27.2 degrees: this was the body temperature of future engineer Sanda Dia (20) when he was taken to hospital in the evening of December 5, 2018 by members of the Belgian student association Reuzegom. The blood came from his nose and mouth and his organs stopped working. Next week, eighteen people involved will be in court in the case that is horrifying all of Belgium. What happened to the 20-year-old student during the hazing?
Dia decided in 2018, during his studies at the Catholic University (KU) in Leuven, that it is good for his contacts and future if he joins the elite Reuzegom.
Many former members have been given leading jobs: judge, lawyer, banker. The slogan of the group: In order to live, grow and flourish (So that they live, grow and blossom). Dia also sees this future for herself. Together with a few other aspiring members, he takes part in the two-day hazing, called a ‘baptism’ in Belgium.
The first day takes place in Leuven itself and is mainly devoted to binge drinking, according to a reconstruction of The newspapaer. Bottles of gin, beer and vodka are put to the lips of the aspiring members. They puke and lie motionless on the floor, but instead of cutting back, the situation gets worse: the faucets are disabled so they can’t ease their hangover.
With Dia in the backseat, Reuzegom drives on the second day to the Cardon log cabin, a house in a remote area in Vorselaar. And here it doesn’t get much better for the aspiring members, can be read in the reconstruction. In the icy cold they have to dig a hole, which they then have to stand in. They are being urinated over, the association members throw buckets of cold water and one of the aspiring members is even pooped.
The flag of Reuzegom. (Photo: Wikimedia)
Slide’s health deteriorates rapidly
Things are rapidly deteriorating with Dia, who has already been weakened by drinking a lot the day before. The aspiring members are imposed ‘food tests’ and must, among other things, drink fish sauce and eat a live goldfish. While a live mouse is being put in the blender in the cottage kitchen, the young student loses consciousness. Decades after he is taken out of the well, he is taken to hospital.
The doctors determine that the salt content in his body is so high that he is suffering from organ failure. That same evening the engineering student dies. According to The newspapaer the cries of one of the leaders, Alexander G., change from “We’re going to make it a crazy brutal year” to “If he doesn’t make it, ‘Zaadje’ (nickname other leader, ed.) and I just go for it. turn up, huh “.
How did it get this far? That is the question that occupies Belgium. “Where crowds come together, crazy things happen”, says Arjaan Wit, associate professor of psychology at Leiden University.
He explains that if there is no counter-voice, situations can get out of hand. “Especially if there is drinking and the organizing committee wants to go over the other year in terms of intensity.” Wit hopes that excesses like these will not occur much anymore due to the increased empowerment of young people. But the risk of escalation is still there.
“There is one word for this file: disgust”
Lawyer Sven Mary
‘Offering space to critical people is important’
The associate professor of psychology is therefore regularly approached by student associations who want advice on hazing. Wit, whose own daughter was pushed into the water blindfolded during a hazing at a rowing club in Leiden, believes that “a little caution won’t hurt”, not only physically, but also when it comes to insults.
“The most important thing is that the committees prepare well, put everything on paper and offer space to critical people. Both during the preparation and during the hazing,” said Wit. He also tipped off student associations that putting first and last names on the shirts of the organizing committee works to increase the sense of responsibility.
Fuss about handling case
Belgium is looking with great interest at next Friday, when the suspects appear before the courtroom. A petition for the prosecution of the involved eighteen former members of Reuzegom has now been signed almost twenty thousand times. Among the suspects are the organizer of the hazing Alexander G. and the former president of Reuzegom named Jef J., also known as ‘Zaadje’.
It is up to the council chamber to determine what the burden of proof is and how the case should proceed. According to Belgian media, shortly after Dia’s death, WhatsApp conversations were deleted and the log cabin was thoroughly cleaned.
At the time, KU Leuven ended the incident with community service for the members of Reuzegom, which, incidentally, ended not long after Dia’s death. Rector Luc Sels recently said that he would like to consider an alternative to traditional baptisms. The university does not want to answer questions from the media now that the case is under the judge.
Dia’s father is represented by lawyer Sven Mary, a well-known criminal lawyer who assisted terrorist Salah Abdeslam, among others. “There is only one word for this file. And when you pronounce it, you intuitively start looking for the superlative. The word is disgust,” said the counsel.