More than 20 professors and researchers of the University of Leuven (KU Leuven) have asked rector Luc Sels to impose heavier sanctions on students involved in a fatal student initiation in 2018.
The 20-year-old civil engineering student Sanda Dia died of multiple organ failure during an initiation to join student club Reuzegom, after drinking large amounts of alcohol and fish oil and standing in a cold pool of water for an extended period of time.
The university imposed 30 hours of community service on the students involved in the initiation, and they have to write a paper on the history of initiation rituals, a punishment which many find too mild.
The sanctions were not necessarily a bad decision, according to one of the letter’s co-authors, professor Maarten Loopmans, “but based on what we know now, the heaviest sanction,” meaning exclusion from the university, “seems like the only possible one. With this letter, we want to show that there is support for this among the staff of KU Leuven.”
“The perpetrators of Reuzegom have been able to continue their studies; some have even graduated by now. Other members who were aware of the circumstances of Sanda Dia’s death have experienced little hindrance or work as assistants at our university,” the KU Leuven staff wrote. “This defies all imagination,” they said.
As such, they demand that those who are still studying at KU Leuven be expelled immediately, and that the university look into what it could do to sanction those who have already graduated.
They are also calling for a review of the university’s disciplinary procedure, as the university’s current regulations say that the disciplinary committee can only convene when the vice-rector is considering the exclusion of a student.
Meanwhile, the public prosecutor wants to prosecute the students for degrading treatment, administering harmful substances and unintentional killing. A decision on whether or not they will actually have to go to court is expected in early September.