Antwerp Uni wants to stop ‘Buy-a-Fresher’

Herman van Goethem, the rector of Antwerp University, is seeking an explicit ban on the sale of freshers.  Among student fraternities it is common to stage auctions of freshers i.e. first year students.  A fresher purchased is then obliged to fulfil several tasks for up to a week for his or her ‘master or mistress’. The rector says today’s charter that regulates initiation rites includes too much room for interpretation.

Buying a fresher has been part of Flemish university initiation rites for many years.  Freshers are sold to the highest bidder, who hen ‘owns’ the fresher for several days.

Rector Van Goethem points to the fact that under the present charter all initiation rites including student baptisms must occur in public.  But owning a fresher can last as long as a week.  “It’s impossible to check all week long what is going on” Van Goethem told VRT Radio.

The rector isn’t worried about the reaction from the student fraternity: “Time is ripe for this debate” he says adding students were deeply moved by the death of fresher Sanda Dia during a racist initiation at Leuven University.  “They realise this isn’t up for repeat.  We are looking at how a ritual of humiliation can be turned into a welcoming ritual.”

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