Study association Geosciences has to present improvement plan to battle drinking culture

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The Utrecht Geosciences Association (UAV) is once more allowed to participate in academic ceremonies. In order to retroactively receive the subsidy that was put on hold, the association will have until April 1st to create an improvement plan for the introduction period, focusing especially on alcohol use.

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An independent investigation committee, led by student psychologist Jeanette van Rees, spent the past few months investigating the Geosciences association’s introduction period. Cause for this were complaints from parents about forced drinking, and about misogynistic songs. The complaints were published in newspaper NRC Handelsblad, among other places. The faculty responded by placing the association’s subsidy on hold.

The committee’s conclusion is that while the songs were indeed inappropriate, the atmosphere in the association isn’t sexist or misogynist. The association welcomes all types of geoscientists, and there are activities for everyone.

The committee does express its worries over the drinking culture, which leads to an atmosphere in which not everybody feels at home. Some students are afraid to join a weekend trip, because they’ll feel more or less forced to participate in drinking alcohol. There are several drinking games during the introduction, too.

The committee’s advising to make changes to the introduction week, with all Geosciences students in mind. Another reason why this is important, is that the university says diversity among the student population is of the highest importance. The association should offer a warm welcome to students of other cultural backgrounds, for whom alcohol, kissing games and ‘clothing chain competitions’ aren’t as natural.

The faculty has a strong connection to the association, but the committee states that there aren’t enough means of control in place to check mutual agreements and expectations.

Struggling with culture of ‘gezelligheid’
In response to the investigation’s results, the faculty board has decided to allow the association back to participate in academic ceremonies. This is an important decision to the UAV, as the board is once again allowed to be present at celebrations such as graduation ceremonies, promotions and the university’s Anniversary Day. The association is also once again allowed to nominate candidates for the teacher of the year award.

The faculty board says they do struggle with the current culture of ‘gezelligheid’ at the association. “Those social, ‘gezellige’ activities shouldn’t be the dominant feature of a study association,” dean Piet Hoekstra explains. According to the faculty, there is a lack of balance between the content and study-related activities on the one hand, and the social activities on the other. “A study association is linked to the faculty, much more than a student association is. That status then also requires more responsibility,” the dean says.

The faculty does not want to be implied in situations with alcohol use during office hours, especially when students are coerced into drinking at a so-called ‘beer cantus’ (a social gathering that includes singing traditional songs and drinking a lot of beer). The song competition should also be transformed, making the songs sung less explicit.

This problem is not limited to Geosciences
As a consequence, the association was asked to present an improvement plan before April 1st, in which it explains how the introduction could be change. The task at hand is to put the emphasis more on the link to the study program, and less on alcohol use. Depending on the assessment of the improvement plan, the board will decide whether or not to retroactively reinstate the association’s subsidies.

The question is in how far the alcohol use is typical for the UAV only. Hoekstra acknowledges that the problem is probably much bigger, and has informed the other deans and the Executive Board of this. “We have taken these measures with the UAV as a result of the investigation we’ve done into the activities of this particular association. But I think that in the future, we should definitely look at this at a much bigger scale.”

No wrongdoing
The UAV is currently working on its improvement plan. The association has also made a statement, in which it explains that the investigation report states that they did not find any wrongdoings at the association.

The association doesn’t deny that alcohol is an important factor in student life, but the focus of the study association is the content, and chairwoman Marleen Ketelaars says it will remain so.

 

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