Friday 18 November - After three years of enforced delay due to the corona pandemic, the time had finally come. St-V, the annual festival where students from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) and Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) celebrate the foundation of their university on 20 November 1834 by Pierre-Théodore Verhaegen, could once again take place. Thousands of Brussels students and former students gathered on the Grote Zavel in the capital, craving a full-blooded celebration. And that’s just what they got. But not without some engagement, as it turned out...
After all, the theme of this edition was “Bear your laws without aborting our rights.”
“The theme is not only incredibly topical given that abortion rights and broader women’s rights are under pressure in several parts of the world,” says Joyce Verbrugghe, president of the Brussels Student Society (BSG). “It also refers to a wider social climate in which acquired human rights and scientific certainties are no longer taken for granted due to disinformation and polarisation.”
“Not my folklore”
But that wasn’t the only theme the BSG wanted to highlight. Members of student circles handed out badges with the slogan “Not my folklore”, as a sign to make it clear that transgressive behaviour has no place in their associations or their traditions.
“This statement, via a badge with a clear message that can be pinned symbolically on a cap or lab coat, should make it clear that our student community is really committed and speaks out against this,” says Verbrugghe. “With the new initiation charter, among other things, we want to create a safe environment where we can initiate and celebrate. An environment where we can stick to our folk traditions without being blind to the social zeitgeist in which we live. Transgressive behaviour is not and will never be part of our folklore."
Moreover, what was new this year was that St-V ran over two days, as 20 November falls on a Sunday*. On Thursday 17 November, numerous official commemorations and activities took place to honour founder Théodore Verhaegen, including a guided Saint-Verhaegen walk and a torchlight procession.
The ceremonies resumed the following day with a breakfast hosted by Christos Doulkeridis, mayor of Elsene. There were also floral tributes, a joint VUB-ULB session at Brussels City Hall and the raising of the Glass of Friendship.
By Friday afternoon, students of the BSG of VUB and l’Association des Cercles Etudiants of ULB gathered on the Grote Zavel in their city in their thousands. They felt the need to make it unforgettable, having not been able to celebrate for three years due to Covid-19. At around 16.30, a procession of students headed towards the steps of the Beurs, where at 17.00 they launched into a rendition of the universities’ anthems: the Lied Van Geen Taal and Le Semeur.