Independent journalism about VU Amsterdam | Since 1953
17 June 2024

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‘We were attacked while studying in the main building’

Two VU students say they were violently attacked in the main building of VU Amsterdam, by a group of youths who harassed them and eventually threw punches. The alleged culprits are believed to be from outside of the VU community.

When first-year Artificial Intelligence student Faritzky Prabaswara shows up to tell his story, he has a slight discoloration on the side of his face, presumably from being punched. He remarks how strange it is that everyone on campus is going about their business as if it’s any other day. He says he and his friend Sofie were attacked there the previous night, Sunday the 29th of January around 7.30 PM.

Sofie, who wishes to remain anonymous and is also an international student, says they were studying and chatting on the twelfth floor of the main building. She explains that a group of five or six guys kept taunting them and used homophobic language.

Throwing punches

Sofie: “We decided to leave. But before we turned the corner, I heard one of them shouting a racist slur. I recognized it was the same person who made an anti-gay joke.” The slur was apparently directed at Prabaswara who is Indonesian. He says he wasn’t bothered by it, but Sofie wasn’t having it. “I walked directly to him and said something like: that’s enough. I think I stood too close to him and he hit me in the face.”

“It wasn’t like a slap. It was a real punch with no hesitation and she was knocked against the wall”, adds Prabaswara. “I shouted and tried to get between them, but before I could finish my sentence I was attacked from the side and the others joined in throwing punches. They ran away afterwards.” The student explains that he bled a lot and shows the dark red residue on his earphones, jacket and shirt.

A student of the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS) backs their story up over the phone. She describes a group of sixteen- or seventeen-year-olds (‘possibly older‘) running off when she moved towards the commotion, after which she saw a bloodied Prabaswara and Sofie with a swollen face. The AUAS-student says the group was likely smoking in a nearby classroom (12A-33 according to Prabaswara). The classroom apparently smelled like weed and had a lot of litter lying around.

Security footage

There are no cameras nearby the location of the incident but Prabaswara says he could recognize some of the attackers leaving a staircase on security footage. He says the VU Amsterdam security team told him they would hand over the footage to the police if they’re asked for it. The student also says the police did show up and advised them to file a report.

No comment When seeking confirmation of the incident with an employee at the security desk, he acknowledges that he heard about a fight on the day of the incident, but remains tight-lipped about the details. The head of security Rob Pel is not willing to confirm or deny whether the incident even happened. Likewise the police is not willing to confirm their own presence or involvement. One of the students claims they’ve filed a police report and the other plans to do so this weekend.

Sofie doesn’t seem very hopeful that anything will get done. She feels insecure about her ability to even recognize most of the group. “It would have been nice for the university to employ more cameras – not to the point of complete surveillance – so instances like this are easier to investigate.”

Prabaswara worries that the university might not take the situation very seriously: “I’m not hearing that this will be investigated by the institution or that they will take measures. I am meeting with people from security again next week.”

He was already planning to unenroll for the remainder of the year due to personal circumstances and expects to continue at VU Amsterdam in September. Prabaswara isn’t sure whether he will feel safe again studying on campus at night. Sofie says she doesn’t feel particularly less safe, as she was already aware that these things can happen. “I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t avoid studying on the same floor for the time being”, she adds.

The witness from AUAS also says the problem of rowdy non-students entering the building has been going on for a while now. The head of security confirms that this can happen and says they’re actively surveilling to stop that. He notes that it’s hard to stop all unwanted guests because it’s a big and open building. At the moment, he sees no reason to change the security guidelines.

The identity of Sofie is known to the editors


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