‘Homophobic chants during Intro quite intimidating’

‘There’s no better start of your student days than a homophobic chant.’ It was a generous touch of cynicism with which first-year TU/e student Maarten Trietsch got rid of his frustration on Twitter last Wednesday night when commenting on the performance by Hottub Heroes during the Intro. This band had started the song ‘Seven Nation Army’ from The White Stripes, which resulted in alternative choruses about homos. It happened again on Friday afternoon with Kris Kross Amsterdam.

photo Max Langerak

By no means is it his intention to point a prominent finger so as to end up on the (digital) front page. For it is not ‘Maarten up against TU/e’, as Built Environment student Maarten Trietsch emphasizes, who adds that he himself has otherwise had an awesome Intro. “But I do find this an issue.”

By ‘this’ he means the collective chants started by students during the Intro when hearing the number ‘Seven Nation Army’, of which the famous guitar riff is eagerly used in various gatherings (including football stadiums) to chant ‘All Germans are gay’ or variations on it.

Less welcome

Trietsch, who is gay himself, is aware that this happens more often and that there are usually no angry “homophobic intentions” to it. “At house parties, for instance, it is occasionally sung also. Still, I hadn’t experienced it within such a large group yet - that was just quite intimidating. Not as if I sat down quietly in a corner to weep, but you do feel less welcome for a moment nonetheless.” Especially at an event organized by the university where you have to start your studies and where you would like to feel at ease, he adds. And that is why the intro student decided to post two films of the chants on Twitter.

He thinks that TU/e reacted very swiftly by emphasizing that the chants are not in keeping with its policy ‘that everybody should feel welcome at our university’. Furthermore, the artists scheduled to perform later that week would be briefed about the undesirability of such numbers with subsequent chants.

That Kris Kross Amsterdam yet began the same number on Friday afternoon is saddening for Trietsch. Artistic freedom, musical routine, the wishes of the audience perhaps - the student does not really feel for that. “It may sound a bit moralizing, but just don’t play that kind of songs anymore. I understand that it is important for artists to get their audience on board an whip up their emotions. There is plenty of other music to accomplish that, which is not offensive to a specific group.”

He realizes that the check for this by TU/e or the Intro organization does have its limits, in this particular case. “Yet I hope that I can bring about some sense of awareness and that we can start the discussion on this subject.”

No tight control

The Central Introductory Committee lets it be known through Pim Suijkerbuijk that it finds the incidents “very annoying”. He emphasizes that both TU/e and Intro are open to everybody, and that diversity is moreover a specific theme in the training that is given to intro supervisors beforehand.

He regrets that Kris Kross Amsterdam on Friday started the number nevertheless, against the TU/e request, “but we have no tight control over this. I do think that as CIC we can and must be aware of how things may look; we are definitely going to take this on board in our evaluation”.

Frank Baaijens, Rector Magnificus of TU/e, also says that it is right to make the incident a subject of discussion and indicates that he will gladly engage in a talk about it with first-year student Trietsch. Jan Mengelers, chairman of the Executive Board, does mention that “in this day and age the sensitivity about certain issues has increased” and that this may make it more difficult to react spontaneously, for fear of doing or saying something wrong. “In some cases it does constrain the room for natural movement in the public area.”

Yet, as he adds: “If this number invites an audience to start chants like this, we must from now on make agreements in advance that it should not be played”.

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