A crusade against Vindicat?
Every day, the editorial staff at the UK wonders: What are we writing about, why are we writing about it, and how are we writing about it? A weekly look behind the scenes.
Hazing in general, Vindicat in particular. Shocking photos, a bang list, a student struck so hard he ended up in hospital: it’s been quite a ride. The entire country was suddenly focused on student life in Groningen.
The UK was complimented on our reporting by both RUG employees and students (and, believe it or not, even some Vindicat members – although they did not like the negative focus on their association), and people outside the university.
But people were also critical (as they should be). ‘Don’t be such moral crusaders, bang lists have been around forever.’ Or, ‘it might be in bad taste, but it’s just some students messing around.’
We’re not moral crusaders. That’s not the point here. The point that we were trying to emphasise is the fact that 22 first year students’ personal details (photos, where they lived and their phone numbers) were made public, and every pervert in the Netherlands or anywhere else suddenly had access to them.
That’s no good. That has nothing to do with being sticklers, and it’s certainly not funny.
Another criticism: the UK is joining in, or may have even caused, a media hype against the country’s oldest student association. We knocked over the first domino, and then got in on the fun of pillorying Vindicat along with the other media.
I read somewhere, the media spurred each other on in selectively spreading rumours and personal opinions. I also heard, ‘They didn’t even try to find out the truth. Investigate the facts first, then form an opinion.’ Because maybe that poor student didn’t get hit at all. Or maybe that bang list is just a list that says how beautiful the ladies are?
I’ll admit the exact nature of the abuse is not (yet) known, because it is still being ‘investigated’. But does that mean the UK and other media were spreading rumours and not searching for the truth? Vindicat does not deny the incident, and the Public Prosecution Office had launched a criminal investigation. That is enough.
Nor has the bang list been purposefully interpreted negatively by the media. All a right-minded person has to do is take one look at it to conclude that it is no walk of fame that these girls can take pride in. There’s a reason the guys who made the list have been suspended.
There is one thing I agree with the critics on. The urge to declare all Vindicat members outlaws bothers me as well, as though each and every member is a ‘jackass’, a potential bang list writer or a student basher with blood on their hands. That’s certainly over the top.
Sure, it’s time for Vindicat to come back down to earth. But a witch hunt won’t help with that.
Rob Siebelink, interim editor-in-chief