College freshmen getting bullied during ‘ospek’ is still a thing, but it looks so silly online

A video clip of the ospek-via-Zoom, which became widely circulated since yesterday, shows three senior students taking turns yelling at freshmen from Unesa’s Faculty of Education about their orientation uniform. Unesa, the State University of Surabaya, is located in the East Java capital. Screenshot from video
A video clip of the ospek-via-Zoom, which became widely circulated since yesterday, shows three senior students taking turns yelling at freshmen from Unesa’s Faculty of Education about their orientation uniform. Unesa, the State University of Surabaya, is located in the East Java capital. Screenshot from video

Anyone who’s gone to university in Indonesia likely dreaded ospek ⁠— an orientation period traditionally marked with hazing to “strengthen the mentalities” of freshmen. But with universities across the country moving to online learning during the pandemic, it appears that ospek has moved online too.

It just looks so darn silly, though.

One such online ospek that has become the subject of much ridicule was carried out by students of the State University of Surabaya (Unesa) in the East Java capital. It was so ridiculous that the public questioned the need for ospek at this time. 

A video clip of the ospek-via-Zoom, which became widely circulated since yesterday, shows three senior students taking turns yelling at freshmen from Unesa’s Faculty of Education about their orientation uniform. 

“Where’s your belt? Show us your belt,” the male seniors asked in the beginning.

A female freshman in the black hijab responded by saying that she wasn’t wearing one.

“You didn’t read the code of conduct?” the female senior asked in a high tone, to which the freshman responded with an apology. 

Another clip showed at least four seniors getting in a heated debate and shoving each other. It was allegedly a set-up, and the freshmen were expected to try and help end the fight virtually.

These clips were part of a full online ospek video that was initially made publicly available on YouTube, but appears to have been taken down since it went viral. As expected, netizens made fun of the seniors, who appeared committed enough to try and look intimidating in front of the camera, while also criticizing the Indonesian education system for still perpetuating privilege through seniority.

Unesa’s spokeswoman Vinda Maya confirmed today that the online ospek took place last Wednesday.

“This has become an important note for us. We [regret] violence in any form, be it verbal or non-verbal, online or offline, we regret that it happened,” Vinda said.

“We regret this incident, but we also admit that there was an error in coordinating the implementation of the introduction to campus life program for new students in one of Unesa’s faculties,” Unesa’s rector Nurhasan said in a written statement today.

University officials are scheduled to question the seniors who organized the ospek and the freshmen, saying that they will solve the matter internally and in a kekeluargaan manner. Kekeluargaan, which roughly translates to “between family members,” is an Indonesian euphemism for amicably coming to an agreement not to press charges for a crime.

In 2016, then-Education Affairs Minister Anies Baswedan issued a decree banning hazing and other forms of abuse or bullying to take place during orientation. However, just a year later, three university freshmen died from wounds consistent with physical torture, which they endured during their ospek.

The fact that students are now still finding ways to haze freshmen, even if they have to do it online, goes to show that it’s difficult to stop the violent cycle of this dangerous tradition.

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