All the sanctions against

USC left out in 2024; fraternity will have to earn a spot next year

UIT-21 USC foto DUB
USC at UIT 2021. Photo: DUB

Last week, the Executive Board announced a series of sanctions against USC following the distribution of a list in which members of the sorority UVSV were evaluated based on their physical appearance and sexual performance. USC will not receive a subsidy from Utrecht University and the Utrecht University of Applied Sciences this year. The subsidy, which is normally paid out in September, amounts to 4,593 euros, of which 3,445 euros are paid for by UU.

In addition, the association cannot claim subsidies for other projects, such as symposia and social activities, in 2024. USV is no longer welcome at official events organised by Utrecht University, such as the university's anniversary, held last Tuesday, the Opening of the Academic Year, and the traditional dinner between the Executive Board and members of student associations' boards. 

The relationship between the university and the fraternity has other aspects which are currently being examined or addressed as a result of the affair. For example, the catering services in the Utrecht University Building have a contract with USC to employ students at academic ceremonies. On UU's anniversary, held last Tuesday, the university asked caterer Vineyard not to employ students affiliated with USC, putting their own staff members to work at the bar instead. The university says it would like to get rid of the contract with USC, regardless of the sanctions.

Another point of discussion is to what extent USC can participate in the introduction week for first-year students (also known as UIT). A decision is yet to be made. 

Grant for board members
UU has decided not to cancel the scholarship for members of student association boards this year. These scholarships are meant to compensate these students for the fact that they will graduate later than most. The amount depends on how long a student serves on an association's board. These are much higher amounts than the subsidies, ranging from 1,000 to 14,000 euros per student each year. UU's Executive Board explains the decision by saying that retrieving the grants would not be an appropriate punishment and that USC board members should be allowed to work on a cultural change.

The measures are valid for 2024 and UU has instructed the fraternity to come up with an action plan by May 1, indicating how it will work on changing its culture and promoting safety in its activities and student houses. The measures in this action plan must be concrete, verifiable, and measurable. Otherwise, not only will the sanctions remain in place in 2025, but this will have consequences for the scholarship for board members as well. According to a recent plan, the university was even planning on increasing the number of grants for USC by 25, bringing it to a total of 95.

Sufficient effect
The question is whether these sanctions are sufficiently strict and whether the request to present an action plan is enough to ignite cultural change. This is not the first time USC has promised to improve.

DUB recently consulted its panel of students and staff members about this topic. They were unanimous in their doubts regarding the effectiveness of these sanctions. According to them, it was a mistake on UU's part to announce temporary measures even though the list evidences a cultural pattern that has been shown time and again throughout the years. In their view, misogyny and sexism are structurally intertwined with the fraternity's culture.

“We looked at the university's options for punishment,” declares Rector Henk Kummeling. “We've received many e-mails requesting us to expel the students from their programmes, but the law doesn't allow us to do that unless the incident happens at the university.”

Kummeling finds the list reprehensible and believes that strict measures should be adopted as a response. “We know that such a cultural change is not an easy process. Many of the problems happen at the headquarters and student houses that belong to the association, which is difficult to control. Even so, we want everyone at Utrecht University to feel safe. We set the bar high in that area. So, we will keep a close eye on the Senate's plans.”

Mayor Sharon Dijksma
The municipality of Utrecht has also announced sanctions against USC. Mayor Sharon Dijksma will no longer attend any ceremonial activities at USC's headquarters. According to the local newspaper AD Utrechts Nieuwsblad, the association will not be part of the guard of honor at the aubade on King's Day and the commemoration of the liberation of the city. The annual King's Day festival at Janskerkhof will go on, but the mayor will not be present as she usually does.