UVSV is welcomed back to academic festivities

University re-establishes ties with UVSV

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Utrecht University and Utrecht University of Applied Sciences have re-established their ties with student association UVSV. The boards of both institutions decided to do this based on research done by the association itself, and an independent study conducted by the Advisory Committee Introduction Utrecht (AIU).

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Last December, the HU and the UU broke off the ties with UVSV, after a TV show called Rambam aired an undercover experience at the introduction activities with the student association. During the introduction activities, five incidents were said to have taken place that the association didn’t make public, despite the Code of Conduct Introduction Time prescribing otherwise. The TV show suggested that at one point, the asthma medication of one aspiring member were deliberately thrown out, another girl said she’d been spat on, and another person was force-fed.

Although rector Bert van der Zwaan stated that the images shown by Rambam weren’t sufficient to conclusively state the cause of the incidents, he also said they did show a very “nasty image of the introduction”. For the university and the university of applied sciences, that was reason enough to put the board subsidies and basic subsidy the association receives on hold. Additionally, the association’s board was no longer welcome at academic festivities. One condition before the ties could be restored was that UVSV was to conduct an internal investigation into the incidents. They also needed to present a plan on how next year’s introduction period would run incident-free and according to the guidelines.

Basic subsidy stays on hold
On Monday, the university announced that the ties with the student association are, for the most part, restored. The board subsidies are reinstated retroactively, and the association is welcomed back to academic ceremonies. The basic subsidy (13.500 euros a year) will stay on hold. The association will only get this back retroactively if the next introduction period proceeds according to the code of conduct. That doesn’t mean no incidents will take place at all, because the university acknowledges that things can always go wrong, but it does mean that the board will do its utmost to prevent incidents, and that if they do happen, they’re handled correctly and according to the code of conduct.

The university came to this decision based on the association’s own research, as well as an independent study done by the Advisory Committee Introduction Utrecht (AIU).The two organizations both concluded that the incident in which an aspiring member was force-fed, should have been reported to the university. The other four incidents shown in the Rambam episode were, according to UVSV and the AIU, either not a violation or cannot be proven.

'Spitting on aspiring member unlikely'
UVSV writes in her report that Rambam made the incident surrounding the asthma medication look different from what transpired in reality. According to the aspiring member concerned in the incident, the medication wasn’t thrown out deliberately, but was in fact accidentally lost. Rambam argued the opposite in January with additional images, but they later retracted those because they were said to be misleading.

The story about an aspiring member who was said to have been spat on, could not be confirmed by either UVSV or AIU, and was deemed unlikely by both. Still, the board was already familiar with the story at the time the TV show aired, according to the association’s report. The girl allegedly reported the incident to the board during the introduction period, but she later refined her statement, saying that there was no spitting, but only sticking out one’s tongue.

Still, the board investigated the incident during the introduction period to be absolutely certain, “as spitting on an aspiring member is not allowed”. The investigation yielded no results. When the incident was aired during the Rambam show, the UVSV board felt compelled to conduct another investigation, which did not lead to any new conclusions. “The situation happened in the roll-call tent. The board is always present at roll-call, and knows and sees what happens there. It’s unlikely that someone spat on an aspiring member without any of the board or other people present noticing anything.”

Executive Board says ‘brassen’ does not comply with the code of conduct
The other two alleged incidents are also more nuanced than the TV show claimed them to be, the association’s report states. The incident in which an aspiring member’s vest was torn, should be seen within the context of “a mild form" of 'brassen' (a traditional fighting for honor amongst association members), and the student who hit her head on a fence, was the victim of an accident. The AIU reached the same conclusions as the UVSV.

Additionally, the advisory committee wrote in her letter to the boards of the HU and UU that the student association has shown to take the code of conduct seriously, both after the Rambam airing and before. The AIU says this is proven, for example, by the fact that the board members cancelled their vacations in order to conduct the internal investigation, and the fact that they reported two incidents a year on average for the past thirteen years. The boards of the HU and UU mostly agree with the AIU’s advice, although they deviate from it regarding the torn vest, which they do say qualifies as an incident. The Executive Board says this is physical behavior that doesn’t comply with the code of conduct.

Alexandra Kist, president of the student association, is happy the ties with the UU and HU have been reinstated. “This issue was a hot topic for us, but we’re not done yet. We’re going to start overhauling the introduction period now. So we’ll look at which activities will stay, and which won’t.”

(Vertaling Indra Spronk)

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