Drinking culture at university: Are initiation ceremonies actively encouraging excessive drinking?

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Drinking at university is all part of the experience. If you are going to move to a completely new part of the country with a bunch of complete strangers, alcohol is going to be needed to keep the awkwardness at bay. I know that there are those who completely disagree with this view and believe that you don’t need alcohol to have a good time. But you cannot run away from the fact that drinking alcohol is a huge part of young people’s lives.

However, each new university year seems to bring a tragic death due to extreme alcohol consumption. In 2008, a nineteen-year-old student from Winchester University, made a bet with his friends that he could down three quarters of a litre of spirit by doing a shot every forty-five seconds. After fifteen shots, the student was carried to his room as he was unable to walk or talk. He was found dead at 2pm the next day due to acute alcohol poisoning. This tragic story really brings home the consequences of excessive drinking. I am not writing to preach about the evils of alcohol; as a third year University student, I have had my fair share of nights out where drinking has taken place. However I know my own personal limits and I know that when I see societies’ initiation ceremonies in which freshers are forced to drink obscene amounts of alcohol in a very short amount of time, their personal limits are being stretched and even surpassed. In October 2008, the BBC reported on the shocking video, which was secretly filmed, of an initiation of a group from the University of Gloucestershire in which those being initiated wear plastic bags over their heads and are lined up against a wall whilst another student, who is dressed in a Nazi-style uniform supposedly encourages them to drink. I have witnessed the carnage of initiations, though I have not taken part in one myself. Seeing first years that are so inebriated that they cannot stand up or even form a coherent sentence being forced to drink even more, all in the name of ‘being part of the team’ does not, in my opinion, encourage team spirit and morale.

A first year student from the University of Gloucestershire revealed her experiences of initiations, which included sucking OXO cubes, stuffing fish down their bras, eating a vile mixture of cat-food, breakfast and eggs which was all washed down with a ‘bucket’ of a mixture of beer, spirits, alcopops and wine. The very thought of doing this alone make me feel sick to my stomach and I often wonder how people can go through with it. Some universities have gone as far as to ban the act of initiations, yet when a student at the University of Southampton (where initiations were banned) carried out a student survey and found out that just under a quarter of the students had taken part in some form of initiation ceremony. I believe it is impossible for universities to completely ban and eradicate them, but if handled sensibly I believe that they are a good way for freshers to be ‘welcomed’ into a society or club. I just think they have to be handled appropriately. I personally believe that nowadays societies feel pressured to be even bigger and more ridiculous than the previous year. Thus societies need to find new inventive yet disgusting ways to get freshers drunk fast.

Figures released each year by the NHS show that there is an increase in alcohol related hospital admissions and the media constantly bombard us with images and stories of ‘binge drinking’. But I think that the majority of young people who do drink responsibly are ignored and that young people as a whole are stereotyped as just ‘binge drinkers’. However I do believe that young people at university have a tendency do get carried away with alcohol; it’s hard not to as it’s the first time you are experiencing full independence from your parents. Of course mistakes will be made, there will be nights when you will drink a bit too much and end up doing something you regret, or end up making best friends with a toilet. But in some ways I think that these experiences and mistakes help young people grow and develop into adults. But when it comes to initiation ceremonies, excessive drinking is seen as the norm with those who refuse are punished and forced to drink even more.

The facts cannot be ignored, excessive drinking can lead to serious health problems and in some cases even death. Though I feel like drinking and alcohol is all part of the experience of university, I feel like there is a minority of students that think they are invincible and don’t realise that they are doing serious harm to their bodies. Therefore I believe that the effects of excessive drinking should be spoken about more, not just in universities but schools as well. Our drinking culture, I believe, needs to change. Getting so drunk you cannot even walk or talk properly should not be the ultimate goal on a night out and initiation ceremonies openly encourage this. Attitudes to alcohol need to change and I think that education in it’s effects on our bodies is a good place to start.

In conclusion, I fully understand that drinking will always be a part of university life, I am a student myself. Yet taking into account the number of deaths and the shocking reports that are a result of initiation ceremonies, I cannot help but wonder that something seriously needs to be done.

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  • http://twitter.com/Dave_Bosworth Dave Bosworth

    Those initiations you mentioned sound like ego-baiting for spatulas. “initiation” = bond with new budds, unless you belong to the kind of perverted ritualised sect you only find at Oxford/ Yale/

  • http://twitter.com/Dave_Bosworth Dave Bosworth

    seems those utensils got to me, last paragraph meant to read …..”Oxford/Yale/Upper class school for your spatula child.