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Tee-Total Territory

Posted by Kristina Murkett

From college bar crawls to formal halls and black-tie balls, a lot of university life revolves around alcohol. Indeed, from the alco-pops you are initiated with as a fresher to the champagne you pop open at your graduation, booze is as much a part of being an undergrad as late night essay crises or exploiting your NUS discount.

Yet this is not the case for everyone, and many universities are beginning to see the importance of catering for students who choose not to drink, whether it be for religious beliefs, medical conditions or just personal preference. Most universities already offer non-alcoholic fresher events, but it can be hard for students who might be used to a booze-free environment to suddenly be bombarded with chants of 'down it fresher' or have their kitchen invaded with ring-of-fire-fuelled pre-drinks.

Without a dose of Dutch courage, a week spent socializing with a group of complete strangers can be a daunting experience, and many teetotallers can be left feeling isolated or pressurized. David Wiley, an ex-student at Aberystwyth University, left after only three days - he said that 'flatmates were always knocking on my door, asking if I wanted to come out and get hammered', and that conversations the next day simply centered on how much everyone had to drink the night before.

St. Andrews University are responding to this potential problem by becoming the first university in Scotland to offer alcohol-free accommodation to cater for students who do not drink. Students filling in their accommodation forms will now have the option of ticking a box requesting that their fellow housemates do not drink in the shared flats, or bring alcohol drinks into them, and any students who do not comply with these rules risk being rehoused in other flats.

Student Union President Pat Mathewson justified the scheme by saying that 'our first priority is always ensuring our university environment is a safe and supportive atmosphere, so for those students to be able to live the lifestyles they're used to and excel academically may require a space that's conductive to that.' He also added that this scheme is 'only a beta-version really. Our residential services have decided they will offer a small section and then see what the uptake is like.'

A St Andrews University spokeswoman said: We're proud that our Students' Association is working to shape new attitudes towards responsible alcohol consumption and making our student experience more inclusive. We want our students to think about their lifestyle choices, and to support the choices of others."

The tee-total zones will be set up in the David Russell Apartments and Park Apartments, both in Fife, in five person en-suite flats. Similar set-ups have already been popular at University College in Cork, and Swansea and Bristol universities also offer alcohol-free accommodation. London Metropolitan University also proposed the introduction of an 'alcohol-free zone', to cater for its 20% Muslim population, and so there are definitely growing options for those who find their glass fully empty.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Creative Commons.