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Canberra Universities dangerous… who’s surprised?

By 19 March 2011 17

ABC News and tonight’s 7:30 are covering the Canberra angle on the release today of a survey by the National Union of Students revealing the troubling extent of sexual violence and safety fears of students at Australian universities, including institutions in Canberra. The argument is that Canberra’s universities should do more to prevent it, with students stating alcohol fuelled anti-social behaviour at university and college parties is the cause. Patrick McArdle of the Catholic University admits they can do more.

The question not being asked though is what students themselves, or at least student associations should be doing given their level of culpability?

ANU O-Week this year organised by ANUSA included:

  • Mon: Speed dating at ANU Pub followed by official bar crawl to Mooseheads, Shooters and Uni Pub in Civic
  • Tue: Caveman Party at Shooters Nightclub
  • Wed: Pre Toga Party followed by Toga Party at Academy
  • Thu: Sexuality Dept. Champagne Breakfast followed by ’79 18+ Beach Party
  • And Fri: 60′s Timewarp Cocktail party followed by Rock and glamour 18+ Party finishing with a Miami Horror Afterparty at Mooseheads starting at 1am.

It’s not just O-Week, it’s every week. The law society cruise mid-term consists of pre drinks, followed by the party boat cruise then an official after party at Mooseheads about 1am.

The pattern is one of successive drinking events each night, usually a few per week. It fuels a culture of excessive, binge drinking and anti-social behaviour. It’s a student problem caused by students. So should Canberra’s Universities have to put out the flames while student associations pour more fuel on the fire?

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17 Responses to Canberra Universities dangerous… who’s surprised?
#1
mr reason11:44 am, 19 Mar 11

Was it ever otherwise?

#2
eq212:46 pm, 19 Mar 11

Heavy drinking at social events is not isolated to the ANU O-week schedule or events run by student clubs and associations. Heavy drinking occurs at opportunities such as house parties, work functions and in college dorm rooms. At all these events there is a risk that someone could be taken away to do something they would not consent to. At universities everywhere there is demand for drinking events regardless of who runs the events.

The events organised by student associations and clubs can often be safer drinking experiences as they have security, food, no pass outs, restricted attendance etc. If these events were not organised the students demand for opportunities to party would be satisfied by met by unofficial parties that would be less safe as they would be organised by people who are less scrutinised and accountable than the student associations or clubs.

Given that excessive drinking is going to occur regardless of the existence of formal events the two main issues are safety at the event and safety after the event. There may be opportunity to put more policies in place to ensure that all parties operated by student organisations are safer. Preventing incidences occurring after events is more difficult.

Information on event safety at ANU provided by the student association:
http://sa.anu.edu.au/events/event-safety

#3
creative_canberran1:38 pm, 19 Mar 11

eq2 said :

Heavy drinking at social events is not isolated to the ANU O-week schedule or events run by student clubs and associations. Heavy drinking occurs at opportunities such as house parties, work functions and in college dorm rooms. At all these events there is a risk that someone could be taken away to do something they would not consent to. At universities everywhere there is demand for drinking events regardless of who runs the events.

The events organised by student associations and clubs can often be safer drinking experiences as they have security, food, no pass outs, restricted attendance etc. If these events were not organised the students demand for opportunities to party would be satisfied by met by unofficial parties that would be less safe as they would be organised by people who are less scrutinised and accountable than the student associations or clubs.

Given that excessive drinking is going to occur regardless of the existence of formal events the two main issues are safety at the event and safety after the event. There may be opportunity to put more policies in place to ensure that all parties operated by student organisations are safer. Preventing incidences occurring after events is more difficult.

Information on event safety at ANU provided by the student association:
http://sa.anu.edu.au/events/event-safety

That is very disingenuous. The page you link to about the provision of security lists the security services provided by the University already via Unisafe. It says nothing about ANUSA providing security. In fact, all it says from the ANUSA perspective is “shag safely” and if you feel dizzy from drugs, call an ambulance… the police won’t have to know.

So ANUSA starting O-Week and the first week of Uni for first years with a bender to 4 different establishments is what… encouraging safer drinking? And from all accounts, O-Week was particularly bad this year, official parties inclusive.

The fundamental point though is the ANU (like others) offers UniSafe; guards, a shuttle bus and escorts for students returning to their resi, at no charge to students. Yet students in the story call on Unis to do more… what more should they do?

Of course there’s going to be drinking. No one is saying there shouldn’t be. My point is drinking, whether in moderation or in excess is a personal choice. It is a choice of students and therefore the problems that result are those of the students. Why should the Universities have to do more than they already do?
And best for ANUA not to speak of policies. Those who care already know what they say, those who don’t will be too drunk to remember them when it counts.

#4
gospeedygo2:53 pm, 19 Mar 11

So what? Do all the students who don’t particularly like hanging out in scungy nightclubs and get maggoted get the arse during o week? Doesn’t seem terribly inclusive to me….

#5
eq25:30 pm, 19 Mar 11

creative_canberran said :

eq2 said :

Of course there’s going to be drinking. No one is saying there shouldn’t be. My point is drinking, whether in moderation or in excess is a personal choice. It is a choice of students and therefore the problems that result are those of the students. Why should the Universities have to do more than they already do?
And best for ANUA not to speak of policies. Those who care already know what they say, those who don’t will be too drunk to remember them when it counts.

Given this argument, what should the students do to address this problem?

#6
Tetranitrate7:07 pm, 19 Mar 11

Personally I’d take NUS surveys with a grain of salt, they’re kinda notorious for leading questions and the like.

The other thing is that the ‘unsafe at night’ aspect has been somewhat disingenuously linked to drinking in this article – There have been multiple muggings and assaults on students at night at ANU over the years, often on students returning to colleges from the city. These aren’t necessarily perpetrated by students at all. It’s my understanding that muggings and the like have been a problem at UC for a while as well.
The finding that “Three-quarters of respondents said they sometimes or always feel unsafe on campus at night.”, even taking it at face value, isn’t just or even necessarily primarily to do with the student drinking culture.

#7
creative_canberran9:43 pm, 19 Mar 11

eq2 said :

Given this argument, what should the students do to address this problem?

It’s hard to answer that given the broad range of issues and differences across campuses.
In the context of the ANU, a culture shift is required at a basic level.

It’s all about culture. The culture needs to shift in terms of what students want and what they consider acceptable amongst themselves. Universities can’t and shouldn’t have to hold students hands all the time, particularly outside of educational contexts. Obviously the assaults and so on are criminal matters and should be dealt with by police. But students are reluctant to do that.
So in the end, it is up to students to create a better culture for themselves and as community leaders, student associations like ANUSA should be on the front foot…. they’re not.

In terms of specifics, the focus of O-Week at ANU for example is all wrong. Uni of Sydney has a short O-Week and the focus is on entertainment, bands, comedians, art shows. Similar things at Uni of Melbourne. Grog wasn’t a focus in their marketing. Sure, people got drunk and did stupid things, that’s society, but at least the student body wasn’t promoting it or making drinking central to socialising.

ANUSA is drinks focused. You can see from the program above and on their website that the program has very little draw cards other than cheap grog and plenty of people in a confined space.

Here’s some quotes from the ANUSA program:

“Every Thursday uniVibes unites the uni with cheap beer and a diverse array of student musicians.”

“Get your groove on and step back in time to 1960, when the ANU first opened its doors to undergraduate students! Those with SASS Membership cards can present them to the bar for discounted drinks and, if you’ve picked up a voucher on Market Day, your first drink is free!”

“Why bother spending the day with the *one* you love when you could spend it dating EVERYONE? Come have a drink in the Beer Garden “

“Come join the Sexuality Department for a Champagne Breakfast! All LGBTIQ students and supportive friends are welcome for pancakes and a glass of bubbly.”

Notice how every event that can have drinking, that is the selling point. Cheap beer, free beer… more beer!

Make the events more entertainment focused with alcohol as a subtle side attraction. Promote a culture among students that can police itself and be more responsible. Have ANUSA set up mechanisms and resources to promote these things and support those unlucky enough to be victims of something.

#8
georgesgenitals12:41 pm, 20 Mar 11

Unis offer security services for students.

How about instead of getting wasted and blaming others, students actually keep an eye out and take care of themselves? Worked when I was a student.

#9
LSWCHP4:31 pm, 20 Mar 11

Uni students are legally adults and are free to behave as they choose, and they should then take responsibility for their actions. The whole attitude of “The government/society/uni/whatever is responsible” when things turn pear shaped is piss-weak. The uni is not responsible for anything apart from providing an education.

If gangs of armed ANUSA thugs were prowling the streets forcing people to consume excessive amounts of alcohol at gunpoint, that’d be different.

Also, I wonder how many people who want the unis to take more responsibility would be complaining if the uni admins started enforcing curfews, alcohol free campuses, RBT etc on campus.

#10
georgesgenitals4:35 pm, 20 Mar 11

LSWCHP said :

Also, I wonder how many people who want the unis to take more responsibility would be complaining if the uni admins started enforcing curfews, alcohol free campuses, RBT etc on campus.

Nail on the head.

#11
girlfriday9:06 pm, 20 Mar 11

University students like to have a few drinks when they socialise. It was ever thus, and if you watch both programs, no one is actually declaring that UC or the ANU should curb drinking, the issues are with violence, sexual assault, and issues concerning consent. It might be the case that some of these assaults are occuring in the context of drunken events, but it should be realised that if too much alcohol = sexual assault, then some of these institutions are suffering pretty serious cultural problems.

Both universities have a significant proportion of students living on campus, many of whom lack a thorough education on what consent means. These hot-housed little communities can make it difficult (and isolating) for victims to come forward, and even when they do, colleges seem to prefer to resolve the matter through internal administrative procedures rather than bringing in police. Last year’s Woroni covered this fairly well. Sexual violence evidence is such that not having police involvement early on generally means the matter comes down to conflicting versions of events.

The universities can,and should, look into constructive ways in which the culture on campus, particularly in residential halls and colleges – can be made generally less toxic on these sorts of issues. Decrying social events with cheap beer (remembering that events with expensive beer are unlikely to attract those studying full-time with commensurate financial restrictions) as the problem rather misses the point.

#12
Davo11111:26 pm, 20 Mar 11

georgesgenitals said :

Unis offer security services for students. How about instead of getting wasted and blaming others, students actually keep an eye out and take care of themselves? Worked when I was a student.

While i totally agree that people should take responsibility looking after themselves, the service provided by ANU security is a joke. I mentioned it here ( http://the-riotact.com/woden-bus-interchange-assault/39949#comment-314763 ) but failed to mention that when i ran for my life, i pressed the ‘emergency panic button’ on campus. I told the security officer i was on “university ave halfway between bruce hall & union court, near chemistry”. His response was “where’s that?” .. imho its a bit of a concern if the security officers dont know the location of the panic button, or the longest (most popular) road on campus.

Secondly, even if i did have “unisafe” with me, what are they going to do to protect me? All unisafe have is a radio… to call security … who can call the real police. Might as well give them 50c so they can find a payphone and cut out the middle-man

Also, the fact the campus is dangerous, isn’t really ANUSA’s fault. The fact of the matter is that ALOT of drunk people walk home alone at night (and will continue to even if ANUSA cancelled all their events). Unfortunately rapists/attackers/muggers know this and locate themselves between civic and the colleges

#13
fragge12:24 pm, 21 Mar 11

I stopped reading when the author tried to equate drinking and partying with “anti-social behaviour” – fairly certain that going to the city with class mates to celebrate is about as social as it gets in this town.

Uni students need to take care of themselves, blaming the kind of events that students run as putting them in danger is ridiculous. Know your limits and know what is appropriate, its not anybody else’s job to keep you in line.

#14
creative_canberran3:20 pm, 21 Mar 11

fragge said :

I stopped reading when the author tried to equate drinking and partying with “anti-social behaviour” – fairly certain that going to the city with class mates to celebrate is about as social as it gets in this town.

Uni students need to take care of themselves, blaming the kind of events that students run as putting them in danger is ridiculous. Know your limits and know what is appropriate, its not anybody else’s job to keep you in line.

Firstly, it’s never good intellectually to stop reading an idea converse to your own. Read it, consider it and if you wish dismiss it.

You’re right, knowing limits and taking care of themselves is the answer. The point is student interviewed blamed alcohol, they also said O-Week with student run events was particularly bad. This is students saying this. So if they blame it, they should do something about it, not ask the Uni to hold their hand.

#15
georgesgenitals4:06 pm, 21 Mar 11

Maybe someone needs to call the WAAAAAAAAAAHMBULANCE?

(Hey, someone had to say it)

#16
colourful sydney rac4:30 pm, 21 Mar 11

georgesgenitals said :

Maybe someone needs to call the WAAAAAAAAAAHMBULANCE?

(Hey, someone had to say it)

Great response in a post about sexual violence. Work for St Kilda football club do you?

#17
georgesgenitals4:44 pm, 21 Mar 11

colourful sydney racing identity said :

georgesgenitals said :

Maybe someone needs to call the WAAAAAAAAAAHMBULANCE?

(Hey, someone had to say it)

Great response in a post about sexual violence. Work for St Kilda football club do you?

Sexual violence is a terrible thing, but the point being made here is that people need to take some responsibility for their own safety. This might mean changing your schedules (yes, including your social schedule) so as to avoid areas where problems might occur.

No, it’s not nice, and not way things should be.

Apologies if you got offended (but it is RiotACT).

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