Student life

The OWee effect: Delft student associations attract fewer new members

Sports and social associations have fewer new members this year than last year. “Holding the OWee earlier this year definitely affected us.”

OWee participants during the cantus. (Photo: Jaden Accord)

Various student associations and the OWee organisers say that having had to hold the Reception Week and the International Programme (IP, the introduction week for master students) earlier this year has had a negative effect on the number of students who signed up for association membership. This came to light when Delta approached the student associations.

The OWee should have been held in the third week of August as usual, but the Municipality put a spoke in the wheel. Its concern about sleepless nights for other people in Delft meant that it wanted to avoid the OWee being held in the first week of school for primary and secondary school pupils, as happened in 2022.

Water fun during the Schiedinner. (Photo: Jaden Accord)

So the Reception Week had to be held a week earlier, and this was made known relatively late. There were concerns about fewer first year attendees and volunteers among senior students (as they had already booked their holidays), logistical problems with things like the rental of locations for first-years’ weekends, and thus fewer new members.

Fewer participants, fewer registrations
These concerns now appear to be well founded. The four large social associations (Delftsch Studenten Corps (DSC), Virgiel, Delftsche Studenten Bond and Sint Jansbrug) have had almost 15% fewer registrations in total than last year. None of the four even reached the membership cap – the maximum number of new members that a student association can admit – while last year DSC had to turn away 50 first year students.

A Virgiel Board Member, Frederique Hemler, views the lower number of registrations as a logical consequence of moving the OWee forward. “There were fewer attendees, so fewer new students who came to check out our student association.”

Sports clubs
Both the Laga and Proteus-Eretes rowing associations had to draw lots (both student associations had a membership cap of 250 students this year), but there too it was quieter. “In previous years, 650 to 800 students signed up and this year there were only 429,” said Cathelijn Bogers, Proteus-Eretes Chair.

The Scoop hockey club and Ariston football club faced the same situation. They may have reached their capacity, but saw the number of registrations drop. “Compared to last year, there are 30 fewer people on the waiting list,” said Britt van Egmond, a Scoop Board Member.

Whether that is a direct consequence of pushing the OWee forward, Bouchra Bouras, Ariston’s Secretary, does not dare say. “But it is striking and unexpected.”

Click here for the number of registrations for each sports club

The ELS (Effe Lekker Schaatsen, go and have fun skating) saw the number of registrations halve and is more outspoken. ‘There is no other explanation. We are not a big student association, so it is a real shame’, the Board wrote in a response.

There was no such reversal at the DROP board sports club. The maximum number of members – there was place for 60 new members this year – was well exceeded. What did change though was how people could sign up, explained Board Member Anne Nap. “More students signed up online as they were on holiday during the reception week.”

International students
Of the smaller social associations, De Koornbeurs saw a drop in the number of international registrations, while the number of Dutch registrations remained the same. And in the case of D.S.V. ‘New Delft’, new members mostly signed up after the reception week. “This shows that pushing the OWee forward had a negative impact. It was quieter than in previous years,” says Astra Boukens, club Secretary. “First year students are still dropping by to see what we are about and sign up, but we would have preferred them to have done so during the OWee. They then have the opportunity to join the introduction period and they build a stronger bond with their fellow students.”

Groups of participants have dinner during the OWee at Christian student association CSR. (Photo: Jaden Accord)

In the case of smaller student associations, holding the reception week also caused some logistical problems. There were fewer volunteers available at Shot (beach volleyball), SoSalsa (dance), Pegasus (gymnastics) and the CSFR Christian student association. “Many of our members had already arranged their holidays. So we arranged fewer activities at the OWee,” says Inez Dekker, Ab Actis (Secretary) of CSFR.

  • The Wolbodo ‘human association’, that was banned from the OWee by the Executive Board, welcomed three new members. ‘It is hard to say whether the sanctions affected this number’ the Board wrote in an email. ‘In any case, we saw very few people with wrist bands (OWee attendees wear wrist bands, Eds.).” 

The OWee effect
Alex Lokhorst, who was closely involved in the organisation of the reception week in his role as a liaison community relations, believes that holding the OWee earlier “definitely impacted” the drop in the number of registrations.

“The figures show a ‘strong OWee effect’,” he says. The number of first year bachelor students at TU Delft was lower by a little less than 1% compared to the 2022-2023 academic year. The number of OWee attendees was a significant 9% lower (from 2,866 TU Delft attendees in 2022 to 2,581 in 2023), while the organisers had expected 3,400 this year.

OWee-deelnemers dragen een polsbandje. (Foto: Jos Wassink)

“This means – put very simply – that fewer students were there to meet the different student associations. There were no significant drops in introduction weeks elsewhere around the country,” says Lokhorst.

‘Loneliness lurks’
Lokhorst calls the situation ‘a sorry state of affairs and worrying’. “Fewer students have received the necessary information about well-being and social safety. Apart from this, we need to understand that it is important for all students to feel that they belong somewhere. Loneliness is now lurking around the corner. Student associations can be an important social safety net.

The OWee will go back to being held in the usual week in the next four years as there is no overlap with the start of the new primary and secondary school years. Should the Municipality continue the requirement that the reception week not be held during a school week, the same situation will be repeated in 2028 and 2029.

And, as in this year, DSC and Virgiel will again celebrate an important anniversary, says Lokhorst. “For their members this means choosing between the anniversary celebration, being part of the OWee, or going on holiday. This will again mean fewer volunteers and mentors to make sure the OWee runs smoothly. Whatever happens, we will bend over backwards to come up with new ways to welcome first years to Delft.”

News editor Marjolein van der Veldt

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