YUSU respond to drink spiking fears with awareness campaign

Recent survey shows 80 per cent of York students are not aware of campus drink safety concerns

A RECENT Nouse poll reveals that 80% of students at York University feel that they are not in danger of having their drink spiked at campus events with only half admitting to looking after their drinks.

The poll comes only weeks after the launch of the SU drinks awareness campaign; at a time when drink spiking had allegedly occurred at recent Club D events. Many students when informed about the recent incident were shocked by the news. One student who wished to remain nameless said “I never even considered the chances that anyone at our University would do such a thing”.

Since the last occurrence of alleged drink spiking at the end of the autumn term, the Students Union Welfare committee have launched a campaign in an attempt to raise awareness. However until now the campaign has had limited success, with only 33% of students surveyed having any knowledge of the risks and incidents.

Neil Barnes, the SU Welfare officer has since promised to do a “blitz of drink-spiking awareness” during the next two terms, in order to “encourage students to take responsibility for making sure that they don’t put themselves in a vulnerable position”. However, he added “I don’t want to scare students into thinking that it is rife because it is still relatively rare, campus events are still much safer than bars and clubs in the city”. This claim was backed up by our survey which showed that 70% of students feel safer on campus than at venues in the city centre.

Despite Barnes’s attempts for colleges “to take some responsibility of raising awareness at their own events”, it has become clear that not enough action has been taken by some JCRCs to combat the dangers of drink spiking. During a recent interview, Dave Jones the Chair of Derwent, has admitted that after last term’s alleged drink spiking “there were no extra measures that I can think of that were put in place for drink safety”. He added, “in retrospect that was probably something we should have got on the ball with”, blaming the oversight on it being “everyone’s first event” after the JCR handover.

The aftermath of such revelations may have repercussions on the popularity of campus events. For students who may be more wary of drinking on campus Neil Barnes commented “I don’t want this to be a knee-jerk reaction that ends up giving events a bad name…two alleged incidents in a year is not a disaster, however it is a cause for concern”. Yet Derwent chair Dave Jones admitted “there is a danger” of events such as Club D being affected by such bad publicity.

In order to combat the lack of awareness among students the Welfare Office are aiming to increase the frequency of drinking campaigns at large events. This will involve SU officers placing stirrers warning against the dangers of drink spiking into the drinks of unsuspecting students. However Barnes criticised the proposed introduction of the confiscation of unattended drinks by Derwent JCRC members as “a step too far” adding “we are not the parents of students”.

When the Welfare Officer was asked whether he felt the SU were inadequate in their response to the current problem he said “I don’t think I have been slow at all, I held my first campaign in week 6 of Planet V last term”. “My actions were pre-emptive not reactionary and everything I am doing has been part of my plan for the whole year”

What the students said:

1. Are you aware of the drinks campaign the SU is running?
Yes: 33% No: 67%

2. At campus events do you think you are at danger of
having your drink spiked?

Yes: 20% No: 80%

3. Do you look after your drinks at all times at
campus events?
Yes: 51% No: 49%

4: Do you feel more safe at campus events than at bars or clubs in town?
Yes: 70% No: 30%

5. Are you aware that incidents of drink spiking have occured on campus recently?
Yes: 39% No: 61%

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