Why rant about a chant?

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Freshers’ Week has come to an end, and all of the new students have been well and truly baptised into their chosen college. The rivalries have been established, and another year of freshers are ready to be out for blood at any competition with their rival college. Well, in theory anyway.

One of the ways in which we establish the rivalries between colleges is through the many chants that are drunkenly hollered at various times throughout the year, but mainly throughout Freshers’ Week. It’s often said that you’d have to be a bit of a loser to take those rivalries seriously after the first week, but this does seem relatively paradoxical to the system as a whole. LUSU have been advising colleges to tone down the chants because of worries that they cross the line between harmless banter on the one hand, and abuse and misogyny on the other.

Most of the chants are fairly harmless. Most of them do not contain expletives and are fairly reasonable. Most tend to proclaim that their college is the best and will beat the others in anything and everything. The relatively unadventurous “Bowland till I die” is the perfect example, along with Furness’ “There’s only one Furness college”. They are fun, harmless and could be printed on flyers on an open day.

It’s generally late in the evenings when the more abusive chants come to the fore, when the beer has been flowing and the blood is boiling. It’s at these times, such as Pre-Founders or the campus bar-crawls, where the chants get more abusive and can sometimes lead to violence. Just last week, I heard of two freshers from The County College who wandered into Apothecary when it was filled to the brim with Pendle students. Instead of the friendly college banter that we are told about on open days, they were instead met with abuse from both new freshers and their reps.

Chanting has the ability to create such a strong sense of college spirit and community that it seems such an integral part of the unique collegiate system we have at Lancaster. I understand how the more abusive chants can make people feel uncomfortable. Especially if, for example, they are aimed at you specifically because you are part of one of the teams. I remember one of my first netball matches against Bowland College, who had brought down a group of supporters. They spent the entire game swearing at us, which I found unsettling and off-putting as I had never experienced anything like that before.

To me, the unpleasant chanting is the minority. The majority of the time, the chanting is almost friendly, and creates a strong sense of belonging. The chants are an integral part of the way we function as a collegiate system. They are needed to build that rapport with the new freshers, and to establish the rivalries for the next year.

From LUSU’s perspective I can see how they can become out of hand, but on the whole, I think colleges have dealt with them very well this year. At Lonsdale we were told make sure that no one was throwing any water or flour bombs, and not to stop off at Spar and get a carton of eggs on the way to the Trough of Bowland. As much as everyone might “hate” their rival college, none of us would dream of doing anything to get these high-tension events cancelled. At the end of the day, we all just want to enjoy ourselves, and the college chants are a part of that. Without them, I don’t think college life would be quite the same at all.

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