Student baptisms: This is not ‘hazing’

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Another case of a student suffering hypothermia after a baptism has raised the bar – more and more Universities appear ready to follow the example of the Rector of the University of Liège, who has suspended all baptisms by his students (read his reaction to the latest drama in Student baptisms: Beer, vomit and animal blood.)

In part two of our dossier, Quentin le Bussy, former president of the AGEL (General Association of Liege Students) and current municipal councillor in Liege, responds to criticism of those who organize student baptisms in Belgium.

“If you speak to people ten or twenty years after their baptism, they say the connections they made during the baptismal event are priceless. If you look at it from a distance, you might have the impression that it is demeaning. But it is not.

Le Bussy says: “Baptisms are heavily criticized by some university leaders and people in society, particularly.

“I must reiterate that baptism is not a ‘hazing’. This is a debate imported from France where there is a practice of forcing students. In Belgium, we want to get involved in a group to which we willingly commit. Baptism is an intense role-playing game that lasts several weeks where the sponsor plays a role and the freshman also agrees to play his. This is a time when we learn to find out more about people who baptize you, and also about other rookies.

But does he deny that there are excesses, especially in some schools?

“I can’t say that there are no assholes in baptisms, as is the case everywhere in society. The organizers and coaches want to control baptisms and practice a policy of limiting risk. We have worked for several years with services within the University of Liège to raise awareness among students and committee leaders. For five years now, for example, ceremonies take place with only non-alcoholic beer available. But a prohibitionist policy would eliminate any form of structured supervision, and these baptismal practices would go underground, with the risks that entails.”

A third-year veterinary student told La Libre Belgique anonymously that what happened last week in Liège is not exceptional. He personally experienced the same treatment when he was baptized, and he claims that those who say the seamy side doesn’t exist are lying.

Le Bussy said: “I obviously can’t contradict this because I don’t know his case. It is true that the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine has a history that is not the same as other faculties and high schools active in the city of Liege. Having attended many baptisms, I can assure you that there is nothing to complain about when it comes to members of the baptismal committee.

“A freshman is in a relationship with his sponsor and his comrades, – it all more or less fun depending on the wisdom of all involved. Personally, I want to say that I absolutely do not condone what happened recently among the veterinary students. I can testify that the committees never let someone take part if he or she is not ready.”

In an interview, the rector says some students feel compelled to be baptized because they are afraid of being excluded from the community and left to fend for themselves.

“For me, people can’t see the wood for the trees. Historically, the student experience has been very different in the faculty of veterinary medicine, but the reality is that in other facs, the real risk is coming across a professor sporting a ‘penne’ and getting his revenge at exam time.”

The ‘penne is the baseball cap worn by members of certain circles.

‘Hazing’ is the practice of rituals and other activities involving harassment, abuse or humiliation used as a way of initiating a person into a group. Wikipedia

Source: La Libre Belgique

Photo ‘penne’: Wood