The University of Antwerp (UAntwerpen)’s rector has ordered a medical student association to suspend all activities after it asked students to strip as part of their hazing ritual.
Emails were sent to four female first-year students by the board members (called ‘praesidium’ in Belgium) of the Aesculapia student association asking them to prepare a “sexy strip act” for their baptism. The emails were then forwarded to the university’s dean, Herman Van Goethem, who instructed the club to cancel all activities until the end of the school year.
“The final decision was made following consultation between the praesidium and the dean. All board members must also resign from their position and the members involved in this incident cannot take up their positions again in the coming years if the club restarts,” UAntwerpen’s spokesperson told The Brussels Times.
The university would not comment on the nature of the baptism that took place, as it is part of an internal disciplinary procedure.
However, the fact that no members of the praesidium tried to prevent the strip acts from happening, and that no effort was made to stop the students during the baptism, resulted in the dean interfering.
By sending the requests and failing to prevent the baptisms from going ahead, the student association went against the rules set out in two different baptism charters, which determine the rules that associations must abide by and which actions can be sanctioned, as well as against the Statute of the UAntwerpen Student, which states that the physical and mental integrity of students must be protected.
Avoid punishing everyone
The student club regrets the decision made by the dean and hopes for further dialogue regarding this incident.
“We understand that the rector is imposing a sanction but we had hoped for a proactive punishment where we could correct our own mistake. Now other events such as our culture symposium are also at risk of being completely lost,” Kira Rooman, an Aesculapia board member, told Gazet Van Antwerpen.
De Meyer stated that the dean, together with the head of the Medicine Studies’ department, will be looking at a way to avoid punishing the students who did not take part in the incident.
“We want to avoid everyone becoming a victim of this situation, but any activities that will be organised will be done so neutrally, not under the flag of the club,” he said.