As full-time in-person higher education resumes and life returns to campuses across Belgium, universities are looking at how to organise events and gatherings that will take place outside the classroom.
In universities and colleges in Brussels and Wallonia, face masks are mandatory in the classroom for students, whilst in universities in Flanders, they can be removed once seated. However, when it comes to socialising outside the classroom, the rules become less clear.
"We are starting with a code green, and are looking to introduce the Covid Safe Ticket (CST) for social, cultural and student activities, including student hazings," a spokesperson for the Flemish-speaking Free University of Brussels (VUB) told The Brussels Times.
Rolling out the CST - which allows people to prove they have been fully vaccinated, have built up immunity against the virus or recently tested negative - is already being considered in the hospitality sector, including restaurants and bars in Brussels, as a result of the epidemiological situation.
At the francophone Free University of Brussels (ULB), the pass will also be introduced at parties as well as outdoor initiation events, as this would make it "easier to manage such gatherings," vice-rector Alain Lévêque told Le Soir.
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At both universities, discussions are ongoing as to how it could now be used for social situations outwith the classrooms.
According to Lévêquen, the students chose this formula following discussions with the university's staff, as it would avoid other constraints such as social distancing being implemented, but also as it would make the activities safer.
ULiège is adopting a similar stance, even when the students are organising events off-campus.
The CST will be checked both by security guards and by students themselves, who will assign the role of "Covid leader" to students at each event. This person will also make sure other measures are respected.
Implementing measures and postponing initiations
Meanwhile, the University of Mons (UMons) is taking the system a step further and will be introducing a wristband system, which will allow access to the various activities, Marc Labie, vice-rector at the UMons told Le Soir.
Other universities have opted to follow the rules already in force for the businesses and hospitality industries.
One such university, UCLouvain, has decided that every event will have to implement the rules for indoor activities, meaning face masks will have to be worn when walking about, and the number of people at one table will be limited (as is still the case in Brussels' bars and restaurants).
Again, students will be appointed to ensure that the rules are respected. "We can be confident that they will be monitored: everyone is aware that if the epidemic starts up again, there is a risk that everything will be closed down again," Philippe Hiligsmann, vice-rector for student affairs at UCLouvain, said.
Meanwhile, at both the Leuven and Brussels campuses, UCLouvain will not require students to use the CST for initiations. However, strict limits will be set for the number of participants permitted and all activities must take place outdoors.
The university of Namur (UNamur) goes a step further with its social and academic rules. Student hazings will not be permitted until the second quarter, and the student associations themselves cannot open their clubs until 1 October, the same date that clubs in Wallonia and Flanders are set to reopen.