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May 24, 2010 | by  | in News |
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“Unrelated and unplanned events” to blame for Undie “disruption”

Students perform “I told you so” dance

The conclusions of two studies undertaken at Otago University, addressing the causes of, and the role of the media, in events at the Undie 500, and focusing on potential solutions to “a culture of student binge drinking”, were presented at an Alcohol Advisory Council (ALAC) conference last week.

One study focused on Ensoc’s annual Undie 500, and aimed to address the causes of disorder at the event, and to consider possible preventative measures.

While the study acknowledged that the Undie itself was “well organised and went according to plan”, it pointed to “unrelated and unplanned events” which coincided with the Undie as leading to “alcohol-fuelled disruption on the streets of Dunedin”.

Discussing the media’s role in the event, researcher Maria Stubbe said “the media portrayed the unorganised alcohol-fuelled events in Dunedin as being part of Undie 500—despite the fact that some of this disruptive behaviour had preceded the arrival of the rally cars.

“It is acknowledged that tertiary students are an ‘at risk’ population for alcohol misuse. However, non-students were also involved in the disturbance—a point which was largely overlooked in the media reports.”

Attempting to form conclusions from the events at Undie, researchers pointed to areas which could have been improved, including managing student events better to avoid potential problems such as situational drinking and disruptive behaviour, and organising activities such as music or arts events which could assist in dispersing the crowds across the city.

Further, the report stated that “the media could also assist by adjusting its focus to celebrate the positives of events and student culture in the future”.

Responding to ALAC’s press release about the report, Ensoc president Michael Cook stated that “this report backs up the theory that we have, and have been trying to prove and implement over the past couple of years.

“Hopefully this year we get the opportunity to create a properly controlled event to prove that we are able to hold a positive and successful event, not only for the students at the University of Canterbury, but also for the wider community.

“It is also important to note that Ensoc frequently runs successful events with larger numbers of attendees than the Undie 500 Charity Drive, and we would apply the same principles, controls and measures to any event we run to ensure that it is run successfully.”

Also presented at ALAC’s conference was a new initiative designed to address the culture of student binge drinking, developed by Vanessa Reddy of the Otago University Students’ Association.

Basing her report on findings from a year spent in the United States, where many universities have successfully addressed problems relating to binge drinking, Ms Reddy developed a 40-point plan to address alcohol-related issues. The plan, offered as a long-term solution to university drinking culture, “will be developed by way of a five-, ten- and 20-year plan at Otago University”.

Some of the strategies outlined in the plan include “cutting down the number of liquor outlets around campuses, developing a ‘sober up safely’ facility, and ensuring landlords conduct inspections after student house parties”. Initially, Student Health is running a pilot scheme involving “motivational interviewing”, where highly intoxicated students are asked discuss their drinking with their Residential Assistant. This is followed up with an online survey which will “help students to question their motivation for drinking and think about changing their habits”.

“Strategies such as these should help create safer campuses where students can use alcohol without drinking excessively or coming to any harm,” Ms Reddy said.

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