The Netherlands: Night of the Pig

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College freshmen and fraternity pledges are fair game for hazing, a ritual designed to humiliate them without actually killing them. But every so often, the ritual is carried to extremes, someone is badly hurt, and an angry public debate flares. In The Netherlands last week, such a debate was under way.

What touched of-the uproar was an incident in a University of Amsterdam student club, inappropriately called "Nos Inngit Amicitia" (Friendship Ties Us Together). When a freshman complained because a plate of hot soup was poured over him, he was told to keep quiet or face "the Dachau treatment," in which upperclassmen shout, "Jews stand up!" (or "Negroes stand up!" or "Are there any Chinese here?"), then taunt the victims. "I lost my parents there during the war," protested the freshman, but he was ordered to go through with the game. An indignant parent wrote a letter to a Rotterdam newspaper describing the incident, and soon a torrent of mail on the excesses of hazing was pouring in to papers across the land.

De-Greening. Students endure hazing so they can get into the Student Corps, social clubs that count roughly one-fourth of Holland's 45,000 college students as their members. For two weeks each fall, freshmen, called "foetuses," go about with shaven heads, submitting to insults and even beatings from upperclassmen. Since they are considered "greenhorns," the process is known as "ontgroening" (de-greening). Girls go through a mild form of hazing, though when Princess Beatrix was at Leiden University, authorities considered even that too rough and ordered special treatment for her. But the boys get the works.

Some, dressed in cutaway coats and bathing trunks, are dunked in swimming pools. In one ceremony, an upperclassman set a ball on a freshman's head and tried to knock it off with a hockey stick in the William Tell manner. He missed, and the victim suffered a brain concussion. An Amsterdam freshman told how 230 half-naked foetuses were jammed into a cellar and drenched with beer while upperclassmen walked on their heads; then the freshmen were forced to make their way out through a slender passageway called "the uterus."

Self-Defense. Most bizarre of all is Amsterdam's "Night of the Pig." Stripped naked, 200 freshmen are jammed so closely into a room that they can scarcely move, and a small pig, bloated with laxatives, is tossed into their midst. The nauseated freshmen often trample the terrified beast to death in sheer self-defense.

"Disgusting," said Education Minister Joseph Cals, and a meeting of Student Corps leaders voted, 127 to 87, to modify such monstrosities as the pig killing. But they left the system generally intact, which delighted many an old Dutch college grad. In the good old days, recalled Justice Minister Albert Beerman, a Leiden man, some students there were involved in a hazing scandal. "But finally," said he, "they all came to high and respectable posts in Dutch society."