The incident occurred last December, the Dagblad van het Noorden writes. The association was celebrating the annual three-day Kermesse d’Hiver. On 3 December, the party’s last evening, a student was beat up.
His injuries included a cut on his nose, damage to his teeth, and a concussion. A week after the incident, he reported two 22-year-old Vindicat members to the police. According Vindicat president Marc Mohr, he did so after consulting the board.
The board itself did not report the abuse to the RUG or Groningen mayor Peter den Oudsten. They should have. The requirement to report is clearly outlined in the code of conduct for student associations, a document which Vindicat signed after earlier incidents.
In the Dagblad van het Noorden, Mohr says it was his own stupid mistake: ‘I should have known, because we signed the code of conduct.’
In September of 2017, the RUG decided to suspend Vindicat’s committee grants. The decision was based on the poor behaviour of several of Vindicat members at the Sushi Mall, but an incident during the hazing period in 2016 – when senior Vindicat member Wouter B. stood on the head of an aspiring member – also caused indignation.
The onus to change Vindicat culture lay with the board: if there were no more incidents of abuse, the grants would be restored. But if the board failed, the RUG would sever all ties with the association and stop paying committee grants for good.
The two members responsible for the latest instance of abuse have been suspended by Vindicat and will be prosecuted by the Public Prosecution Service.
The incident came as an unpleasant surprise to the RUG, says spokesperson Jorien Bakker. ‘Physical violence took place, and Vindicat failed to report it. They’ve acted contrary to the code of conduct.’
Bakker cannot say whether the university will sanction the association. ‘That would be getting ahead of ourselves. Unfortunately, we don’t know anything that hasn’t been reported in the media. We know that the abuse happened, but not how or why it happened’, she explains.
The Advice Committee Orientation has requested the Vindicat board provide an explanation. ‘And they will. As soon as possible.’
At any rate, the incident will be taken into account when it’s time for accreditation. In the summer of 2017, Vindicat was granted accreditation for a year, but under strict conditions. In June and July of this year, the accreditation committee will have another look at the association.
Taken by surprise
Student parties SOG and Calimero are disappointed. ‘It’s really awful’, Calimero faction chair Henk Jan Wondergem says. He has been in contact with Vindicat throughout the year, and was completely surprised to hear of the incident.
‘We got the impression that Vindicat was taking the code of conduct really seriously, that the board was working to make changes in the association.’ Wondergem will be talking to his contact within Vindicat as quickly as possible.
Zeger Glas, with SOG, will also look for answers. ‘This is terrible news’, he says. ‘So many people have been trying to make a change. For things to go wrong after all is just a shame.’ Glas praises the way the RUG has responded, however: ‘They’re not making any hasty decisions, but they do say they’re going to talk to Vindicat.’
Over the past few weeks, the student parties have been talking to the RUG about the graduation fund, which is used to pay committee grants to student associations. The board of directors wants to set down an explicit rule that these grants can be suspended in the case of bad behaviour; SOG and Calimero are against this decision and hope to be able to change the board’s minds.
‘This discussion will probably only intensify’, says Wondergem. ‘It would be a shame if other student associations fall victim to the fallout of what Vindicat did.’