Who says academic return to higher education also says return of student activities. In Louvain-La-Neuve, UCLouvain and student associations collaborated to imagine celebrations adapted to the necessary health measures in the context of the coronavirus.
From June and the end of the previous academic year, the question arose of how to reconcile student folklore and the events related to it with the health context imposed by the Covid-19 epidemic. In Louvain-La-Neuve, the university’s academic authorities have asked student associations to reflect on the subject and make proposals.
Baptisms postponed, windlasses at the table with its bubble
From the outset, a series of demonstrations were postponed or canceled. The traditional 24-hour bike ride that takes place in the fall will not take place this year. The blues will have to wait until the second quadrimester to be baptized. As for the windlasses, they will take place in a new way, close to the organization found in Horeca establishments.
According to the vice-president of the Fédé, the Walloon Federation of regional Louvain-La-Neuve, it will not be as before: “It’s arranged to correspond with the standard of hygiene. We totally forget what there was usually where we mingled, where everyone was together in the same room and where we slammed our glasses all together “, explains Julien Bourgeois, vice-president of the Fédé. “Here, we have adapted to Horeca standards to, all the same, open our rooms while being fair with what to do. It will be like in a normal bar. So, tables, chairs, wearing a mask when we are standing, 10 people per table in order to stay in our bubble. The staff will be masked. We will disinfect the tables once a group leaves “, continues Julien Bourgeois who does not see in this device the end of the guindailles.
The goal, to have more “wise” windlasses
As Julien Bourgeois details, “The goal of the maneuver is that we control how the students work, how they behave in order to prevent everything from picking up again and Louvain-La-Neuve finding itself like a little nest in Covid”. Thus, each manager, each committee that organizes an evening must have a “Covid manager”. He will control the alcohol circulating in the room and ensure that the rules are followed and identify those who go too far in the use of alcohol. If necessary, a private security service will be present, as was the case before the arrival of the Covid-19, made available by the authorities of UCLouvain.
The responsibility of student associations stops once the revelers have left the places where the parties are organized. However, raising students’ awareness of respecting health rules outside official party venues is also a priority. “We try to get the message across. For example, in our events, we tell them rather, come and have a drink calmly, seated at a table. You operate and put money into the cash registers of student animation collectives, rather than staying at home and mingling. With us you are sure to be safe “, explains Julien Bourgeois, vice-president of the Fédé.
University authorities trust and watch the grain
For their part, the academic authorities of UCLouvain note that the student organizations have worked well and have proposed activities that respect health measures and respect the protocol established jointly between these organizations and the university. The university authorities will be attentive to the unfolding of student activities which take place within the framework of associations linked to the university. In the event of non-compliance with the protocol, “It is obvious that disciplinary sanctions are possible. They can go as far as final dismissal from the university”, explains Philippe Hiligsmann, vice-rector for student affairs.
However, the academic authorities of UCLouvain do not want to stigmatize the students. “I’m a little fed up that we always stigmatize young people. There are certainly excesses. In the vast majority of cases, things are going well. We should also thank all the students who respect indeed health measures “, reacts Philippe Hiligsmann, vice-rector.
What about private parties, gatherings in public spaces that do not respect sanitary rules?
As we have seen, student associations will make students aware of compliance with health rules beyond officially organized activities and outside official places. Students who will be tempted to gather in the streets or in public spaces of Louvain-La-Neuve by not respecting the sanitary rules will confront, as everywhere in the country, the police and the municipal authorities. The reasoning is the same for private parties or gatherings in kots. All that is private is not the responsibility of the academic authorities of UCLouvain.
On the other hand, if students were to be arrested by the police and the judicial authorities, they would face sanctions from the university authorities. “Obviously, UCLouvain has no control over students who commit misdeeds on the public highway. It is the municipality of Louvain-La-Neuve or one of the other UCLouvain sites that intervenes with the police. We also have a prevention work in relation to all this. Things can go wrong with some students. If they are identified and if they are students of UCLouvain, they fall under the general regulations studies and exams and sanctions would be possible. It will take an investigation of the facts and it will be necessary to ensure that we are indeed dealing with reprehensible facts which are likely to undermine their status student “, explains Philippe Hiligsmann, vice-rector for student affairs at UCLouvain.
Here too, the vast majority of UCLouvain students should demonstrate a sense of responsibility.