We should just accept it, we’re all pissheads

The University of Otago has set up a new group that could see the University, famous for good scholarship over a couple of beers, change its policy towards alcohol. The AIG aims to change the drinking culture in Dunedin by focussing on drinking in flats, student halls, and first year initiation ceremonies. However, questions are being raised about the group’s anti-student drinking rhetoric.

The Alcohol Implementation Group (AIG) is headed by Professor Jennie Connor, who has made a number of anti-alcohol comments in the past. On Monday July 9, Professor Connor was quoted in the ODT saying that the University should “dismantle the notion” that drinking forms part of a student way of life. Meanwhile, Vice-Chancellor Harlene Hayne stated in the most recent editon of Otago Magazine that “it is now possible to purchase alcohol in more than 400 places within walking distance of the University”. OUSA President Logan Edgar disagreed, estimating the real figure to be around 190.

The AIG forms part of the University’s purported new drive to create alcohol policy that will “moderate, not eliminate” student drinking. However, the language used by the AIG has caused concern to Edgar, who said the group should “be careful with what they’re saying” if they want OUSA to publish communications on behalf of the group. Jono Rowe, OUSA’s representative to the first group meeting held in May, is also somewhat concerned about the group, although he said OUSA “recognises and supports measures to limit harmful drinking”.

Edgar said that OUSA shares some views with the AIG and have engaged in some “cooperation”. He said that OUSA has been working with the University on policy in the last year to improve the drinking culture, including pushing for a glass ban on Hyde Street. However, Edgar believes it would be detrimental for the AIG to crack down on student pubs, saying pubs and events provide a regulated environment where students can have fun.

Professor Connor was hesitant to speak with Critic before the next meeting of the AIG. When finally reached for comment she stated that “there is no healthy level of drinking... there is less risky drinking and more risky drinking but it is not good for your health.” However, Professor Connor claimed that the intention of the group is not to end student drinking – instead, the group aims to change the environment which leads to alcohol related harm.
This article first appeared in Issue 16, 2012.
Posted 5:14pm Sunday 15th July 2012 by Dan Benson-Guiu.