Alcohol: York’s favourite drug

We’ve all seen it, the poor soul stumbling outside Ziggy’s on a Wednesday night or crouched in the corner of some dodgy takeaway, dozing on the shoulder of an equally inebriated friend. However, being present as a drunken student attempts to jump from a bridge is not what most associate with a night on the lash, and a recent string of incidents involving students under the influence of alcohol has brought the risks of binge drinking back into the spotlight at York.

Just this month, a first-year undergraduate attempted to jump off the Ouse Bridge after a night of drinking. Paramedics were called to the scene on the evening of Wednesday, November 5 as the student stood, threatening to jump. Although they managed to bring him back down from the ledge, this tale is but one in a spate of alcohol-related incidents which have occurred this term alone.

A first-year History student found himself under arrest after threatening bouncers at Gallery, pushing a passer-by into the road and verbally abusing police officers. A fellow student who observed the scene commented: “Having been reminded many times to just shut up and go home he continued to berate the policemen. He was devoid of any common sense. This sort of incident is, unfortunately, not a rarity at York.”

How true the comment rings. Only this year the Student Union took action to ban the traditional sports club initiation ceremonies over fears for student welfare. Traditionally when young and innocent Freshers were to be ‘initiated’ into the ways of the club, older members would set them tasks and challenges – almost invariably involving alcohol – which the first-years must complete in order to be ‘accepted.’ Such traditions have seen Freshers tied together and made to drink a series of alcoholic concoctions; one Vanbrugh Fresher involved in such an event was found abandoned in a dangerously inebriated state before being taken to hospital, where he spent the night.

Speaking on the current trend of alcohol-related incidents, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Students, Jane Grenville, comments: “There is no evidence that drinking at York is a bigger problem than at any other UK university. But that is no cause for complacency: When it takes place, binge drinking is dangerous – it’s as simple as that. Quite apart from the social problems caused by antisocial behaviour and the longer-term health problems that can arise, students should be aware of the fact that it is possible to die on any night out. A sudden massive intake of alcohol – don’t forget that it is a poison – can cause catastrophic organ failure. It also causes loss of balance and judgement of speed and distances – you are more likely to drown or be run over if you are drunk than if you are not,” she continued.

Grenville’s comments could not be more true: She revealed that the verdict at coroners’ inquests have concluded that alcohol was a significant contributory factor in the death of three York undergraduates since 2006. “My advice is don’t do it – drink sensibly or not at all,” she concluded.

Despite the ubiquity of binge-drinking, these tendencies do not represent the entire spectrum of views held by York students. A University survey investigating Freshers week at York indicates alcoholism as a recognized problem: The poll found that almost 40% of first-year students were unhappy with the “strong focus” on alcohol that the University’s social events have.

First year English student Luke Simpson commented “the emphasis on alcohol in the induction period sets a precedent for first-years. It paints an ugly picture of the University.”

Charlie Leyland, YUSU Academic and Welfare Officer concludes: “It deeply worries me that people feel they need to drink copious amounts to have a good time. University can be a scary place with so many people and it’s easy to use alcohol as an ice-breaker; but be confident and proud of who you are! Drink sensibly, don’t mix, make sure you eat properly before you go out and please look after each other and respect yourself.’


  1. 25 Nov ’08 at 9:47 pm

    Sheila Joyce Gibbs

    Apparently it is world wide! And nearly all active drinkers, have no idea what-so-ever, of any possible health afflictions it can/does cause. We desperately need large Health Warning Labels to be mandatory on all containers. It won’t stop the scourge, no, but perhaps it will save many of our youth.


  2. I would go as far to say that people berating police outside Gallery is a rare event in York. Has this observer been to Leeds?