Downing It is Our Choice

The harder we work, the harder we play. If there is ever a good time to learn your limits, it's now.

The spinning room, the slurring words and the conversations you’ll live to regret. We’ve all been there – that hideous moment of realisation that you’ve overdone it. Spending a night with your head in a bucket may not be your finest hour, but it is a rite of passage for any university student.

Which is why Downing’s email, warning students of the dangers of binge drinking, is both patronising and unacceptable.

Debris at The Mahal

Like it or loathe it, heavy drinking is an inescapable part of university life. And it is nothing new – just look at Brideshead Revisited. Even 80 years ago there were smashed students stumbling around college, pre-lashing at lunchtime and vomming in each other’s rooms. The only difference between then and now is the sad decline in the quality of the wine.

And this inherent emphasis on booze is not necessarily a bad thing. If there is ever a good time to learn your limits, it is as a student. Giving your liver (and stomach lining) a workout may not be compatible with a 9am lecture, but ultimately there is nothing stopping you from crawling back to bed.

Granted, drinking to the point of hospitalisation may not be the best way to spend an evening. But I guarantee that the Downing student in question will have learnt a valuable lesson, and it is better she learnt it sooner rather than later. Because being comatose at university will not damage your future prospects. Being comatose at the office party just might.

In this situation, Downing College was wrong to interfere. We are at university, not school. Legally, we are adults and there should be nothing stopping us from stocking up on Basics vodka.

Cambridge is intense – it thrives on pushing its students to extremes. Amongst the essays, all-nighters and Pro Plus pill-popping we have got to find time for a social life. After a day locked up in the UL there is nothing more appealing than a glass of wine. Or a bottle. It’s simple: the harder we work, the harder we play. And no email will change that.

  • Dame Elizabeth

    You're missing the point of the email – someone nearly choked on their vomit. That's a grotesque death just for a few laughs.

    • Oliver Reed

      but think of the poetry it would have inspired

  • Boozzzz

    Things To Write To Make Yourself Sound Like A Rebellious 16 Year Old #32

    It's neither patronising nor unacceptable for Downing to step in when someone has nearly died.

    It's immature attitudes like this that mean college have to do something. It's got nothing to do with learning your limits. You don't need to exceed them to understand the effect alcohol has on you. 'Giving your liver a workout'? Yes, HAHAHA MY LIVER IS EVIL AND MUST BE PUNISHED.

    Except what that really means is 'I'm too socially inept to have fun if I can remember any of the night, I need to test the strength of my friendships by being sick on everyone and requiring constant attention'.

    Instead of making a stupid babyfuss about this email, and proudly saying it won't change anything 'we'll STILL get hospitalised, fuck you THE MAN', why not just grow up a bit. Stop giving in to the pathetic peer pressure that makes people drink more than they want to and have a terrible time.

  • lad

    Booooooooooooooom. So why weren't you in Life on Sunday?

  • ag555

    Did Downing actually ban anyone from doing anything? No. They merely sent out advice which people can choose to follow. They aren't "wrong to interfere" by being concerned for the welfare of their students. Nothing IS stopping you from stocking up on Basics Vodka, not even Downing.

  • disckidding

    Utter rubbish. The email was good advice, not interference. How was it in any way unacceptable? It didn't reject drinking, just warned against the dangers of excessive drinking and potential consequences. I agree it's good to learn from your mistakes, but it's even better to learn from someone else's mistakes and that's what the email was about. Find yourself a real argument.

  • yup

    LOVE the headline.

  • Confused

    Why bring the legal argument into it?

  • Argumental

    The citation of Brideshead Revisited is the clincher here

  • Felix

    I find Barry to be an affable man. I learned that word from politics

  • Legal Eagle

    Look: The writer is correct that (at least judging by the article about it) the impression given by the email is that Downing see their students as irresponsible children. The writer is wrong that advising students to think about thier alcohol consumption is wrong. It just needs to be done in a non-patronising way.

    • Realist

      I don't think it's patronising to be given advice about the potential consequences of excessive drinking by an expert on addiction and an expert on criminal law. Though those reading these articles have probably not seen the email, it was very informative and brought to light a great deal of information which most students were probably unaware of. It was in no way patronising or interfering.

  • What?

    Yes, the time when you're a student is a really good time to drink so much that you DIE… oh, wait.

  • What

    For someone who writes about your rights as an adult, you have the mentality of a child. How is it wrong for Downing to interfere (by sending an advisory email) when someone almost died? "Everything turned out all right so there's no problem" isn't a legitimate argument, it's an excuse to avoid responsibility.

  • Felix

    Downing College Bar Committee is accepting applications. I hear you must be quick to succeed

  • Brain

    Learning a lesson by drinking too much is one thing; many of us have done it – but when it comes that close to death, it's absolutely right to interfere. I think the main problem is the peer pressure – not the pressure to drink, but the pressure to drink a completely ludicrous amount. A fresher died at Bristol Uni recently as well, for the same reasons – drinking society initiations are a complete joke.

  • I'd have been

    SHOCKED, if they hadn't sent around an e-mail.

  • Aloysius

    "The only difference between then and now is the sad decline in the quality of the wine."

    I think you'll find it was neither the quality nor the quantity of the wine that was at fault, but the mixture. Grasp that and you have the root of the matter.


    "Like it or loath it"
    "we have go to find time for a social life"

  • dosanghhhh

    i love alcopops in my bum

  • Curious

    Can anyone from downing post the email? I'd like to see how patronising and unacceptable it really is. My guess is not very. Bit of a stretch for a debate piece, but at least you're trying.

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