A survey undertaken by The University Observer during the past fortnight has revealed some relatively surprising results.
While few students will be shocked to learn that over 80 per cent of their counterparts feel that drink continues to play a significant role in university life, the idea that over 40 per cent find drugs easy to obtain and one in five students find drugs easily sourced on campus could be unexpected news to some.
The figures for students’ drinking habits may seem more striking than those relating to drug use yet a little under half of those surveyed admitted to having taken some form of illegal drugs on a previous occassion. Of these, all had taken cannabis while lesser figures of 15 and 16 per cent have taken cocaine and ecstacy.
Students cannot reasonably be attacked for enjoying themselves by going out socially and drinking, or even to an extent, for trying drugs. University life offers a level of freedom previously unexperienced by the vast majority of students while mixed with this is a new responsibility which most students are sheltered from until they arrive in UCD. While not condoning this behaviour, is has to be recognised that some students will inevitably begin to push boundaries.
What is of concern is that drinking, and increasingly drug use, has become another part of college life to many students. The university does aim to counter this behaviour however are they doing so in an ineffective manner? Restricting the promotion of free or ‘cheap’ drink by societies and clubs and offering non-alcoholic alternatives in both student bars are regulations that should work in theory.
Yet surely these top-down rules contrast with the idea that the students that they are aimed at are adults, capable of making decisions for themselves. Perhaps it would make more sense to target attitudes to drinking and drug use. Almost one in five students said that they had personally been offered drugs while on campus, but have that many students been actively informed of the effects of drink and drugs on their health?
The university does implement rules to restrict drinking habits yet this is not complemented by an awareness campaign informing students of the effects their behaviour stands to have. Students will always seek ways to enjoy themselves when dealing with the stresses of academic life and drinking,while for some students, drugs will be what they turn to.
However if the university and the Students’ Union make an active effort to inform students, rather than restrict them, attitudes could begin to change.
In recent weeks, The University Observer has sought answers from both the university and the Students’ Union regarding some of the main news stories which are featured in today’s edition of the newspaper.
As the Students’ Union is a representative body for the university’s approximately 22,500 students, it is expected that the elected officers will vocalise the opinions of the student body not only across boardrooms with university officials but also in a public forum.
Yet the reluctance with which this newspaper was answered is surprising given that these figures are elected to fight for students’ rights, which span a spectrum from the introduction of third-level fees to everyday complaints.
While there is no doubt that those in the Students’ Union are doing the best that they can for students, perhaps those who elected them would feel that their officers are working harder on their behalf if they were more vocal on everyday issues that students care about.