Once again the “colleges-versus-commercial services” debate rears its ugly head, as commercial services plans to potentially limit the use of college late licenses, threatening the future of events like Club D and Volume.
For colleges like Derwent, this is a significant blow. For others, it will reflect the unfortunate truth that on-campus events are expensive to run, poorly attended and often fail to make a profit. Bar crawls, queue jumps and reduced entry tend to be far more appealing in terms of organisation and attendance, but by taking college revelry and spirit off campus, there is a risk that the significance of college bars and JCRs could be negated. Regardless of the statistics, there is a lot to be said for on-campus events. There is greater freedom for JCRs to put on unusual events: how can a standard night out compare to a roller disco?
Late-licenses are an opportunity for colleges to offer an appealing alternative to the standard Salvation-Ziggys-Tokyo-Fibbers-Revs circuit we follow blindly, week in, week out. For first-year students and in Freshers Week particularly, the option to hold events on campus is something College Chairs should be fighting to retain. A quick poll of my house revealed a 50:50 split between those who would have preferred to stay on campus on that first night, and those who were glad we ended up in Tokyo.
“by limiting late-license events, your college will simply become the place you sleep”
A fun night without the need to wait for taxis, the risk of losing people in various bars around town or trying to figure out which floor of Ziggys they are on is an undeniable attraction. Everyone is in the same place at the same time, and even though these events are contained within colleges, they actually provide an opportunity to meet new people. Outside of immediate housemates and course friends, the people in your college can be a mystery. Even for second- and third-year students, late-licence events are a chance to be back on campus for something other than lectures, to catch up with STYC-lets and a chance for the JCRC to be seen as something other than a faceless committee.
However, does it follow that college spirit can only thrive in your college bar? Almost every college is accused of displaying a lack of college spirit; if you don’t confine yourself to your student bar are you contributing to this image? Essentially, no. A well-attended bar crawl, starting inevitably at your college bar, but ending up in Tokyo, is as much a display of college fun, unity and social life as a group of four friends sat in the college bar all night.
Stubbornly insisting on throwing money into events which won’t work in the name of preserving college camaraderie is a pointless exercise, and College Chairs need to prove that their desire to maintain late-license events is more than an expression of long-term irritation with commercial services.
There is definitely something to be said for the bond made between a group of strangers meeting at a drag queen social in Salvation, but for me, the relative success of on-campus late night events compared to bar crawls and socials is irrelevant. The most significant limitation of this proposal is choice. College Chairs and their JCRCs should be able to choose how they plan their events, and where they want them to take place, whether that’s in the college bar or in the middle of town.
York has a collegiate system which it is rightly proud of; but by limiting late-license events, your college will simply become the place you sleep, and nothing more. Late license events allow college bars and college camaraderie to thrive alongside trips to Ziggys dressed as jungle animals or cavemen.
This is not the first time these two factions will clash, nor will it be the last. Yes, commercial services has a job to do, but a compromise has to be met between colleges and commercial ventures. College spirit cannot, and should not, be measured in terms of financial viability.