UU takes strict measures against UVSV after undercover TV show

Last September, an editor working for Vpro TV show Rambam joined the initiation process for the UVSV, where they covertly filmed the activities. The recordings aired on January 11, although the UVSV was shown the material in December. They subsequently sent a letter to their members stating that ‘based on this material, there is no reason for us to assume that any gross violations took place.’

The association also says they got in touch with the university, the university of applied sciences, and the Advisory Committee Introduction Week Utrecht (AIU). The university’s alarm bells instantly went off at hearing this news. “We have the rule that introductory periods in Utrecht cannot equal hazing, and aspiring students should be able to experience a safe and pleasant start to their studies, in which their personal integrity is never challenged,” a spokesperson for rector Bert van der Zwaan says.

The rector himself watched the Rambam recordings just before Christmas, together with the chairman for the AIU. His conclusion differed from the UVSV’s reasoning. According to him, the recordings definitely show a breach of the code of conduct for the introductory periods, which was last updated (and made stricter) in 2003.

The footage shows, among other things, someone being fed with a spoon, and an aspiring member says asthma medication was taken away. Another girl says she was spat on. The university says that was enough to take measures. Starting immediately, the association will neither receive the standard grants, nor the subsidies for the board members. Additionally, the association is no longer invited to join academic ceremonies, such as the dies or the opening of the academic year. The university of applied sciences and the AIU agree with the measures.

As requested by the AIU’s chairman, the measures are temporary. “The footage is not sufficient to be able to properly assert due cause in each case witnessed,” rector Bert van der Zwaan explains. “But the clips do definitely paint a very nasty picture of the introduction.”

The association will now have the opportunity to conduct research on the introduction period, and will have to make a plan to ensure the next introduction period will (demonstrably) stay within the parameters of the code of conduct.

The university’s harsh reaction is partially motivated by the fact that the associations sign the code of conduct each year in a meeting with the university’s rector and the university of applied science’s chairman. “By signing, they clearly show they understand their responsibility, and their willingness to own up to this responsibility of creating a safe introduction period,” Van der Zwaan says. Incidents should always be reported to the AIU. This independent advisory committee then judges whether the code of conduct was breached and whether the association responded competently, for instance by suspending a member who has behaved inappropriately.

The UVSV has put a statement on their own website, in which they say they understand the university’s and university of applied sciences’ decision. The board states they value behavior conforming to the code of conduct.

They are currently investigating the alleged incidents. When the investigation is completed, they will submit the results to the university, university of applied sciences, and the Advisory Committee Introduction Week Utrecht. The UVSV remains confident that the ties with the university and university of applied sciences will be restored.

The association also says they have received many startled responses on the brazen ways the TV show Rambam violated the privacy of the association and its members for nine days.

Update: In televisionshow Jinek last Thursday the UVSV contradicted many of the allegations that were made by Rambam. The outcome of the internal investigations shows that some of the incidents  have not taken place, according to the UVSV.