Study association faces punishment after songs about ‘sluts’ and ‘whores’

Parents of one student who had participated in the UAV introduction camp, turned to the department last fall to complain about ‘the sexism, the women hate, and rape fantasies’ in the songs sung by association members, newspaper NRC Handelsblad reported on Tuesday (in Dutch).

Faculty dean Piet Hoekstra calls the lyrics ‘unacceptable’, leading the Faculty of Geosciences to temporarily retract the study association’s subsidies. The study association annually receives 41 months of subsidies for their board members, adding up to more than 17.000 euros a year. The association has also been barred from attending academic ceremonies, pending investigation.

UAV chairwoman Marleen Ketelaars says she understands the faculty board’s reaction and the sanctions. The association has since decided to delete all songs with sexist lyrics from their song collection. They had previously told NRC Handelsblad they’d limit the changes to replacing the words ‘whore’ and ‘slut’.

Ketelaars states the songs have been sung by the association members for years, but no student or parent had ever complained about them. Consecutive boards had never linked the songs to a possibly sexist culture within the association before.

“Our experience has always been that the atmosphere during the camps was very pleasant. We only started to examine the lyrics critically after this complaint came in, and we had to conclude that it would indeed be better not to sing these lyrics any longer, if we want to ensure a pleasant atmosphere during future camps.”

Hoekstra notes the discomfort among her association’s members. “They were very startled to hear that the songs that were sung within the association, no matter how remarkable, that never caused any commotion, and that were partially written by women, are suddenly the subject of a media frenzy.”

The dean says the lyrics are nevertheless unacceptable and intolerable. “If we as a university want to convey that we’re a place where everyone can be comfortable, then this kind of thing is completely at odds with what we’re attempting to propagate.”

Hoekstra says diversity is one of the cornerstones of the faculty’s policies. “We will not allow our policy to be thwarted by a subculture in which spreading these so-called collegiate texts is apparently a regular occurrence.”

The dean wants an independent person to investigate the situation at UAV. The decision of whether the association will get their subsidies back will be based on the investigation’s results. Hoekstra is not ruling out the possibility of extending the investigation to other study associations within the faculty. “I cannot judge whether this is a stand-alone situation or not.”

Hoekstra only received the complaint about the song book last Monday, even though the parents, who wish to stay anonymous, had already voiced their complaints in October, according to NRC Handelsblad. The department of Earth Sciences, part of Hoekstra’s Faculty of Geosciences, had apparently initially told the parents nothing could be done, as the association is independent.

Hoekstra: “I vehemently disagree with the department’s stance in the matter. We’re talking about a study association that receives funds from the university. We have a great responsibility in this.”

In a statement (in Dutch) published on the UU website, the university’s executive board says the incidents during the UAV introduction camp and the earlier incidents during the introduction period at student association UVSV are cause to “once again reach agreements with all associations involved about the preferred culture”. Rector Van der Zwaan states the university should offer a safe environment in which all students and employees feel at home.

On the DUB-website the UU-board has been criticized for taking to harsh measures by a professor and a student. Texts are in Dutch.