Five Utrecht fraternities: about desserts, beer, old Dutch, equality and karaoke

The table with ‘rubbish’ from Biton fraternity Olkadekk

UMTCs Panna Cotta: 'We were founded as a reaction to macho behaviour'

Founded: October 12, 2018
Members: 13, all active
Drinks: twice a month, at someone's home or at the Borghaerts club of UMTC
Phrase: "One kilo extra"
Drink: "Panna shotta"; 1/5 Bacardi Limón, 2/5 Licor 43, 2/5 Sourz red
Cheers: "In dulci jubilo", Italian for "In sweet joy"

Founders Sanne (26, just finished the master's in Psychology) and Tessa (24, Medicine) founded the Panna Cotta sorority with six other girls last year. Sanne: “In response to the macho behaviour. We wanted a sorority where it is not about being able to scream loudly, but where we can also be nice." Tessa: "It has been a long and difficult process to officially become a sorority. You must prove within the association that you are of added value. Nobody thought we would succeed."

What characterises you?
Sanne: “Our core values are niceness, ambition and social involvement. We wanted to be a sorority based on equality. So we have no outgrowing character and no balance of power within the sorority. Our aspirants - we call them ‘hangopjes’ (or curds, a kind of dessert) - have to keep a friends book to get to know everyone in the sorority.

"Yes! Everything and everyone bears the name of a dessert. Our meetings are called grand desserts, the chair is called dame blanche, the vice-chair eton mess, the treasurer mint ice cream and the secretary chocolate letter.

So your sorority is not entirely about Italian pudding?
Sanne: “No, but it is a precious symbol. We just wanted to create something casual, we love good food and desserts, so yes: panna cotta. We have one member who does not like desserts, that is difficult." Tessa: "We jokingly called ourselves Panna Cotta. It was a provisional name, but when we delved into the dessert, we thought it would suit us.”

What exactly do you do as a sorority?
“We always make a panna cotta. You can cover it with different toppings, so it is always different. Every year, we hold a baking competition called "Heel UMTC bakt" (the Great UMTC Bake-Off) and we engage in social activities. We help out a lot at a petting zoo in Overvecht and through the Present Foundation we paint houses and clean up gardens.”

Independent fraternity Semper Excelsius: 'We are more voluntary than large associations'

Founded: 9 May 2006
Members: 21 active members, around 30 reunites
Drinks: every Tuesday evening in Café Rex on Nobelstraat
Drink: Grolsch Cannon
Phrase: "Nunc est bibendum": "Now it's time to drink"
Photo: The lady in the photo is a date of one of the members

A fraternity that does not belong to a student association, but is entirely independent. That is what makes Semper Excelsius special. Treasurer Thomas Mol (22 years, Information Science), who, together with two other gentlemen, forms the board this year, was asked how this fraternity arose. “We were founded in 2006. Four boys who often came to the same house had a good connection, regularly drank beer together and wanted to give it a name. What started as a joke, grew into a great club. We are now in our 14th year. The founders are now in their thirties, married and have children. They do come by now and then. Especially for the younger members it is nice to meet those guys once.”

And how do students join you?
“Word of mouth, but especially via the Utrecht Introduction Time. We offer sleeping places during the UIT and we are on the website and the association market of the UIT. After the UIT we have three more introductory drinks. Women sometimes ask us if they can become a member, but then we would lose our identity as a fraternity, so we don't want that.”

Is there more demand than supply?
“In the last five or six years, we have to reject around three guys. We think 21 active members is a good number. A few members leave each year and are replaced by new members. We want to keep the fraternity small so that you get to know everyone well. We are a close group of friends and do not want groups within the group."

How do you make your selection?
“Whether you fit well within the group, whether you have been at the introductory drinks and whether you have shown enough interest. We are a bit more casual than the large student social associations, so you have no obligations or a hierarchy. Our hazing only consists of a dropping and a quiz. We do have a tie and a shirt with our logo on it, but they are for special occasions. Everyone just wears what they want during regular drinks."

What does Semper Excelsius mean?
"Always higher, always better."

And what do you do?
“Every year, we have a large Christmas dinner where all members, including former members, are welcome. And we have drinks every Tuesday evening starting at two to nine, because we were founded on a Tuesday at two to nine. We also have two fraternity weekends, anniversary trips and a diesweek (anniversary week), and do things together with other fraternities from study or student associations."

And can you also be a double member? With you and at another association?
"No, not at another social club."

SSR-NU’s 'New members should not try to be like us'

Founded: November 19, 1931
Members: 9 active members plus 4 aspiring members ("tirones")
Drinks: Twice a week at the Nisata club, plus twice a month a fraternity evening
Phrase: "Robure Fidei Subnixum": "Leaning on the Power of Faith"
Drink: red wine ("the traditional student drink")
Cheers: "Ianus!"

‘Het Uniek Dispuut’ (The Unique Fraternity) was the very first mixed fraternity in the Netherlands, Guusje Bron (20, student of Humanistics) knows. This year, she is Proconsula (secretary) on the three-person board of the fraternity, which is part of the social association SSR-NU. “Two women were already present at the foundation in 1931. We were progressive because we treated men and women as equal. At that time, women from SSR-NU were only allowed to stay at drinks until midnight, so that the men had some space.”

Why are you mixed?
“We think diversity in the fraternity is very important, because everyone contributes different things and that leads to the most interesting discussions. For the same reason, we also want members from all different faculties. "

You are characterised by having discussions?
“Yes, you can say that. We think it is important that we always look for extremes in discussions and then gradually work towards a nuance, so that we can see everything from two sides.”

And when do you do that?
"We have a symposium every year."

Do you do other things besides that?
"Once a month we meet and have an activity outside our comfort zone such as axe throwing, carting or visiting a poetry evening."

You call yourself "Het Uniek Dispuut” (The Unique Fraternity), why?
“Because we think it is important that everyone is very much themselves and contributes to what he or she wants or can contribute. Everybody is different. We don't want everyone in the fraternity to look alike either.”

If you can be yourself, are there no mandatory outfits?
"Not really. Generally, you dress nicely and you can fill in what that is as long as the colours black and dark blue are represented. Those colours are important to the fraternity. "

What else is typical?
“Janus, Ianus in Latin, is our patron. We toast to him. He is a Roman god with two faces who looks to the past and the future. He symbolises our desire to always want to see two sides of an issue and to bring those sides together.”

How many other fraternities does your association actually have?
"Eight. According to us. If you would ask someone outside of, you would hear there are nine. Fifteen years ago this ninth fraternity collapsed, but many members of SSR still live in denial of this fact.”

And what does mean?
“I am not allowed to say. If you want to know more, you can become a tiro.”

Bitons Olkadekk: 'We only use spelling from 1909'

Founded: November 24, 1909
Members: 113, of which 30 are active
Drinks: monthly, in the building of "Een Zekere Moedervereniging” (A Certain Mother Association)
Phrase: "Dispar vulgo": "Different from the mass / mob"
Drink: red drinks, such as red wine (preferably Mooi Kaap), cola and orange juice
Cheers: On the memory of Her Majesty, Queen Princess Juliana, on the memory of Amice Couvée, on going wild

The traditional Olkadekk is a peculiar phenomenon within the non-traditional Biton association. Finn den Boeft (21, student Media & Culture) is the chair this year and wants to give some explanation.

You call yourself "Het Oudste Dispuut” (The Oldest Fraternity). Exactly how old is it?
Sighs deeply: “Almost 110 years. Time flies when you’re having fun. "

How is it that your fraternity is traditional and Biton is not?
“For that we have to go a long way back. Olkadekk is a fraternity of SSRU. This association was split into Biton and SSR-NU. We are now affiliated with Biton, which we call Een Zekere Moedervereniging (A Certain Mother Association), or EZM. EZM primarily facilitates practical matters."

So Olkadekk is older than Biton?!
"Yes, definitely. Last year the board of Biton even came to us on ‘belet’ (inhibition) (a tradition in which a younger association asks for the right to exist to an older association, red.).

And what was the idea behind the fraternity?
“Specifically: educational and entertainment. We sometimes say that jokingly, but that is and was what it's all about.”

Do you see that reflected in your activities?
"Yes. We meet every month at the EZM Society and those meetings have a fixed structure, including a lecture. After that there is a discussion. Disputing is of course also just another word for arguing or arguing. These meetings also have a playful aspect. We recently had a lecture about the birth and death of stars in the universe. Complete with ‘krachtpuntpresentatie’ (power point presentation).”

“We don't use English words. We translate English terms into Dutch, such as " krachtpuntpresentatie’."  What do you call a computer?
"Een rekenaar" (a calculator). And a smartphone? "Een zakrekenaar” (A pocket calculator). An e-mail? “Een elektronisch postbericht” (An electronic mail message). And memes? "“Cobips: collectieve binnenpretjes” (collective private jokes).

And if someone uses foreign words anyway?
"If you do not use Dutch and Latin words, you will receive a fine of 25 guilder cents (11 euro cents, red.). You will also be fined if you swear, interrupt someone or are unruly. Fifteen fines in one meeting are fairly average. The proceeds from those fines we give to Amnesty International."

Why guilders? Are you stuck in the past?
"A little. For example, we keep the spelling from our founding year of 1909. If someone uses a word of which we doubt whether it was already in use in 1909, we look it up in a dictionary from that period.”

In addition to the dictionary, I also see all kinds of rubbish on the board table.
“Rubbish? These are essentials, without these objects ‘Het Oudste Dispuut’ (The Oldest Fraternity) cannot meet. They are gifts from new members and former senators. "

Do you have any more interesting customs?
“At ‘Het Oudste Dispuut’ we only drink red drinks. Wine, especially. But over the years, cola has also been included. And orange juice. Or a combination of the three. And Spa Red. In fact, everything that The Oldest Fraternity approves of as a red drink is a red drink. And we always toast to the memory of Her Majesty Queen Princess Juliana, born in 1909, and to the memory of Amice Couvée, the grandfather of the fraternity. He was at the founding and a prominent member of the fraternity who later became a pastor. We use his image everywhere; a calm man with glasses, a very large nose and a moustache."

Interurban sorority Hygeia: 'You have girlfriends everywhere'

Founded: June 18, 2005
Members: 51, of which 23 are active
Drinks: a monthly dinner in Utrecht, Groningen or Leiden
Phrase and cheers: "Mooie roze is niet vies” (Beautiful pink isn’t gross)
Drink: pink Troika, pink gin and tonics, gin and "just" beer

Hygeia is a sorority for pharmacy students and affiliated with the KNPSV (Koninklijke Nederlandse Pharmaceutische Studenten Vereniging, or Royal Dutch Pharmaceutical Student Association). In addition to Utrecht, members come from Groningen and Leiden where there are also pharmacy programmes, says chair Hanne Borgers who has been a member of the sorority for five years.

All your members come from those three cities?
“Yes, we are the only pharmaceutical sorority in the Netherlands. Our sorority was set up in 2005 by six women who had a great time with each other within the KNPSV and wanted to make that official. Every year we have a small batch of one or two girls per city, depending on how many people are studying in that city and how many members we expect to graduate. We choose our members ourselves; girls who really match our sorority. That ensures we are a very close group. Our oldest member has now reached the age of 39. In total, our members already have around 15 babies."

You are connected to the KNPSV. How is this expressed?
“Groningen, Leiden and Utrecht each have a pharmacy study association that is affiliated with the national KNPSV. We are accountable to that association. We stand on our own financially. We pay for dinners, birthdays, presents and part of the costs of our weekends for the contribution of our members. That is 10 euros a month. "

What does Hygeia stand for?
"That is the Greek goddess of health. Applicable for our field of study. "

And what kind of activities do you have?
“Twice a year we go away for the weekend with about 20 to 25 girls. We have a dinner every month in one of the three cities. Sometimes you have to travel far and therefore we always make sure it’s a lot of fun. You have a place to sleep in every city. Every year there is a dinner for our graduate members as well, where around forty people are present. In addition, we have karaoke nights and always do something with a different faculty fraternity as well.”

And what characterises you?
“Our sorority colour is pink. And with a colour like pink it can never be boring, of course. Our introduction time is called the "pink time", so how bad can it be? Of course, it is not only voluntary because you do choose such a group, but it must above all remain fun. We also often sing our song "Mooi roze is niet vies” (Beautiful pink isn’t gross), which contains an inside joke about gin, because pharmacy students drink a lot of gin. We call it "Jennifer." At our galas I have often heard staff say "gosh, I have never seen so many young people drink so much gin."

A fraternity or sorority (‘dispuut’ in Dutch) is a sub-association of a student association with its own board, its own General Members' Meeting and often its own bylaws and with its own contribution. There are different degrees of independence, which can be different per association and per fraternity. There are also fraternities that are completely independent, so they are basically a student association.

The number of fraternities can differ per association, just like the rules for membership of a fraternity. In one association you may only be a member of one fraternity, while in another association you may be a member of different fraternities.

The members of a fraternity share an interest and, unlike a year club, do not need to have joined the association in the same year.