You might have heard about the controversies surrounding Dutch student societies the last couple of weeks. Although there are similarities with the fraternities we all know and love from movies such as Animal House and Blue Mountain State, Dutch student societies are quite different. So in an effort to promote better understanding among the Delta-Cubes, Sigma-Gamma’s and Dutch student societies, we figured we’d provide you with a broad introduction to Dutch student societies.
A broad introduction to Dutch Student Societies: Het Corps
First and most importantly of all, or so they’d have you believe, is ‘’Het Corps’’. Whenever you talk to the Dutch about student societies, the first thing they’ll inevitably mention is ‘’Het Corps’’. In every big student-city in the Netherlands you’ll find a chapter of ‘’Het Corps’’. They are the oldest and most prestigious conglomerate of Student Societies in the Netherlands. This is the kind of fraternity you would join if you are either highly ambitious or a legacy being pressured into student life by family. Oh, and you or your daddy has to be rich too! The costs for being a member aren’t something you usually can pay from your student-allowance only. That’s also why this student society is mostly membered by the most fortunate youngsters of our Dutch society. ‘’Het Corps’’ is known for its traditional style and it’s secret set of rules and traditions. If you’re a member of this closed culture there’s normally not a lot of room left for social groups not connected to your sorority or fraternity.
Het Corps: Start with the hazing
To become a member there is an obligatory hazing period. You’ll be forced to take part in such fun activities as rolling around in the mud in your underwear and being shouted at by senior members. Apparently they too have no better things to do with their time than humiliating freshmen. After this hazing begins the long, slow climb up the social ladder of your designated society. This social network comes with numerous advantages, it can provide you with housing, jobs, parties and other social activities. This is also why the social connections made in these student societies tend to be very tight and lifelong. Furthermore het Corps is known to be a smart career move for law-students, doctors to be and students with political ambitions. In fact some of the most influential persons in the Netherlands are known to be a member! All the royals are a member, which earned our current king the nickname ‘’Prince Pils’’ (Prince Beer), as well as filmmaker Paul Verhoeven and most of the justice department.
The rumor caused last weeks was caused by a student society, that belonged to this group, Vindicat in Groningen. One incident that caused bad publicity for Vindicat was due to a file that leaked out listing women member to the society, rated on their sexual skills (a Banglist). The second incident even caused a criminal investigation to the society. A new member ended up in the hospital with a brain injury after an incident that occured during the hazing activities.
A broad introduction to Dutch Student Societies: The wannabe’s
If you don’t feel like joining het Corps, for instance because your father is a butcher rather than a lawyer, or because you just don’t feel like joining the Dutch equivalent of the Skull and Bones society, there is a wide range of ‘’corps wannabe’’ student societies. These can also be found in almost every city that has a university. These societies have some of the traditions and rules from het corps, but generally with less pressure to fit in and a more loosely knit system of social hierarchy. If you want a taste of Dutch fraternity life, but don’t feel like wearing a suit every time you want to go for a beer, this might just be the place for you! Although these student societies are less prestigious, there is still a wide range of influential people that are known to have been members. For instance former Dutch Prime Minister Balkenende (the Harry Potter looking one) used to be a member, as have many other politicians.
A broad introduction to Dutch Student Societies: The leftovers
Last of all there is off course the leftovers. The societies in this group can vary from sports-sororities, generally focussing on specific sports such as rowing, running, swimming etc. These societies tend to have the same social aspects as the other student societies. Because after all, what student doesn’t like a beer after a particularly stressful exam-week? Yet they usually lack hazing and the strict social hierarchy that comes with other student societies. There are also religious student societies where they sing hymns, do bible or koran presentations, and complain about not being able to have sex before marriage. Lastly there are so called study-societies. These require very little commitment and are generally faculty specific. They focus on helping students get cheaper books, improve social contact amongst their classmates and throwing the occasional career seminars or lectures. The study-societies is where most international students end up, as neither het Corps nor the wannabes allow international students into their ranks.