By Franciszek Dziduch and Lisa Jesudas
— On the morning of 9 November, tension rose in the academic building as students received a collective email by the AUC Management Team, AUC Student Association (AUCSA), and AUC Student Council (AUCSC). The email states that “[o]ver the weekend, we were informed of some instances of students being given drugs or other substances without their knowledge (spiked) at AUCSA-organised events”.
Expressions of shock, disbelief and anger could be heard throughout the common areas. Two known cases of spiking had taken place on 29 October at a concert organised by Dormsessions and another two on 2 November at the Solace Halloween Party in the Panama Club. The Herring has interviewed the latter two. Wishing to remain anonymous, they will be referred to as Olivia and Charlotte.
As of now, Olivia maintains that she feels okay. She did not remember anything when waking up the morning after the Solace Halloween Party and first tried to laugh it off. “It was like an out of body experience, it didn’t seem like this had happened to me,” she says. She jokingly texted her friend that she had no recollection of the night before, but grew more restless with each hour. Marked by the many bruises after continuously falling from her bike the night before, she became slowly aware of what her body had been through. By the afternoon, she was close to panic.
Charlotte also declares that she is fine now, although she notices that the feeling of anxiety while being around people does not wear off. After the party, she woke up at 5:00 feeling extremely stressed. At first, she thought that the loss of memory was caused by the combination of alcohol and her meds. After calling Olivia, however, she realised that she had also fallen victim to spiking.
Olivia and Charlotte were among the first people at the Solace party. After receiving their stamps and seeing that no one was there yet, they decided to come back later. While skipping the line upon their return, two men who were still queuing offered them a drink from their bottle. Charlotte remembers the taste to be liquorish. Although neither of them recalls how the men looked, they had previously seen them talking with other AUC students, thus judging that they were enrolled there as well. Charlotte remarks that this was the only moment in which they could have been spiked.
Both of the girls recall entering the club and taking their jackets off in the cloakroom. This is where their memory of the night ends. “I remember smiling at my friends and suddenly losing balance. At first I thought I tripped and laughed with my friends,” Charlotte says. Olivia adds that she noticed Charlotte behaving drunk. “Shortly after, I also felt weirdly intoxicated,” she says. They only know what happened next from the testimonies of friends.
Olivia assumes that everything after happened within twenty minutes. She called her friend, mumbling that she felt extremely drunk. She called again shortly after, crying and pleading to help her. She went outside, leaving everyone behind. Soon, Olivia’s friend picked her up. At first, they tried to cycle back to the dorms, but Olivia was unable to do so and fell numerous times. Eventually, they ordered an Uber and she returned safely to her room. Olivia points out that before going to sleep, she was able to hold a normal conversation. She chatted with her friend about what they were going to do the next day, separated laundry and changed herself into pajamas. “I don’t remember anything of this and wouldn’t know if not for the presence of my friend,” she says.
Charlotte, in turn, was in extreme luck. Barely conscious, she was found by an AUC student she hadn’t met before, sitting in the corner of the club. The student noticed that she was not feeling well, ordered an Uber and took her to the dorms. “When I woke up in the morning, I realised that I had not been just drunk: I could remember the smell of the girl, but I didn’t know what she looked like; I could feel being in the Uber, but I couldn’t see it.”
The next day, Charlotte had a meeting with her tutor during which she decided to disclose the previous night’s occurrences. The tutor immediately put her in touch with a psychologist and handed out a form through which she could notify AUC’s management team, as well as the well-being team. Both Olivia and Charlotte had meetings with the well-being team and AUCSA.
Olivia wonders whether more AUC students have been the victims of spiking. “All the time, in the back of your mind, you have this thought, if this really happened to you, if you’re not making a controversy out of nothing, because nobody talks about it…” She hopes that more victims will speak up.
Neither girl got tested on the drug they were spiked with – the tests would cost them 300 euros each. Even scheduling a doctor’s appointment required such huge efforts that they decided to let it go. They are both reluctant to go to the police, as for their own mental health, they do not wish to find out who the assaulters were; what is important to them is that they both are assured that nothing worse happened to them.
Solace’s chair Lamia Rahman was in contact with one of the spiking victims from the Halloween party. Rahman offered to help in any way, both with emotional support and any logistic information regarding the registration list of the party.
The party committee states that 410 tickets were sold to AUC students, while 90 tickets were sold to non-AUC individuals. Non-AUC individuals most likely heard about the event through word of mouth as they were not specifically advertised to. Solace has a record of all people’s identities that was handed over to AUCSA after the spiking cases became public. It is unclear whether the culprits were members of the AUC community, but there are suspicions among the student body that it may well have been done by someone from AUC. Rahman discloses that committee members are responsible for tasks such as checking tickets and scanning QR codes, while security checks were done by the club security.
Moving forward, Solace intends to spread awareness on spiking to ensure the safety of individuals at AUC events as well as when participating in Amsterdam nightlife. The committee intends to drastically increase security measures and checks for future events. Solace will no longer host events at Panama Club and plans to have a much more thorough vetting process of event spaces. Event spaces will also be informed that instances of spiking have occurred at AUCSA-organised events in the past.
The Herring also reached out to Dormsessions. The committee confirms that two non-AUC students fell victim of spiking. One of them did not drink any alcohol that night; during the concert, they only drank a cup of water that was presumably spiked. Later that night, to their bewilderment, they started feeling intoxicated and woke up the next day feeling bad, accompanied by body pains.
Another person testified feeling something in their arm while in the crowd at Dormsessions. “They didn’t think of it at the moment”, the spokesperson adds, “as they thought that they may have been poked with something sharp, clothing for example. But then, the same thing happened – they started feeling drunk and out of it.” It turned out that the person fell victim to spiking through injection: they found a pink prick on their arm and a blue bruise around it. The next day, the victim went to the hospital and underwent a vaccination programme against possible diseases. The person also reported to the police, but was met with a response that nothing could be done. Both of the victims were taken care of by their friends.
A board member of Dormsessions remarks that they informed AUCSA about the spiking incidents four days prior to their Tuesday statement. “I believe that they should’ve released something quicker, as there was a full weekend when the students went on partying, unaware of possible dangers.” Nevertheless, they are aware that AUCSA had not gathered all the information at the time.
The Dormsessions Committee held a General Board Meeting, during which they decided to introduce new rules such as the replacement of water cups with bottles. They also plan on establishing a new door policy. Before the event, participants will have to fill in a form to revoke anonymity and to control who enters and exits. The Board Members will also be wearing special T-Shirts during the concerts, so participants will know who to come to in case of an emergency.
AUCSA secretary Ankita Brahmachari recalls that the board was informed about the spiking incidents on the evening of November 5 and planned a crisis meeting for the next morning. “We then contacted the AUC management team, the well-being team and the student council,” Brahmachari says. After the meeting, two representatives talked to three of the four victims and asked for a detailed description of their experiences. In the morning of November 8, the AUC management team, AUCSA and AUCSC held a meeting discussing what had already been done and what the next steps would entail. First priority was notifying the student body. The same evening, the AUC management team drafted a statement that was proofread by AUCSA. After releasing it the next morning, the AUCSA board met with the well-being team to discuss the ideas for workshops and to propose further steps.
Brahmachari states that the AUC management team contacted the neighbourhood police and DUWO. The former is now aware of what is happening and a representative gave his details, along with a phone number. DUWO shared that it is not the first time they are being contacted regarding such matters and that spiking incidents may have happened in other college residences.
Discussions began taking place within AUC group chats. Particularly, in the LGBTQIA+ WhatsApp group, there were heated discussions on how the AUC administration addressed these reports in their email to the students. Janine Subgang, third-year Social Science major, described feeling very angry. They found that the email rightfully offered support to the victims, but “with your good intention, you are keeping a narrative that excludes the perpetrator”. It was to their surprise to find that nobody who reviewed the statement from AUC before its release noticed the alleged victim-driven narrative. According to Subgang, the impartial stance of the AUC management is a pattern when it comes to serious issues such as spiking.
Subgang criticises that the email from AUC provided more focus on practices to keep individuals safe, thus creating a “false illusion” that this is somehow in the control of the victim. She believes that the key to tackling this issue is not to merely focus on the individual, but to create a cultural change within the AUC community. These changes would foster a community where people can hold each other accountable to look after one another. While their hopes are optimistic, Subgang expresses that they do not expect to see a substantial change at AUC.
Subgang, in collaboration with members of AUC’s LGBTQIA+ community, drafted a response signed by over fourty students, objecting that AUC’s statement “takes a tone of victim-blaming”. Brahmachari says that the initial statement may have not been received by the student body as intended, understanding that it is a heavy and emotional topic. “We just wanted everyone to be notified and then focus on our further steps,” she says.
On Monday, 15 November, AUCSA and AUCSC issued the new action plan, which also implements the new regulations regarding COVID-19, on AUCSC’s Instagram account. The post explains what spiking is, what the symptoms are and what to do if one falls victim to it. Moreover, the action plan encourages everyone “to report and/or confront problematic behavior of any sort”. Until 19 November, office hours “will be dedicated as an open floor” for discussion. A newsletter containing updates on the incident will be released this Friday, 19 November.
All events held by the committees, commissions and teams (CCT), will be restricted to AUC students only, with CTTs being obliged to gather contact information. AUSCA and AUCSC will hold workshops for CTTs and the Student Body. The new safety measures that are now being explored consist of introducing lids for cups and designating “trained individuals who are appointed and identifiable” to be approached when needing help or wanting to report suspicious behaviours.
As of now, Olivia and Charlotte are in trenches – on one hand, they would want to enjoy partying again once the current COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. On the other hand, they are afraid of new spiking incidents. “We even discussed that one person in the group should be sober the whole night”, Olivia says – and immediately adds: “But what if that person gets spiked with a needle?”