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KU Leuven withdraws controversial advertising slogan

Ladeuzeplein at Leuven University. Photo from KUL.

KU Leuven has withdrawn its advertising slogan “Because you don’t order a ‘ndrangheta for dessert” after complaints from the Italian community in Belgium.

The slogan, which was intended to make potential students interested in research into resistance against the Italian mafia family, caused quite a stir.

In a press release, the university stressed that it was “never the intention to hurt anyone.”

The controversial slogan was part of a broader advertising campaign by KU Leuven for various Bachelor’s programmes. There were 23 research stories highlighted and provided with a slogan.

The campaign wanted to bring attention to the research work and teachings of the Applied Linguistics programme on the Antwerp campus of KU Leuven. The ad appeared on buses and bus shelters of De Lijn in Antwerp.

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Stefano Lucchesi was one of the Italians who took offence at the slogan, posting on social media that Italians, many of whom were personally affected by the workings of the ‘ndrangheta crime syndicate, “cannot allow these words to be used again and again in 2021 for advertising, media hype, or irony!”

“It is the UNIVERSITY! The place where historical memory, respect, the culture of right and justice should prevail,” Lucchesi wrote.

The research the slogan hinted at focused on how the anti-Mafia movement in Italy is working to weaken the grip of the ‘ndrangheta and others on society.

The importance and relevance of the research was jointly acknowledged by the Italian Embassy and the University of Leuven in the press release.

The Brussels Times