The university of Leuven student club Reuzegom, which organised an initiation rite for new members which led to the death of one student, has disbanded amid calls for an end to such rituals, and demands from the parents of the dead student for a full investigation of the circumstances. Sanda Dia, aged 20, died after being rushed to hospital in Antwerp in a coma, after being made to drink fish sauce. The sauce, used as a condiment in Asian cuisine, is not intended to be consumed in quantity, and contains a high dose of salt, which led to brain damage in the victim from which he did not recover.
The parents of the young man have demanded the incident be investigated to the full. The club involved, named Reuzegom, is considered an elite club, much sought-after by potential members, yet with a reputation for extreme and destructive behaviour. It’s activities are also surrounded by a curtain of silence.
“This must not be allowed to be pushed onto the back burner just because it concerns the children of good families,” the victims’ parents said. The rector of the university Luc Sels (photo) and Flemish education minister Hilde Crevits had both been in touch, they said. “But from the Reuzegom corner, not a breath of wind. No apologies, no condolences, nothing. Unimaginable.”
The silence can be explained by the fact that the organisers of the ritual ceremony – a common feature among student clubs, usually featuring humiliating the candidates, though never to a dangerous extent – could be facing criminal charges. Originally quotes as looking at charges of administering a toxic substance and involuntary manslaughter, investigators are now reported to be considering a charge of degrading behaviour towards a third party.
Meanwhile the university has issued a call to all student clubs to suspend plans for initiation ceremonies of any description, while the university draws up a new code of conduct for the future, which will carry, rector Sels announced, the possibility of sanctions for any club breaking the rules, up to and including the expulsion of those responsible from the university.