By Anna Debeye and Ronja Boer
On Saturday, 9 April, the second day of the three-day AUCMUN conference, an evening boat gala was organised for all conference participants, hosting students within and outside the AUC student body. But things turned sour on Wednesday, 13 April, as AUCSA sent out a message informing that there had once again been a case of spiking. This shocked students, as it was the third time spiking had taken place at an AUCSA event this academic year after two instances in November 2021. Though AUCSA took measures after the first spiking instances, the MUN gala forced both committees and students to rethink the current measures to ensure safety and awareness.
The spiking victim at the MUN gala – who will be referred to as Sara to ensure anonymity – explains what happened. She left her drink with a friend to go dancing. When she returned, she found her glass unattended, but trusted the situation enough to continue drinking from it. “I was feeling very safe and very comfortable, completely surrounded by people I knew.” Although Sara herself does not have any memory of the evening, she repeats what her friends told her: “I suddenly went very slurred in my speech and could no longer stand”. After throwing up she eventually blacked out.
AUCSA had another event planned shortly after the newest spiking incident, namely DormSolace, and went ahead with it believing that it was too late to cancel. They did however tighten measures to prevent spiking. All bags were searched by independent security personnel. Despite the events at the boat gala, Sara decided to attend the DormSolace party: “I was definitely afraid, but I did not want to let it stop me”. Her main concern was the lack of awareness, as AUCSA only informed students that spiking had occurred the day before the DormSolace event. “I had talked to a lot of people in charge in the first few days after it happened and nothing was said publicly about it for five days almost.”
Although Sara appreciates the effort the committees put into ensuring the safety at the event, she took precautions, such as constantly staying with friends and keeping her drink covered. “I had a feeling of extreme safety before at AUC event and I don’t feel like that anymore.” According to Sara, the attendance of non-AUC people heightens the risk of spiking, as it is difficult to control what they are doing. It is crucial in her eyes that the organizers of events stay consistent with the security checks. Additionally, it might be smart to always have someone around that is sober and that people can reach out to for help. Lastly, Sara trusts a record of attendees to be incredibly useful, as it sets up an additional layer of accountability, since their names and details are known.
Mckayla Wehrli, a second-year Science student, also attended the boat gala and spent most of the evening helping out Sara. She reiterates how “the ambulance refused to come, since it wasn’t their problem.” They were convinced Sara was solely drunk and told those that were helping her to get her a taxi home instead. The organizers of the event were very involved and constantly checking in. Additionally, the owners of the boat were quite helpful. The rest of the guests of the gala were told that Sara was drunk, in order to avoid a panic. Thus at the end of the gala there were only a few people that were aware of the situation.
“It was very impressive to me, the simple idea that there were people within AUC that spiked girls within their own home, within our own community”
Wehrli explains that she is usually not too worried about being spiked, as she does not drink when she is out. “It was a little shocking, but there is a part of me that believes this was not done by someone at AUC.” She agrees that the attendance of non-AUC people provides a higher risk of spiking and therefore that keeping a record of the people coming in is a good idea. She mentions how at the gala “they were supposed to have a bag check, I remember that being a joke”. The checks were according to her not done thoroughly and she heard some of the students in charge mention how they did not want to be doing them at all. The presence of a security guard, both in general and during the bag checks could have improved the safety at the event. She states that students should not be in charge of bag checks and pat downs, as this is simply uncomfortable.
Second-year Social Science major Francesca Giannella also attended both the AUCMUN boat gala and the DormSolace party. She was aware of the recent spiking case when she attended the DormSolace party and remarked that she was not especially scared. “It is hard to say what is sufficient to prevent a spiking incident. I think the policy on spiking is generally up to date”, she says, adding that spiking is such a new problem within AUC that she understands boards are still trying to figure out the best way to handle it.
Giannella was not scared herself because she has not been directly affected by the situation, and acknowledges that most students keep going to events because “you feel like you’re immune to it because you can’t imagine yourself in that situation [being spiked], so I still go to events and I don’t know how scared I have to be to stop going”. She does, however, feel the impression spiking incidents have on (women in) the student body and those directly affected by it, stating: “It was very impressive to me, the simple idea that there were people within AUC that spiked girls within their own home, within our own community”.
After the first spiking cases back in November, AUCSA took serious measures to ensure safety and awareness. They have hosted workshops to educate and create awareness on the topic that were mandatory for committee boards that host events where spiking might occur and when requesting to host an event where alcohol might be consumed, boards must now detail which measures will be taken to ensure safety. They overall feel that their handling of the situation has gone well, though they are always open for feedback and suggestions.
There have been two measurements that sparked more conversation than others, the first being whether extras, people outside of AUC, should be allowed at events since spiking has so far only occured at events where this was the case. Initially, after the first cases in November, events with externals were not allowed, though this rule later loosened. AUCSA mentions that it is hard for some events, such as AUCMUN, to do it without externals. In addition, AUCSA, Dormsessions and students mention that it is unclear whether perpetrators are always non-AUC’ers. Giannella says on the topic that “if we want to reinforce the bubble and the idea that everyone outside of AUC is necessarily bad even more, then yes, we should never allow anyone from outside to join. But that is wrong to me.”
The second measure has been the scrunchies that cover drinks sold by AUCSA at events. Though students see how it prevents spiking (however, not when it is done with a needle), the fact that they are sold rather than given out for free rubs some the wrong way. AUCSA treasurer Rein Bernard clarifies: “People pay money to be part of us so we always try to give that money back to students. So when we made the budget the end result was 0 euros. We sell them for 2 euros, we buy them for 6,50 euros. We have to sell them for a little bit, because otherwise we could not afford it.” He also adds that scrunchies like these are quite new and hard to find and expensive, and that a discussion in the February GA led them to a consensus of the 2 euros selling price. As such, AUCSA thinks it is important to provide them for students at a lower price rather than students having to find them on their own. Sara explains that the drink cover made her feel safer, but as no one else was using one, it did not seem very effective. “I saw it as more of an image than an actual practical solution.”
Dormsessions explain how they became stricter after the first spiking happened at their event in November by “writing down people’s names and making sure there is some sort of control of who gets in.” Additionally, the committee took intervention courses in order to avoid this happening in the future. No spikings have occurred at Dormsessions’ events since. “We have done everything we could to make sure the event is as safe as possible.” They hope people are able to enjoy themselves more, knowing that safety measures are being taken.
Although AUCSA is in charge of the action plan regarding spikings, Dormsessions believe it is the job of the committees to ensure that it is being applied at events. The committee does not want to ignore the possibility that the spikings are done by someone within AUC and therefore do not wish to exclude externals from their events. They trust the record of attendees to be the most important measure to take into account. Additionally, spreading awareness is of crucial importance according to Dormsessions, as people might pay more attention to their surroundings at events as a result.
When asked for a response on the situation Solace replied that they “don’t want to comment on it”. Furthermore, they stated: “We stand by AUCSA’s decisions and our job is people’s enjoyment and safety.”