Today was my last academic day at Loughborough University and it has been quite an adventure since I first arrived just short of five years ago. I picked Loughborough as it was well known as a social university town where the opportunities for involvement in societies and clubs were endless.
Apart from a particularly embarrassing football club trial in my first week, I can have no regrets as Loughborough has set me up perfectly for my first forays into the professional world of real work. However, I feel some sadness for the thousands of Fresher’s arriving this September; who won’t receive the same life changing experience I did. They will probably still have the best years of their lives here though, so let me explain.
It was with an air of predictability that the university has signed up to a national project, aimed to “encourage responsible drinking”. Having read the details I don’t believe the student experience will change a great deal in the coming academic year.
Unfortunately this trend of university implemented social restraints seems to be continuing from last years ‘Alcohol Free Zones’ and the banning of initiations and drinking societies. Is Loughborough losing a bit of the magic that made it mine and many others number one UCAS choice?
I cannot help but think back to 2009 and the carefree frivolities of my first year at Loughborough. We had our Hall initiations on a cold evening in October on Fountain Lawn and the evening included but not exclusive to raw chickens, squid sauce and fish heads taped onto bottles of value cider. Whilst this night was probably the worst night of my life and a little extreme, it is also one of my fondest at Loughborough as it was a right of passage for the 40 or so boys who attended.
The university implementing these schemes is all very well with great intentions, but lets be clear, these students can vote, buy alcohol, drive a car, they are adults. The university should encourage safe practices, but for students, of course, university is a place where mistakes are supposed to be made and learnt from. I’m glad I had the chance to make (many) mistakes in my first year and I’ve certainly learnt from them.
The university taking these steps to promote health and lower alcohol consumption has seen very little dispute from students. Maybe this is due in part to students now paying £9,000 and valuing their education above social aspects of university. I know that when I first arrived, paying a mere £3,000, education and social life were equally important to the majority of students. I certainly valued my social life and as a result my trips to the library were rare; my results were reflective.
This social experience that I speak of is not for everyone and I’m not sure I would want to repeat it, but initiations and the drinking culture is something that makes Loughborough so brilliant.
Whilst the scheme is aimed at minimizing anti-social behaviour and excessive drinking, which is a positive step, I don’t believe it has really been a problem to begin with. It is certainly a miniscule issue in comparison to 2009 where it was quite regular that someone in hall would be taken home in the security van on a Friday night, lying in a pool of his or her own vomit.
Having said all this, I must admit I had some serious reservations over the ‘Alcohol Free Zones’ implemented across campus at the start of the year and the effect they would have on the Union and the students attending.
Still, praise needs to go to the incredibly hardworking events team, in particular Zak Evans, Matt Nunn and Steve Black. They have kept the Union a special night out and have raised the bar, consistently putting on a wide range of successful and appealing day and night events with something for all students. The Union has gone from strength to strength and generally the alcohol free zones have had little impact on our experience.
Whilst initiations might be off the cards, if the Union can continue to offer a eclectic assortment of interesting nights then the Freshers next year will get a different Loughborough but not necessarily a worse one.