Clare College Cambridge

Clare Alcohol Policy

Drinking Alcohol Sensibly

Alcohol is a drug, albeit a legal one; indeed, it is the UK’s favourite drug, and is often served at College events. Drinking too much is a growing social problem, one which is of nationwide concern, especially among younger age groups.  You should think about the effects that drinking has on your body and your mental state.  Some students choose not to drink alcohol at all; many others drink safely without any problems or impact on their studies – but not all.  This document has been drawn up by lecturers and students to advise you of the potential dangers of the abuse of alcohol, to establish some guidelines for its proper use, and to encourage a culture of self-regulation which involves respecting and caring for oneself and for others.

Health and Safety issues

Official guidelines recommend no more than 3-4 units a day for adult men and 2-3 units a day for adult women. As a general rule 1 unit is half a pint of beer, lager or cider, one small glass (125ml) of wine, or a 25 ml measure of spirit. So safe drinking means about 14 units for women and 21 units for men per week – that is, spread over the week. Binge-drinking all 14 or 21 units at once is bad for your health and potentially very  dangerous. However, these are only approximate guidelines: for instance, a small (125ml) glass of Jacob’s Creek red wine (as a popular example) contains 1.6 units of alcohol. Some useful information on the amount of alcohol in commercial drinks can be found in the Drinkaware web site (http://www.drinkaware.co.uk/) and wider advice from the Portman Group web site (http://www.portmangroup.org.uk/).

It takes your body about an hour to process one unit of alcohol, so you need to pace your drinking so that your body can cope. Also, metabolisms vary, and you need to learn how much you personally can safely drink while still remaining in control of yourself and the social situation. The effects can start within ten minutes and depending on the individual can last for many hours. Slurred speech, vomiting, loss of balance and distorted vision are just some of the more immediate effects of drinking on the body, if you consume too much at once; so is unconsciousness.  Drinking large amounts too rapidly can lead to alcohol poisoning, which can be fatal, as can the combination of unconsciousness and vomiting.  Excessive consumption can lead to anti-social conduct, aggression, intimidation or violence.  Long-term use is linked to liver damage, heart disease, brain damage, some cancers and several disorders of the reproductive system and sexual organs.  Remember that is possible to remain under the influence of alcohol the morning after a heavy drinking bout.  Spend 48 hours without alcohol to allow your system to recover.

You should not drink alcohol if:

  • You might be in the early stages of pregnancy
  • You will be operating machinery, or equipment in a practical class
  • You may be driving a car. CUSU has a policy that no-one should drive on official CUSU business within 48 hours of drinking.

National statistics indicate that the prevalence of hazardous drinking in the 16-24 age group is over 50% for men and 30% for women – the highest prevalence for any age group.  Like many other University towns, the local NHS has expressed concern about the level of alcohol related admissions to Addenbrooke’s.

Alcohol is an addictive drug and there is strong evidence that abuse of alcohol and alcohol dependency may stem from drinking in order to relieve stress, anxiety, and depressive thoughts – all of which are not uncommon among a student population, and for all of which help is available.  Alcohol is a depressant and can exacerbate pre-existing depressive conditions as well as precipitate them. If your drinking habits are affecting your life and work, then you should ask for help with the issues underlying your drinking. If you, or one or more of your friends, are in this situation, the following organisations can advise you:

UCS (01223 332865, http://www.counselling.cam.ac.uk/alcohol.html)

The Cambridge Drug And Alcohol Service (01223 723020)

Drinksense, 4a Gonville Place, Cambridge CB1 1LY, tel. 302850

Personal safety

An estimated 23,000 alcohol-related incidents take place in Britain each week.  Being on the streets under the influence of drink puts you at greater risk of physical or sexual assault.  So for safety, stay with friends, look out for your friends, do not walk back to your College alone at night, and take extra care on nighttime roads.  You should also be alert to the risk of drink spiking.

Antisocial behaviour is often associated with excessive drinking. Although alcohol is a depressant it can exaggerate whatever mood you are in when you start drinking. When drunk, you may unwittingly seem more threatening to others, influencing how they react to you.  Avoiding violence when not fully in control of yourself can be difficult; your perceptions will be dulled, it will take you longer to react and think things through, and your judgement may be reduced.   Aim to talk your way out a situation, avoiding aggressive language, and using open body language. But always bear in mind that when you have been drinking, you will be more vulnerable to difficulties and danger than when sober. 

College

Alcohol still plays a major part in the social life of most students. Organisers of student events should always make sure that there are plenty of good quality, alcohol-free drinks. A strong social emphasis on alcohol can be insensitive to students whose cultures do not endorse the use of alcohol and to those who choose not to drink it. 

The College encourages everyone who chooses to drink alcohol to do so responsibly, and not to abuse it.  It is both foolish and dangerous to encourage others to drink more than they ought or wish by forcing them to participate in competitive drinking games (such as pennying) or in forms of initiation to student societies. During the last few years, over-consumption has resulted in some serious accidents within Clare, as well as at other Cambridge Colleges.

Those responsible for organising College functions – such as the JCR, the MCR, and College clubs and societies -- should ensure that excessive quantities of alcohol are not available, and that only sensible drinking takes place.  The JCR should not encourage Bar promotions involving neat spirits or alcopops.  http://www.talktofrank.com/

Any College event, including dinner in Hall, should be enjoyable and civilised for all present – and this can only happen if individuals take responsibility for their own behaviour.  Diners should exercise restraint and not drink to excess; hosts should look after their guests and friends look after one another; and everybody should show consideration towards the Staff.  If a diner is behaving inappropriately, a member of the Catering Staff may intervene. Students who repeatedly fail to exercise self-restraint will be asked to see their tutor to identify any underlying problems and discuss solutions, perhaps in collaboration with the College Nurse and/or a University Counsellor.  If there are any recurrent problems, they may be regarded as disciplinary offences to be referred to the Dean of Discipline and/or the Senior Tutor

The College Bar Staff have a responsibility to ensure that College members and their guests do not drink to excess; those who do will be refused further service and may be asked to leave the Bar. It is illegal for Bar staff to serve someone who is clearly inebriated.

Drunkenness is not a defence, and should not be regarded as a mitigating circumstance. Tutors and/or the Dean of Discipline will ask to see any student whose behaviour is so affected by drinking as to make others feel threatened, or who causes damage to property not his or her own, or who harms another person, or who disturbs the peace, or who requires the involvement of the emergency services because of alcohol consumption, or who encourages someone else to consume alcohol to the point of drunkenness or beyond; this last offence will be regarded particularly seriously if there is any element of intimidation or bullying. Please note that it can be extremely expensive to replace or repair items that have been damaged – some bills have in the past run to well over £1000. If drunkenness is involved, the College will normally expect the individuals concerned to pay any bills, since it is unfair to use up funds that have been allocated for general student welfare.

Like many things in life, alcohol can be safe and enjoyable when consumed in moderation. Take care of your own consumption and be responsible in relation to that of others.

With acknowledgements to St Catharine’s College, Cambridge and the University of Leeds.