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The annual highlight of student folklore at VUB is the St-V parade, which will be held on Friday, November 18th in the heart of Brussels. That day VUB and her sister university ULB commemorate the founder of the university, Pierre-Théodore Verhaegen. In his memory students abundantly celebrate the core values of our university, i.e. free inquiry. No reason to stay away, since classes are suspended all day.

 

For VUB students there is only one saint: the one that founded their university, opposing Catholic tradition and putting academic freedom at the heart of science, following the main ideas of Enlightenment: liberty, equality and brotherhood.

 

A parody saint

The name Saint-Verhaegen, or St-V, parodies the catholic religion that ruled our region during the Middle Ages and beyond. Evidently, the Vatican never proclaimed the founder of a free thinking, rebellious university a saint. But the students do, year after year, raising their glasses against dogma and suppression.

 

The commemoration is normally held on November 20th, but since saints also need their Sunday rest - and university staff needs a real day off - this year’s celebration will take place on Friday November 18th. It will be quiet on campus, but loud downtown.

 

Flowers and beer

In the morning there will be an academic celebration. VUB and ULB officials will pay respect to Pierre-Théodore Verhaegen by laying flowers on his grave. At 12:00pm students and staff will gather at Grand Sablon for a huge party. At 4:00pm they will parade to La Bourse in the heart of the city.

 

Both locations have symbolic value, since they historically connect the bourgeoisie district with the poorer part of town. The underlying meaning of the student parade is to mock the aristocrats and show solidarity with the poor. 

   

Party village replaces trucks

The parade used to involve trucks, however that aspect was cut last year. The loud music and kegs of beer were fortunately upheld, as were the student fanfare and deejays. The two rectors will lead the parade to La Bourse, where the universities will sing their anthems. Afterwards, students will spread out in town and continue their party, that is if they’re still standing. If you plan on joining the student festivities, please do not wear your best suit, but dress casual and warm. Bring a large plastic cup for beer, but leave your bags at home for they will not be allowed in the party village at Grand Sablon.

 

In the upcoming weeks, VUBToday will have more on this tradition. But for now at least, you understand why you should put this event in your calendars. ‘Redelijke eigenzinnige’ free thinkers, join us on Friday November 18th!

Who was Pierre-Théodore Verhaegen, the man so idolised by VUB students?