Updated: Nov 18, 2020
With an outstanding 49% of international students across the faculties from over 100 nationalities, Maastricht University is considered to be ‘the most international university in The Netherlands’. Fraternities and sororities have become a deep-rooted tradition that constitutes an undeniable aspect of student life in Maastricht. Nonetheless, not every student fulfils the requirements set to join them and the ones who do, often feel the need to quit due to the common series of hazing they are forced to put up with. Controversy has hit the country after the shocking events in both Amsterdam and Groningen, where several students have been hospitalized due to severe injuries provoked during the hazing. The punishment derived was mild; no one wants to sanction this ignominious ritual.
A new fraternity
One year ago Felix Kriedemann, second-year European Studies student, decided to break this infamous tradition and founded the first international fraternity: Beta Kappa Sigma (BKS). This innovative idea has been highly successful among all faculties; it now counts with an outstanding number of 36 members and grows every month. Applying is simple; either via their Facebook page or directly contacting one of the members of the fraternity. The newcomer does not need to go through a process of hazing; a two-month try-out is what stands between them and being part of BKS. The president, Niklas Bose, underlines the reason for this peculiar procedure: “Our fraternity is all about friendship; no one needs to prove their value”.
How does it differ from ‘traditional’ fraternities?
Everyone is welcomed. One of their newest members is Breslin Ponath, an exchange student who came to Maastricht from Wisconsin and was first introduced to the fraternity by a friend. BKS has become more than just a social activity for her; it has allowed her to gain a better understanding of the city and to get in contact with students from all kind of backgrounds.
As the three mentioned students repeatedly said, their fraternity is not only about partying and drinking; university constitutes a major part of it. The position of Academic Chairman is a figure Felix intends to establish. Its function would be to assist members in solving every issue that concerns classes, study groups and school.
What activities are expected when joining BKS?
Their largest event is the beer pong tournament that the fraternity organizes. It is established to take place every once in a period. Last time 48 players and a total of 70 students attended the event. It is not an exclusive party, members are allowed to bring their friends and to follow the saying ‘the more the merrier’. Every student is welcomed into their activities in order to get to know the fraternity. As Felix points out, the goal of BKS is to stand out from the old-fashioned fraternities and sororities in Maastricht. “We are just a large group of friends which do not care about nationalities, faculties, gender or native language”.
BKS celebrates the ‘FYP’ (Forget Your Problems) meeting every Wednesday at Shamrock, and what started as a simple gather has become the most acclaimed tradition. In addition to their weekly meeting, the group usually meets several days during the week to have lunch together, go to the cinema or simply have a beer in the inner city. Trips are also an activity they enjoy and their latest one (a trip to Amsterdam especially designed for first-year students) will be followed shortly by a camping trip, a visit to The Hague or any other idea to be proposed.
The first step towards the new model of fraternity
What started as grassroots back in 2014, has now developed into an innovative association based on the essence of respect, friendship and a common goal; to make their university years unforgettable. However, scandals surrounding fraternities and sororities around the world keep arising; several students in the US have suffered injury –or even died– when ‘pledging’, a term used to describe the initiation prospective members have to pass to be accepted in the fraternity. The main argument used to defend this controversy claims that the hazing strengthens emotional bonds among applicants. Nonetheless, a new system has started in Maastricht. A system which does not contemplate the degradation of its members, providing students with a safe environment to develop the best of them and creates lifelong friends.