An article published on the March 24 on The Epinal highlighted a proposal for campus to become largely, an ‘Alcohol Free Zone’. The Director of Student Services, Nigel Thomas had proposed this measure and it has unfortunately been passed, seemingly without questioning by those affected; us the students.
In the original article, The Epinal polled students and a huge 89.74% said they would oppose the introduction of these zones. The Executive, who I remind you, are said to represent the students opinions, are voted for by students and whose wages are paid for by the students, publicly backed this proposal.
Personally the introduction of these zones are for me the proverbial final straw, the icing on the cake and the cherry on top of a series of changes over several years which have slowly restricted our freedoms. These restrictions include but are not limited to the banning of drinking societies, initiations for clubs and committees and the introduction of sober duties for committee members during organized events.
Whilst I can see the merit in some restrictions; on occasion initiations I have witnessed, heard rumours about and taken part in have been outrageous introductions into university life, which I wouldn’t even feel comfortable writing about for The Epinal, a campus alcohol ban is a step too far. This article aims to explain that whilst being packaged by the Union and the University as a positive for students’ health and well being, it will actually boost Union profits whilst controlling student independence.
Using the information from the “Guide to the Alcohol Free Campus” I will explain why I think this new policy is unnecessary and preposterous;
“The Students’ Union has reported an increase in the number of student arriving at the building with open containers of alcohol. Union Security staff now prevent students from queuing up to enter the building whilst holding open containers of alcoholic drink. “
Students don’t want to have to queue up for upwards of 30 minutes for the busiest nights out and as a result it makes sense to bring down an alcoholic drink as a preventative measure from ‘sobering up’ with the added help of keeping you warm as you’re forced to stand outside, waiting to enter the Union. It is not the fault of the students that we are not let into the venue quicker. If the problem of lengthy queuing outside the union was rectified it would remove the need for a ‘beer jacket’ and cut down on the need for people to continue consuming alcohol in the queue without having to enforce other measures.
Yes, I’m sure the Union will respond to this argument by saying the budget is tight and they just don’t have the money to employ extra door staff, as well as security and till operatives.
However, I can easily send this argument into disrepute. If the budget is tight, as I have been told from various sources in the previous academic year, then why have three student employees working on an FND setting up Pit Bar. These three staff arrive for work from 10.30pm, despite that fact that it is common knowledge that the Union doesn’t get busy till 11.30pm and Room 1 doesn’t fill up until approximately 12.30am. This shows a case of three staff being paid for a job that only really requires one, and this is just one microcosm, which could be replicated throughout the union.
If the staff hours went in the right places, the queues could be shortened with just an injection of common sense and good planning. Why haven’t questions like these been raised before? Especially considering the student body is effectively paying the wages of everyone employed in the Students’ Union.
There are currently three or four entrances to the Union, so why aren’t all these being taken advantage of on the busiest evening? The introduction of pre-sale tickets would speed up queues and in addition to this, having two bouncers checking tickets against student ID’s is a very simple and low cost step to not only cut queues, but also Union costs that come with controlling long, bustling queues. These simple steps would no doubt result in a decrease in the prolonged queues that currently plague busy FND’s and also cut student need to bring large quantities of alcohol for a 15-30 minute queue.
“Many students have taken to consuming a large volume of alcohol whilst walking from halls of residence to the union, which not only causes a huge health hazard…”
Student welfare is, to my understanding, one of the main reasons for introduction of the alcohol free zones, heavily supported by the ‘Better Decisions’ campaign. Alcohol is a massive part of the majority of students lives, it controls social situations and is for many a good way to relax and meet new people. Of course, alcohol is a stereotype that is used for students countrywide and it could be argued alcohol is too heavily relied upon, but pointing this out doesn’t change that fact that alcohol is and will continue to be a key factor in the lives of many students, and this fact doesn’t seem likely to change in the near future
Both the current and previous Union Executive have both backed these proposals and whilst presenting a façade of support for the ‘Better Decisions’ campaign as well as health and well-being, this may in fact be a convenient mask for what is essentially a Union profiteering campaign. Don’t get me wrong; I do think the ‘Better Decisions’ campaign is wholly positive and aids positive change across campus. Since its inception it has taken significant steps forward in showing that alcohol is not the only option; an area often not highlighted and for that ‘Better Decisions’ should be commended.
However, it is no secret that the Union struggled last year, judging by several heavy marketing campaigns and falling numbers, these ‘Alcohol Free Zones’ are a blessing for the bank accounts. The hard truth of it is that if students are prevented from drinking on the walk to the Union, they will be sober heading into the Union. Resulting in a sharp increase of profits as student’s head straight to the bar to buy more alcohol to make up for what they missed on the walk down or the wait in the queues
Banning alcohol on the walk would be all well and good, if the motives were purely the safety of students. However, as soon as you enter the Union you’re showered with low priced drink offers and have you ever heard of anyone being refused service at the bar for showing serious signs of intoxication? Maybe once or twice, but it definitely isn’t common practice. I have personally seen a friend, a couple of years ago, seriously intoxicated being served 20 Sambuca shots, now if that isn’t unsafe practices by bar staff, I don’t know what is.
Students’ taking huge amounts of alcohol for the walk down is a hazard; I agree. But then you surely must also agree that the Students Union selling £1 pints or £1 Jägerbombs is too, as well as being a clear indication of double standards. These zones completely suit the University and the Union as they boost profits inside as students are forced to stand in the cold sobering up whilst also giving them positive PR as it looks as though they are promoting responsible drinking. The Union has backed these zones, but how can they when it is so clear they are only supporting ‘Better Decisions’ when it works in their favour.
Whilst I don’t agree with the ‘Alcohol Free Zones’ that have been implemented, the Union and University need to understand they cannot have it both ways, either they blanket ban excessive drinking; especially in their establishments, or the ‘Alcohol Free Zone’ should be removed or at the very least reduced.
Furthermore the actual implementation of these zones is something I cannot fathom, in practice there will be multiple loopholes; the number of pathways to the Union will make it virtually impossible to be caught, as well as the darkness covering identities, an increase in littering as students throw their bottles’ in bushes, filling non-alcohol containers with alcoholic drinks and the grey area that “open containers” will bring are just a few of the problems that have sprung to mind when discussing these zones.
Whilst the Union disguises it as a positive measure, with that safety and well-being of students being their number one priority, the ulterior motives are quickly revealed as you delve deeper, and I personally hope these are reviewed and heavily questioned. I invite the University and the Executive to speak with The Epinal further about this as I feel it is an area that is commendable to tackle, but when the Union profit from it, is the campaign really as wholesome as it is attempting to portray?
Do you agree with Jack? Or do you support the introduction of an alcohol free campus? Have your say in the comments below or by writing in to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can read Harry Earl’s response here.