The unrealistic hope of dry dinner parties

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DRA/FP plans to offer alcohol free housing for the 2015/16 academic year. Photo credit The Saint
DRA/FP plans to offer alcohol free housing for the 2015/16 academic year. Photo credit The Saint
DRA/FP plans to offer alcohol free housing for the 2015/16 academic year. Photo credit The Saint

University is where people really grow up. For many it is the time first time they have lived away from home for long periods; washing the dishes and cleaning your clothes can be something of a culture shock. You learn to socialise with people from every different walk of life imaginable, and unimaginable.

Money suddenly becomes a real issue and the art of budgeting is one that a university student knows all too well. We learn the skills vital for self-improvement; both academically and in society as a whole. Other, more practical areas of development such as learning one’s alcohol tolerance are also worked on during your helter-skelter four years away from mum and dad.

Yet, as reported by The Saint in recent weeks, the University is taking steps to try and ‘mummy’ us through our time here. On the face of it, implementing alcohol-free accommodation seems like a good and reasonable decision. The reality is quite the contrary. It is a flawed, naive and simply bad idea.

At a time in our lives when we learn to cope with less favourable things hiding away in a utopian and unrealistic hall is such a dangerous thing to do. You may not drink alcohol, but that doesn’t mean that you should be able to hide away from it and its effects.

In our future, alcohol will play a relatively substantial part in our lives, whether it is wine at dinner or a cocktail before a wedding we will be surrounded by people drinking the stuff in droves. It will be unavoidable.

Even if you personally do not drink you are going to have to learn how to socialise and live alongside people who do. At a time in our lives when personal development and learning to live in the real world are of the upmost importance, staying in an alcoholless haven is just very sheltered. It is impossible to live like that indefinitely so just grow up and form some kind of coping mechanism.

Then there are those people who are changed by university. Many leave home insisting that they do not want to drink and this may lead to them staying in the aforementioned accommodation.

However what happens if they change their mind? If, in their personal development they have a change of heart with regards to alcohol, what are they supposed to do? They will be constrained by the University.

In the current situation the choice is there for people to make with complete freedom. Their pre-university ideas of what life will be like do not have to stay with them. They can grow, change and make their own decisions; like grownups.

This accommodation also asks damning questions about the will power of the people who do not drink alcohol. If they don’t want to drink alcohol, and that is something I whole-heartedly support and have a lot of respect for, then surely they can just say no when the possibility arises.

Living in a totally alcohol-free zone seems to question their own ability about turning down an alcoholic drink. Do they not trust themselves to say no? For those who also find it difficult to turn it down, normal halls can provide them with a big learning curve. They can learn what is the best way for them to turn down drinks. It is about personal development.

On a practical basis completely banning alcohol is just quite awkward. Can somebody not have a small bottle of wine in the fridge to use in their cooking? Although no Gordon Ramsey myself I am not ignorant to the uses wine can have in a cooking sauce. Are Christmas puddings also not allowed in the accommodation? No festive dinner is the same without it.That is not to say the idea doesn’t have its benefits, however. For those whose religion does not permit them to drink alcohol this could be a god-send. No longer will they have to worry about who they are going to share with and whether they may inadvertently break a religious law.

Then arises the dangerous possibility of isolating a religious group because of their views on alcohol. The chances of having a large majority of Muslim students in this accommodation would be high, and in a society where everybody should be mixing, it would mean leaving them out of the antics of Freshers Week, which may be a precursor to alienation. Despite being a very pessimistic idea, it is one that has to be considered and combated.

The implementation of alcohol free accommodation is a well intentioned, but ultimately terrible decision. It limits the capacity for our personal development and stops people from consuming one of the most popular products in our society. It also blinds people; creating a parallel, yet highly unrealistic view of life. People drink alcohol, people get drunk. Just because you don’t, doesn’t mean you should actively seek to avoid it. It is a part of life.

Worst of all, you won’t be able to make that filet mignon with red wine sauce for your date night. Outrageous.

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