St V is the annual party when students from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) and Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) celebrate the founding of their university on 20 November 1834 by Pierre-Théodore Verhaegen. Thousands of Brussels students and many alumni gathered on the Grote Zavel in Brussels for a huge party.
As is traditional, the students chose a theme for their celebrations. This year’s subject was mental health, with the slogan “‘Hang in there’, that’s fine – funding us is better”. They feel the issue is under-reported, while the implications for students are real.
“Higher education is becoming increasingly difficult for lots of our fellow students,” says Pili Verbinnen, chair of the umbrella association Brussels StudentenGenootschap (BSG). “We often have to take on a job to be able to afford rising tuition fees. These financial and other concerns have an impact on our mental health and our results. And now we’re getting signals from the government that university isn’t for everyone. They just say: ‘keep going’. But we won’t put up with that. We oppose this elitist view of university and are fighting for the government to ensure that everyone gets equal opportunities in education.”
This year, St V took place over two days. On Thursday 16 November, a guided Sint-Verhaegen walk took place along the historic route. On Monday 20 November, celebrations started at 8.00 with breakfast at the town hall of Elsene. This was followed by official commemorations at the Brussels Cemetery and the National Shooting Range, a special opportunity to honour the people who helped to create the two universities. The ceremonial section of the day ended at Brussels City Hall.
At midday on Monday, the students of the BSG and ULB’s Association des Cercles étudiants gathered on the Grote Zavel in their thousands. The highlight was the procession that left the Grote Zavel at 16.30 and marched to the steps of the Beurs, where at 17.00 they sang the universities’ traditional hymns: the Lied van Geen Taal and Le Semeur.