Toope and Virgo to go ‘underground’ to sort out drinking societies

In an entirely unexpected revelation, senior tutors criticise drinking society culture

2018: The year that Cambridge drinking societies quake and flounder. After approximately 800 years of the infinite and institutionalised consumption of port, red wine, and champagne, VC Stephen Toope, and Pro-VC Graham Virgo, have declared 'concerted action against drinking societies', which were described in Tuesday's open meeting as 'inherently problematic'.

Toope and Virgo spoke in response to one student's perceptive analysis of college drinking societies as promoting 'racism, sexism' and being hostile towards 'welfare students'.

Cambridge drinking socs have fuelled censure and student journalism for approximately eight centuries. More recently, a social media crusade led by Grudgebridge has brought this debate further out into the open. While there have been strong criticisms, arguing that Facebook is not the right platform for voicing concerns about drinking societies, drinking culture, and harassment, this new condemnation from the university leadership suggests that Grudgebridge's actions have had some real effects.

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Could a meme page have triggered a response from the University leadership?

This condemnation of the societies follows the Trinity Hall Crescents saga, where one student (not formally linked to the Society) claimed that "inclusivity is the single biggest problem to have happened to the Crescents in the modern age."

Both Toope and Virgo gave unequivocal statements against drinking society culture; Toope emphasised 'this is not acceptable', and commented that past incidents, linked to drinking society behaviour, had led to student harassment, 'damage', and injury.

In no uncertain terms, Virgo added that he had discussed this 'live matter' with Senior tutors at a Friday committee. Outlining the issue of college bans driving the societies 'underground', Virgo then theorised on a possible solution: reforming the college societies. He added that this was based on a previous success at his former college where, as Senior Tutor, he had banned and then revived a college drinking society, transforming it into a law-abiding, inclusive, non-gendered sports society.

In light of this potential scheme, perhaps 2019 will see the Crescents return to haunt Cambridge on the fields and pitches of the university.

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Attacks on drinking societies have escalated since the shocking video of the Crescents on C Sunday.

Toope and Virgo's statements follow yesterday's announcement that CUSU has created a group to tackle the abuse and sexual harassment linked with Cambridge drinking societies. The Students' Union described these societies as a 'remnant of elitism' and suggested that JCRs and MCRs should work alongside CUSU to combat this issue.

This sentiment was echoed by Virgo, who argued that tackling drinking societies should not be left to individual colleges. The university as a whole should be 'trying to think constructively about what needs to be done to change the culture'.

To some – a vindication of Grudgebridge's actions; to others – a statement that has been a long time coming. Whatever the trigger, the university leadership has taken a revolutionary step by openly condemning drinking societies. Could this be the beginning of the end for groups like the Crescents?

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