The year is 1997, and an incumbent student at the University of Groningen is run over by a truck while drunk and asleep in the grass. This was the result of a hazing ritual they signed up for in hopes of making “friends for life” only to end up dead. More than twenty years after this incident a group of students from the same university return home from a ski vacation in Tirol, a vacation that went ahead despite the rising threat of the Covid-19 virus. Now in Amsterdam, two years later, a group of students has made headlines with yet another controversy after a speech made at a private dinner, where they gleefully announced for all their friends to hear that “all women are whores” and “we can do nothing with them but break their necks to fit penises into”.
What do these three incidents have in common? They are all related to the concept of “Het Corps” elitist, predominantly white institutions that keep on producing Dutch leaders. But what is behind this concept and why exactly might it be best to stay away?
A Corporale Vereniging or Corps for short is a student association connected to and funded by the local university and part of the Algemene senate vergadering (ASV), a larger group of associations that recognize each other as legitimate. A Corps is often times the oldest and largest student association in its given city, with members up in the thousands, dating as far back as the late 17th century. The Netherlands currently counts 7 of these fraternities, perhaps 8 in the next few years given the fact the one in Eindhoven is yet to join the ASV.
Why though does “Het Corps” consistently get themselves in these types of incidents and why should we be worried?
Het corps operates on a strict sense of hierarchy and communal spirit, members join young often as young as 17, and get mercilessly hazed by their older more senior members during their initiation. The idea here is that this shared experience of embarrassment cultivates an increased sense of community amongst members. In a sense, it isn’t dissimilar to the concept of “blood in blood out” oftentimes found in criminal organizations. The problem is however that older members often take revenge on their younger peers “it toughened us up, so why shouldn’t these pissants be treated similarly?” is often the rationale, dehumanizing their new recruits and leading to a slew of deadly initiations like the one mentioned in the intro.
Why should we be worried about a bunch of idiots if they’re just beating up on one another though?
Well, due to the historical nature of a city’s Corps the members oftentimes tend to be from privileged backgrounds. Overwhelmingly white, male, heterosexual, and wealthy they usually only join up because their fathers were once members, and their fathers before them. These recruits then go on to cultivate friendships and connections that are vital to their future careers and often catapult them to positions of power. Examples of this are Vice-prime minister Wopke Hoekstra (Minerva), former head of D66 Alexander Pechtold (Minerva), former mayor of Amsterdam Job Cohen (Vindicat), and King Willem Alexander (Minerva). If it wasn’t for the misogynistic rhetoric of the group our future Queen princes Amalia would have joined the A.S.C/A.V.S.V the Corps of Amsterdam. The misogynists, racists, and in the worst-case murderers that call these institutions home will most likely be the same people dictating the rules of the country in the future.
So what can we do about these groups? Surprisingly little. Universities are hesitant to cut ties with them due to their long-standing historical relationship. Even when that does happen, and they lose their funding, the wealthy background of future and former members still guarantees them the ample funds they need to survive. The best we could do is call these people out on their behavior. Shame those who defend their fellow members’ actions and most importantly not join. Starving the group of incumbent members will eventually kill it off: Nijmege’s old Corps eventually starved to death due to a lack of new members. You can make plenty of friends at uni without having to succumb to the social lows of Het Corps.