Opinion divided about chanting: “People are so quick to take offense”

TU/e is divided about the "homophobic" chanting in unison during the Intro, an issue raised by a first-year student of Architecture, Building and Planning who reported feeling “pretty intimidated” by it. Two-thirds of the 376 respondents to Cursor's Facebook poll find the chants harmless and thinks they should be allowed. The remaining one-third has had enough of them - regardless of whether they mask any malicious intent.

photo Max Langerak

The number ‘Seven Nation Army’ by The White Stripes proved able to prompt chanting in unison on several occasions during Introduction Week, with variations on the line ‘all Germans are gay’ as football supporters, for example, have been known to chant. This caused discomfort and annoyance for Intro-goer Maarten Trietsch, a first-year of Architecture, Building and Planning and a gay student: “I get that as a performer you want to pull in your audience and excite them. But there is plenty of other great music for that, without it being at the expense of a particular group”.

Jeroen Jansen, TU/e student of Mechanical Engineering and a gay man, does not share Trietsch's view and experience at all. Jansen has more difficulty with the fact that the media tends to give airtime to “whingeing gay people” who are feeling offended. While he himself, especially after having spent six months abroad, would prefer to point out how gay-friendly the Netherlands actually is: “Although there is always room for improvement.”

Dishing it out and taking it

The greatest problem, as the student believes, is “that people in 2018 are so quick to take offense. People are being fired for tweets dating back ten years, for which they apologized at the time”. He takes his own circle of friends as a contrasting example, a group that is comfortable sharing somewhat coarser humor and the occasional personal insult. “You learn to dish it out, but also to take it. In our society, the latter ability seems to have declined a fair bit.”

That the public spontaneously starts singing about gay people when ‘Seven Nation Army’ is played is something Jansen is more inclined to interpret as brotherhood than hate. He says with a laugh, “In fact I always feel a little like I'm being celebrated. Just like during carnival, when ‘Joost is anders geaard’ [Joost bats for the other team] is played and my mates make contorted efforts to sing my two-syllable my name instead of Joost. People don't mean any harm by it.”

Similarly Jansen's near-namesake and chemistry student Jeroen Janse doesn't see what the problem is. He says you are likely to hear ‘all Japies are gay’ at various social events (referring to his department's study association Japie). “Complaints have been received from Nijmegen on occasion, but not from the association itself, oddly enough. And we sing along the loudest, poking fun at ourselves,” he writes descriptively in response to Cursor's Facebook poll. What's more, as he says, “After a coming-out, the ice is broken infinitely quickly anyway. It isn't an issue.”


But there is also some support for first-year Trietsch, who says it really is an issue. From Assistant Professor Wouter Ellenbroek (Department of Applied Physics), for example, who states: as TU/e you can waffle on about good intentions all you like, but they count for nothing if as a university administration you don't take a stand against chanting in unison of the kind that occurred during Introduction Week. Because, as he says, “It is simply a fact that these chants make our campus feel less welcoming to a significant fraction of the homosexual newcomers. Starting a new educational program is challenging enough without such external discouragement.”

Ellenbroek stresses: “In the piece by Cursor the Executive Board mentions whether a DJ or band would do better not to play a particular song any more. But I think that misses the point. This is about telling students that chants like these are not acceptable in our community.” On Facebook fellow Assistant Professor Björn Baumeier (Mathematics and Computer Science) agrees with him: “Prohibiting the DJ from playing a certain number is no more than applying a Band-Aid. The real problem is the widespread attitude that this is acceptable behavior.”

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