They’re freshers, not toddlers…

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So, the magical delights and tantalizing tunes of freshers have come to an end once more. It will be another whole year before the population of Lancaster seems to suddenly double in size and no matter where you go in town there will be scores of freshers taking up the dance-floor and buying all the cheap alcohol.

But it seems that there-in lies a problem. This year stories have been passed around campus of freshers in all sorts of alcohol-related troubles, from the usual harmless banter that one would expect, to other much more serious tales of hospital trips, alcohol poisoning, and possibly even a drink spiking.

Now, as serious as all this is I can’t help but wonder where the responsibility should lie. There seem to be three main competitors: the Freshers’ Reps, the University or, dare I say it, the freshers themselves.

The University as the highest authoritative power could take a stand and ban all alcohol-related frivolities in Freshers’ Week. As ridiculous as this sounds, a similar thing happened in Exeter in 2008 when, following a fresher’s death, the University took up the gauntlet and banned all society initiation ceremonies. It was reported that the fresher had “downed a pint of spirits” on command, so whose responsibility was that? Yes the University shouldn’t have allowed it and yes the older students definitely shouldn’t have encouraged it but surely the fresher shouldn’t have done it? Rumour has it that the Reps responsible for the alcohol-poisoned freshers this year at Lancaster are, as you would expect, in pretty serious trouble. But I can’t help but wonder how much trouble the freshers are in.

If someone told the 18-year-old me to down a bottle of spirits I would like to think I would politely decline, inwardly thinking that they must wish to murder me or themselves. I don’t need to have previous experience of downing a bottle of spirits to know how bad it is for me and where I’ll probably end up if I do it. Excuses such as naivety and innocence can be made for the freshers and it makes sense that if you haven’t really ever drank before you won’t know where your limits are. But these people are 18 years old; they are officially no longer children and have accepted the challenge of looking after themselves. And even if you don’t know what being drunk feels like, the feeling is instantly recognisable as “strange” and vomiting in the toilet is instantly recognisable as something unpleasant and not wanting to be repeated.

As late as this advice is, I’ll give it anyway: freshers, we’ve all been there. No-one will be surprised when you wake up the next morning vowing never to drink again and clutching a cold flannel to your throbbing head. But there’s the line. Take responsibility for your own safety so you have the chance to enjoy university rather than spend it as a regular visitor to A&E covered in tubes and wondering where it all went wrong.

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