Silent culture, influence and sexual harassment. The secret order Hincus Medicus does not have a charming rumor. Medical students tell of a secret society that affects both student life and career.
Text by: Simon Appelqvist, Tindra Englund and Sebastian Rudolfsson
Translation: Elise Petersson
In connection with Medicinska föreningen’s (MF) Corbal (t/n. a formal dance held by MF) a spiteful discussion broke out on their Facebook page this September. Personal attacks and comparisons to Nazis succeeded one another, and several of the comments were removed by the moderator. In the end, MF decided to shut down the comments field.
The discussion concerned the poster used to advertise the ball. One side thought that the poster was in a “musty old sexist style”, while the other side thought that it simply depicted “two people in traditional evening dress holding each other”.
But what actually happened, and how could a poster bring forth such strong emotions? We asked ourselves this question after receiving an anonymous tip that many of the people involved in the discussion also were active in the Hincus Medicus society.
Lundagård has spoken to around thirty people who have been in contact with the Society one way or another. Many of those we have spoken to claim that they are afraid of Hincus Medicus. Therefore, we have kept them anonymous in the text.
– The Secret Society –
Hincus Medicus is a secret society for men only, and was founded approximately 30 years ago. Every semester two new medical students are recruited, and the Society is partly famous for partying together, but also for helping each other gain high positions both in the student life and in the professional life.
“They all have high positions and motivate all their members to take different posts in order to give each other benefits. Not only within MF, but also in nations in order for them to be able to attend balls and so on”, says a source well versed in the ways of the Society.
Hincus also has a sister organization called Purpura. They have earlier been known mostly as companion ladies to Hincus since they frequently party together. But even the women elected into the Society tend to have high positions in student life.
Out of the many medical students Lundagård has been in contact with, many bear witness that they know of Hincus, and that it is a Society you do not want to criticize. Many are worried about the consequences it could result in, both in the student and professional life, since you do not know who is a part of the Society.
“Within the Society exists a strong hierarchy where the elders control the younger members. Those who are already doctors decide how things should be and generally act poorly towards women”, says an anonymous source.
– Locus Medicus Lundensis –
Locus Medicus Lundensis, or “The Doctors’ Villa” as it is often called, was in 1975 donated to the medical students of Lund by philanthropist Holger Craaford. The thought was for it to be used to promote “scientific medical research” and be part of the medical students’ “upbringing and education”. However, Locus Medicus has through the years been filled with various activities such as driving practices, soup lunches and pubs all arranged by MF. But the villa has also become an important gathering spot for the secret society Hincus.
Responsible for the continuous activities is the so called house supervisor. This person lives in the villa, and takes care of Locus Medicus’ reservations among other things. According to several sources Lundagård has been in contact with, members of Hincus have often held the post as house supervisor, which means the Society has had free access to the villa.
– Nabbing Attractive Positions –
Even within the Faculty of Medicine, members of Hincus and Purpura have often held popular positions. At the faculty for example is something called assistant lecturer’s offices. These are often held by students, which means that they gain the trust to act as teachers for students in the lower grades. These positions are both sought after and give credit.
“Recruitment is not made on equal terms. There is an over-representation of Hincus members who have been given assistant lecturer’s offices and they been appointed in secret. There’s a lot of weird stuff going on around these offices and friend recruitment is common”, says Adam, a former medical student with close connections to Hincus.
According to Christer Larsson, manager of the medical program, the offices are announced and appointed in a correct manner, with regard to credits and earlier working experiences.
“No one recognizes anything about any kind of friend recruitment. And about these societies, people do not know of them, you don’t know who’s a member which makes it rather hard to choose them”, Christer Larsson says.
In a later interview, Christer Larsson admits that he is not sure how the offices are appointed since it is different from office to office, and that it often happens on “grass root level”.
– Facilitates the Doctor Career –
According to several independent sources Lundagård has been in contact with it is not only coveted positions within the University that are appointed based on Society membership.
“I also know that Hincus members have received doctor’s positions no one else would have had a chance to get. I know members who, for example, have not yet gotten their license to practice medicine but have gotten internships at prestigious departments that otherwise requires a license”, says Adam.
Members of Hincus and Purpura are often in MF’s Corbal committee, and are involved in nollningen (t/n. a type of initiation period for new students) in different ways. For example, several members have appeared as nollningsgeneral.
– An Anonymous SMS –
Each semester, during the medical students’ freshman period, two new male students are recruited to Hincus. They often have an upper class background and not seldom do they have parents who studied medicine in Lund themselves. According to some information they are also chosen into the Society for being “good looking and sociable” and “successful with the ladies”.
During nollningsperioden, the aspiring Hincus members receive an anonymous SMS requesting them to come for an interview with an unknown member. Then, a longer admission process begins where they among other things get to meet with practicing doctors. While this process is going on, it is frequently pointed out to them how helpful a membership is for their future careers.
“I know that one of the older members work as some kind of mentor. A friend of mine was hesitant to join when he was asked by Hincus. But then the older member started to persuade him by saying that the ‘fraternity’ was there to help each other improve”, Adam says.
– The Entrance Test –
The entrance test for Hincus partly involves that both candidates have to remove a birthmark from one another, according to some sources that have been in contact with Lundagård. They should under local anesthesia cut off the birthmark under supervision of the Society’s so called “Alderman”, a licensed doctor who is also a member of the Society. If no birthmark exists, only a piece of skin will be removed. The thought is to make a visible scar on the left thigh, and therefore a piece of the underlying flesh is also removed.
– Sexist Parties –
Most medical students know of Hincus’ existence. However, only a select few have insight on what actually happens at their parties.
Henrik Widegren, a profile in Lund, was as a new student in the 90s curious about the jaunty student life and was invited to a Hincus party by some older medical students.
“I remember singing raunchy songs, and can describe the night as a wet men’s dinner. A lot of it consisted of getting us younger students drunk. The alcohol was flowing and the songs were very sexist. Such an event is per definition sexist and excluding. The girls had their own party somewhere else, but we met up later that evening”, says Henrik Widegren.
His involvement with Hincus was short lived and ended there and then.
“There were many other things about the student life that seemed more fun, so the Society was not prioritized. I was invited several times but politely declined”, Henrik Widegren says.
– The “Entertainment” –
In connection with Lund’s Economy Students’ Ball in 1998, Lundagård uncovered that Hincus had hired a
stripper for their pre-party.
The stripper entered the room, dressed in a dark hood and removed all of her clothing until only the panties remained. In one hand she held a whip, which she put around their necks. The party cheered and she straddled a participant who sucked on her breast. Later, she covered her breasts in whipped cream and let another participant lick it off.
The party arrangers were among others MF’s former chairman Martin Ugander, and Magnus Hellström, MF’s sexmästare (t/n. a person who arranges parties at student nations) at the time. The arrangers thought that it was fully normal entertainment for the occasion and that it was appreciated by the attendees.
– Like a Catwalk –
Another, more common, occurrence at Hincus parties are women dressed in nothing but underwear serving the men.
“It becomes a sort of catwalk, where you walk between the tables to fill up the glasses”, a source who wishes to remain anonymous tells us.
However, in the fall of 2015 an incident happened that evolved into something completely different.
“You do not tell anything about a brother”.
Opinions on what actually happened in the fall of 2015 differ. Some think that it only was a few individuals who did something stupid while drunk, others describe it as sexual harassments.
“It’s not a coincidence that it happened there. Within Hincus there is a peer pressure that can make good people do bad things”, says one of the sources who wishes to remain anonymous.
Despite the serious nature of the incident it was suppressed. Several of the younger Hincus members were questioning and distancing themselves from what had happened, but the older members disregarded it as something stupid that had occurred between individuals and nothing the Society should take responsibility for or investigate further. No police report was made, and according to a source the men involved are still active within the Society.
“There is a silent culture where you always protect each other and where you also lie to each other. So, even if you know it’s true you lie for the others sake for them to have a positive outward image. ‘You do not tell anything about a brother’, as they often say”, the source tells us.
However, when Hincus’ sister organization Purpura found out what had happened they took the incident seriously, and according to the same source as earlier they decided to exclude the four men involved from their parties.
“Before there was the idea that Purpura simply existed in order to act as companion ladies for Hincus. But lately they have gradually started to separate themselves from Hincus because they believe they do things that are too questionable”, says a source who wants to remain anonymous.
– MF and Hincus’ Relationship Today –
In connection with the stripper scandal in 1998, several of the people involved were trusted
Members of Medicinska föreningen (MF). But MF’s current chairwoman Madeleine Lehander claims that MF as an organization does not have any ties to the society Hincus Medicus.
“I am aware that there in the past have been a clear association between Hincus and MF, but now it’s just that some students are members of both organizations. And what people do with their private time we neither can nor want to interfere with”, Madeleine Lehander says.
– Nollningsbrevet –
Several of the students in charge of nollningen and the educational elements during the first semester of medical studies, as have been described earlier, are either members of Hincus or Purpura.
But what happens when the culture of these two societies are allowed to lay the foundation for the culture of the new medical students in Lund?
In April 2013, 23 medical students sent a document to the people responsible for the medical program. In “nollningsbrevet” (t/n. a letter sent out to new students who will attend nollningen) they criticize, for example, the sex incitement and sexism that they experienced during the freshman period.
One example is the song book dinner in 2012, were all the girls had to sit in “Santa’s” lap in order to know their table seating. Santa was a male medical student from the tenth semester who was dressed in only underwear and an open dressing gown. According to the students’ letters it was an “offensive element that was experienced as uncomfortable for several of the participants, although they were afraid to speak up at the time”.
During several dinners the new students were split up depending on their gender. Several dinners also included older students stripping for the new ones. In nollningsbrevet a culture with a heteronormative view on sexuality is described, and it incites the freshmen to have sex with both each other and faddrarna (t/n. the upperclassmen who function as mentors during nollningen).
– An Unsafe Study Environment –
One of the medical students who helped writing nollningsbrevet was Sara Wärnsberg.
“After a nollning that contained a lot of sexist elements I withdrew from the student life of the medical program since I think the culture there is unpleasant and narrow minded. It’s also shocking that so many people participate in these activities without thinking something is wrong”, Sara Wärnsberg says.
Both Sara Wärnsberg and several of the other medical students Lundagård has talked to describe the fear that many students feel.
“You don’t want to tell what it’s like for several reasons. Partly because you don’t want to be disliked and exposed. There is also the culture of what happens within the closed doors of the doctors stays there. Maybe the thought is to not get on bad terms with future colleagues”, Sara Wärnsberg says.
The first three semesters all medical students study in Lund, but starting from semester four they are given the opportunity to choose between studying in Lund or Malmö.
“If you’re tired of or feel uncomfortable in the jaunty student life in Lund you see this as a chance to escape and choose Malmö instead”, Sara Wärnsberg, who decided to switch to Malmö, says.
With the writing of the “nollningsbrevet” MF took responsibility for the medical nollning and the faculty put money into educating faddrarna on how to avoid alcohol incitement and unhealthy group dynamics.
But according to Sara Wärnsberg, there is still an air of sexist humor within many parts of the medical students’ life despite MF’s work with nollningen. And she was not surprised when she saw this year’s Corbal poster.
“The Medical Association has an old history and it has been around for a long time. I think this is a sad heritage that increases and continues through students from generation to generation”, Sara Wärnsberg says.
– “A Democratic Right” –
Vice dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Cecilia Lundberg, sees no issue with employees at the faculty being members of a secret society together with students. Furthermore, she believes that the faculty has no business knowing what the employees do in their free time.
“Being a part of associations is actually a democratic right and nothing an employer should have opinions on”, says Cecilia Lundberg, vice dean with special responsibility for education on basic and advanced levels.
However, she thinks it would be problematic if an employee examined a person they had some sort of relation with.
“That is called a delicate conflict of interest and it is part of an examiners roll to inform if they have been that. You are not allowed to examine someone you have a conflict of interest with or against and that’s nothing strange”, Cecilia Lundberg says.
According to Cecilia Lundberg she has never heard that Hincus Medicus is supposedly a secret society, or that there are students who are afraid of them.
“I think it would be very sad if that was the truth, but I haven’t heard about the Society since I was a student, and at that time it wasn’t secret. Of course its highly inappropriate with an organization that intimidates people in that manner. However, that is nothing the faculty has influence over or anything to do with. As little as the bird watching association ‘Gladan’ (t/n. “The Red Kite”, a bird of prey)”, says vice dean Cecilia Lundberg.
– Decreasing Influence –
Every year the number of female doctors in Sweden increases, and in 2015 42 percent of all doctors were women. On MF’s board there are currently only women, and last year MF started an equality committee.
Now, let’s return to the Facebook discussion about the Corbal poster. The discussion was started by a female medical student who questioned MF and its equality committee that supported the poster she thought was sexist.
The issue turned out to be extremely sensitive, and perhaps part of the explanation lies in the internal culture of the medical students. On MF’s Facebook page two trenches were dug and an infected war formed. On one side, people who were tired of the jaunty student life’s sexist tone and wanted change. The other side wanted to preserve the tradition, many of these were members of Hincus.
After considering all opinions presented, MF decided to withdraw the poster.
“We stand for the opinions of our members and they thought it should be replaced. The majority of the board members gathered and decided to change the picture”, says Madeleine Lehander, chairwoman of MF.
Perhaps this should be seen as a sign that Hincus’ influence is being restricted?
– An Unhealthy Culture –
Sten Axelson Fisk is a board member of Socialistic Doctors and a former medical student. Like many others he heard about Hincus during his first semester at the medical program, and he has become famous as one of the few who has openly criticized them.
“In the nature of the issue lies that you don’t know very much, but you know for sure that they exist, and many know at least some people who are members. It’s a classical way the patriarchy works in, men having each other’s backs”, Sten Axelson Fisk says.
His perception of those who are members of Hincus is that they are not necessarily unsound people themselves.
“But you do become a part of a very unhealthy culture when you maintain this society and everyone who keeps quiet about it. You may be scared, but as doctors we also need a little bit of courage to keep our own house clean”, Sten Axelson Fisk says.
Lundagård has also tried reaching the “alderman” but he did not want to leave any comments or answer any questions.
“Adam” is actually called something else.
Do you know more about Hincus? Give us tips at firstname.lastname@example.org . You can also contact us on 072-7444020 or through the encrypted texting service Signal.
Text by: Simon Appelqvist, Tindra Englund and Sebastian Rudolfsson.
Photo: Siri Larsson