It’s time to end archaic practices of drinking societies

The port and privilege culture has gone too far.

Cambridge cambridge drinking societies intiations Students university

Remembrance Sunday should have been a solemn day of memorial and reflection. Thanks to the actions of a few on King’s Parade, however, this day was marred with disrespect and inconsiderate behaviour.

Staging initiations in the very public space outside the Senate House, mere metres away from those only just departing St Mary’s Church after the Remembrance service, was undoubtedly ill-judged and foolish on the part of Queens’ Kangaroos.

Probably not the way they wanted their first Daily Mail appearance to go…

However mistaken they may have been, and although this in itself may be an isolated incident, it betrays concerns of a wider and more pervasive problem with the drinking society culture which the University has been party to for centuries.

We only need to turn to films such as The Riot Club to see how the media immediately latches on to the reckless actions of the few to mar our reputations as Cambridge students with accusations of filthy, rich excess perpetuating the rotten Oxbridge stereotype.

The university is fond of its traditions but when this extends to an over-protective secrecy over its most illustrious and depraved practices of its societies we need to be asking the question of whether this flamboyant display of privileged excess really serves our image any benefits.

It goes without saying that there is still a horrifying structure of male chauvinism in some of Cambridge’s most secretive drinking societies whose goings-on are often only known to the privileged few.With headlines circulating about glorification of misogynistic behaviour and private-school cliques finding their second homes within university walls, the sterotypes that those involved in Cambridge access work so tirelessly to dispel are becoming harder to push aside.

What may start out as a fun social group soon turns into an exclusionary and privileged sect much to the delight of the Daily Mail’s cackling, self-righteous readers. It is clearly an unhealthy and dangerous image to portray to the world beyond our precious Cambridge bubble.

Blurred lines of a slippery slope?

This isn’t just about the questionable initiations of a few societies. We have probably all, and I include myself in this, been present at a swap where some ill-chosen ‘laddish’ comments have made us more than a little uncomfortable. There exists a deep structural problem of a swap and society culture which sits uneasily with our all too self-righteous “principles” but which we accept and choose not to confront all the same because it is simply a Cambridge “tradition”.

The often toxic culture of swaps is a serious issue and can easily descend into controversy as manifested by the much-talked about article last year reporting on a John’s boys’ swap which headlined the fine: “Fine if you’ve tried having sex with a passed out girl”. The old-school, exclusive behaviour still exists and we need to confront it.

Do we take it too far?

Of course it is not just the male drinking societies that are to blame. Problems of elitism are also rife within the societies of their female counterparts; the handpicking involved in the coveted inductions into their midst often perpetuates a high school culture of exclusivity which should really have no place beyond sixth-form common rooms but is still an issue here at university.

Ritualised intiations and an elitist culture of drinking societies has become an unnervingly fixed and accepted part of Cambridge culture.

As Sunday’s events demonstrated, this toxic culture of an elitist social validation has gone too far.