Hanze UAS Groningen and the University of Groningen will accredit student association Vindicat atque Polit for one year under strict conditions. In doing so, they are following the advice of the Accreditation Committee for student organizations presented on Friday last. The Accreditation Committee will reassess the association after a year, according to the conditions and recommendations of the advisory report.
The University of Groningen, Hanze UAS, the municipality and student organizations work together to promote a healthy and safe student community in Groningen. Incidents in the autumn of 2016 brought to the fore that it was time for a change of culture in a large number of student organizations: from a drinking culture to a culture more open to academic development, and from a culture of hazing to one of induction. A system for the accreditation of associations was subsequently introduced.
On Friday 7 July, the President of the Accreditation Committee, Martin Sitalsing, presented the final report on student association Vindicat. The Committee is of the opinion that Vindicat has demonstrated broad support for a policy of change in its critical self-reflection. Based on an assessment per accreditation standard, the Committee’s final judgment is sufficient, if. This means that Vindicat will have to meet strict conditions within one year, including the introduction of an association-wide code of conduct, mandatory soberness of at least 50% of introduction camp supervisors, and a more detailed registration of incidents. It must also show that some of the monitoring and organizational issues have led to concrete results after one year. The accreditation will not be extended if Vindicat does not meet these conditions by 15 August 2018. This could mean exclusion of the association from the Graduation Fund for student boards.
The Accreditation Committee and the educational institutions are of the opinion that the Senate has succeeded in initiating a debate within Vindicat and in taking a number of concrete steps towards moral rebalancing and cultural change. The Committee will continue to monitor the implementation of these fundamental changes.
Rector Magnificus Elmer Sterken of the University of Groningen: ‘I am very pleased with the change of culture that has been set in motion at Vindicat. They deserve a compliment for their cooperative attitude during the process. In terms of risk management, we, together with Hanze UAS, would like to go a step further than the Accreditation Committee recommendations. We aim to extend the conditions for the 2018 introduction period, which will apply to all student organizations in Groningen, to include the soberness of 100% of the supervisors of introduction camps.’
Paul van der Wijk, member of the Board of Hanze UAS, adds: ‘Of course we too are pleased that the first steps have been taken towards a change of culture. We find it particularly important that student associations also contribute to the social education of students, and thereby help to put an end to issues such as sexual harassment, physical violence and humiliation. Organizing and monitoring a safe introduction week, without incidents due to excessive alcohol consumption, further contributes to that.’
Association accreditation started in November 2016 at the request of the University of Groningen and Hanze UAS. The 2016/2017 Accreditation Committee for student organizations consists of experts appointed by all the parties involved. The Committee is led by Martin Sitalsing, President of the Board of Directors at Lentis Groningen. Committee members are Michel Vols (Professor of Public Order Law at the University of Groningen), Michèle Garnier (Dean of the Academy for Social Studies at Hanze UAS), Dertje Meijer and Michel Ooms, nominated by Vindicat. Ms J. Doorenbos (UG) was the Committee official secretary.
The accreditation procedure was a pilot project, and Vindicat was the first student organization that actively participated. The Committee examined whether Vindicat has been able to initiate broadly supported change. The Committee reviewed the mission statement to see whether it is in line with societal norms and values. The Committee then investigated whether the association acts accordingly, paying visits and meeting with representatives and groups outside the association.
The gravity of the task, Vindicat’s inexperience and the time pressure involved led the Committee to play an advisory role and work with interim reports on the road to the final self-reflective report.
The University of Groningen and Hanze UAS thank the members of the Accreditation Committee for their efforts. Applying the accreditation system has been a good experience. Accreditation has been shown to be a suitable instrument for initiating, testing and ensuring continued critical reflection on the experience of student association culture. The next students organization to be investigated by the Commission will be Albertus Magnus. In addition, the Knickerbockers and Navigators have also expressed their willingness to participate.
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