A pokernight in a university room in the city centre? You can’t do that anymore

Stricter rules for food and drink, and ‘fun activities’ in rooms in the city centre after an ‘alcohol discussion’. But you are still allowed to eat your sandwich Photo: DUB / Maarten Hartman

What can and can’t you do in an educational space? And how should students and employees know what the rules are? Those rules became very relevant at the end of last year, after the Humanities faculty board imposed sanctions on study associations FUF (Philosophy) and Euphorion (Literary Science). They were banned from reserving rooms at the university for a full year.

Reason for the punishment were a poker night (FUF) and a movie night (Euophorion) mid-November at Drift 25, where multiple beers were consumed. According to security officers, people got drunk and locked the doors. The formal reasoning for the punishment, however, was that ‘food and drinks are not allowed in classrooms’.

FUF and Euphorion reacted sharply to this sentencing. They were not aware that food and drinks were banned from classrooms. And if such a ban existed, why hadn’t there been any action against it previously? Why now, all of a sudden, be strict about this? Similar evenings to the one in question had been held many times before. The two associations also had difficulty dealing with the fact that they had not been asked for a response. They claim there had been no drunkenness or rowdy behaviour at all.

Pizza sessions
The discussion about the incident continued shortly before the end of the year during a faculty council meeting, where the council was joined by multiple boards of study associations. What, exactly, had taken place during the poker and movie night in question, and what had been the true reason the faculty board decided to act against the association, remained vague.

The council mostly focused on the formal reasoning put forth by the faculty board: the ban against food and drinks. Student council members said they could empathise with the rules about food and drinks in classrooms, but they had been unable to find any written regulations. And if the rules did exist, then at the very least, there’d always been condoned regardless. Employees, too, remarked that lunches and pizza sessions were common occurrences in lecture halls.

In the end, an agreement was reached to organise a meeting between the faculty board and the two associations. That meeting was held last week, and the results were satisfactory, according to all participants.

In that conversation, the faculty board said they regret not having spoken with the associations first before imposing the sanctions. They also acknowledged that the specific regulations about food and drinks are difficult to locate. They can be found in rental agreements for rooms that are rented to external parties, but not, for example, in the documents the student associations receive each year. The study associations also feel that the rental conditions don’t apply to them, as the rooms are on loan to them.

In the end, the sanctions were cancelled and the associations only received a warning. They agreed not to discuss the question of what had or hadn’t happened on the night in question any further.

The parties also agreed that clearer regulations about food and drinks in lecture halls were needed. Students and staff will be informed of this at short notice.

Faculty director Miranda Jansen: “The students indicate that there is a need for clearer regulations, so we’re going to create them. Those regulations will also make clear that lecture halls are meant for organising study-related activities only. A poker night does not fit within those rules, especially with alcohol consumption.”

FUF board member Chris Diepenmaat is happy with the promise: “We would rather have strict yet clear rules than unclear rules being applied strictly.”

Miranda Jansen is not, however, planning to reserve additional funding or schedule more people to enforce the rules. “We’re also not planning to red card anyone if they’re drinking from a bottle of water, or eating a sandwich. We want to appeal to people’s common sense, and our staff will mostly intervene if something goes truly wrong. But we will be looking critically at what types of activities our rooms are being used for, exactly.”

To give study associations the option of organising fun events that aren’t immediately study-related, the faculty board wants to work with the students to find a room that is suitable for those events. Compared to De Uithof, there are previous few locations in the city centre that can be used for non-study-related events. Jansen: “That’ll be quite the task, as we’re trying to reduce the number of buildings and rooms we’re using. But together with the students, we’re going