevent any future incidents.
In the summer of 2017, the committee determined that the association had made sufficient efforts and awarded them accreditation for the 2017-2018 academic year. ‘We’d hoped this trend of improvement would continue, but unfortunately it hasn’t’, says Sitalsing.
But it’s not like Vindicat hasn’t tried: they implemented a behavioural code for all members that first-year members have to sign before they’re allowed to join.
They also administered a survey, the results of which the Accreditation Committed labelled ‘shocking’. But the association hasn’t actually done much with the results, even though members indicated that they don’t feel safe in the club building and that alcohol consumption is generally too high.
It remains unclear, for example, whether students supervising the activities during the initiation period are sober. And according to the committee’s report, misogyny is still pervasive: ‘We’ve seen cases of harassment, groping, name-calling, humiliating remarks, and slut-shaming.’
‘We have to put student safety first’, says RUG rector magnificus Elmer Sterken. ‘As such, these measures are entirely appropriate.’
The Vindicat board, which took office last month, is ‘disappointed’, says Sitalsing. ‘But they immediately asked how to proceed. They really want to work on it.’
The Vindicat board has said it’s ‘very disappointed’. After the last few tumultuous years the association has started to steer a new course in collaboration with the academic institutes, the board says.
‘We’ve started to make a cultural change and we’ve truly seen its effects. We had two initiation periods where there were no incidents. We’ve also implemented a behavioural code which everyone in the association agrees with’, they said in a written response.
According to the board, Vindicat was optimistic that the RUG and Hanze University would reward their efforts and actual improvements by awarding them accreditation. ‘That is why we’re disappointed and feel the punishment is excessive. Effecting a cultural change takes time. It’s a process. We had hoped they would give us more time.’
The measures against Vindicat will stay in effect until September of 2019. The association can apply for accreditation again if they feel they have sufficiently improved.
‘We will be incorporating the criticism and work even harder’, Vindicat secretary Danique Vreeburg says. ‘We will focus on the excessive drinking at the association, among other things.’ Vreeburg is ‘confident’ that Vindicat will earn its accreditation back next year.
Meanwhile, student athletic association The Knickerbockers has cause for celebration: they have been awarded accreditation for the next three years. This accreditation does come with conditions, however.
Photo: rector magnificus Elmer Sterken explains the Accreditation Committee’s decision. On his right is Jouke de Vries, the new president of the RUG board of directors. On his left is committee chair Martin Sitalsing. On the far right is Paul van Wijk with the Hanze University.