Alcohol Misuse Policy
Adopted in January 2020
Review in Lent Term 2023
Murray Edwards College is committed to promoting a safe and supportive environment in which students can live, study and work. This includes addressing the risks posed by alcohol misuse, informing students of their responsibilities to take reasonable care of their own safety and that of others, as well as providing information, advice, guidance and support to those who request it.
In particular, Murray Edwards College aims to:
- Encourage and support a culture of safe drinking and mutual respect within the College community;
- Promote a community which is supportive and which recognises and respects different attitudes towards alcohol use;
- Work to create an understanding of acceptable behaviour and sanction the use of disciplinary action where appropriate;
- Assist students to make informed decisions about alcohol use;
- Recognise the link between responsible behaviour and an enjoyable learning experience and seek to promote a social environment in which all may benefit;
- Take very seriously the legal duty of care to students, staff and visitors and aim to provide a safe, healthy and high-quality work and study environment;
- Work with all relevant partners to deliver responsible commercial services where alcohol is available on site;
- Recognise that staff have a duty of care to be alert to indicators of student alcohol misuse and/or dependency and to take appropriate action when necessary;
- Provide guidance and information to staff and students to help them develop the confidence to know what action to take if they are concerned about alcohol misuse which puts the wellbeing of students at risk;
- Provide support to students who are seeking help or have concerns about their alcohol use or that of their friends.
This policy is part of the College’s work to help achieve these aims. The overarching premise is one of support and education, focusing on boundaries of acceptable and responsible behaviour.
- Respecting the Rights of Others
- Who is covered by the Policy?
- What is alcohol misuse?
- What is alcohol dependency?
- What is binge drinking?
- What is pre-loading?
- Personal safety
- Peer pressure
- Violence or antisocial behaviour
- Implications of alcohol misuse
- Support for those with alcohol dependency
Appendix A: Roles and Responsibilities
Appendix B: Guidance in the event of alcohol poisoning
Respecting the Rights of Others
The College recognizes that there will be differing attitudes to alcohol amongst the student body and that a strong social emphasis on alcohol is insensitive to those whose cultures do not endorse the use of alcohol and to those who choose not to use it for other reasons. In a 2016 survey of Cambridge students, nearly a third of respondents indicated that they did not consume alcohol. The College will therefore strive to ensure that facilities and events are accessible for all students including those who choose not to drink alcohol, either due to personal preference, culture or because of religion or belief.
Students should ensure that the rights of those wishing not to drink alcohol are fully respected, regardless of the reason. The College will not tolerate disrespectful or exclusive behaviour which marginalizes students who choose not to consume alcohol.
Guidance on specific roles and responsibilities within the College is included in Appendix A.
This policy applies to all students of Murray Edwards College. It applies whether students are on College or University premises or elsewhere undertaking College or University study activities, including premises managed on behalf of the College or University by a third party.
Alcohol misuse is defined as the habitual or intermittent use of alcohol which causes detriment to an individual’s health, social functioning and/or academic performance. It can impair the safety of themselves or of others, and affect attendance, time keeping, efficiency and conduct.
Alcohol dependency is considered to be the most serious form of drinking problem and describes a strong, often uncontrollable desire to consume alcohol. There are varying degrees of dependence and it is important to note that, unlike alcohol misuse, dependence doesn’t always involve drinking excessive amounts. Alcohol dependency is an illness that can affect people physically and mentally, can have a negative impact on relationships and can lead to study or social problems.
Binge drinking is a form of alcohol misuse and is defined as drinking eight or more units of alcohol in one session if you are a man, and more than six units in one session if you are a woman. Studies have revealed that drinking a large amount of alcohol over a short period of time may be significantly worse for our health than frequently drinking moderate amounts.
To reduce health risks from drinking, the Chief Medical Officers (CMO) guidelines recommend that people should not drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week on a regular basis and we should spread these units over three or more days and have several alcohol-free days a week.
Measurements of alcohol for some popular drinks are listed below:
- A standard glass of wine (175ml) at 12% abv is 2.1 units, and a large 250ml glass is 3 units.
- A measure (35ml) of spirit (40% abv) is 1.4 units.
- A bottle (275ml) of ordinary strength alcopops (5% abv) is 1.4 units.
- A shot (35ml) of spirits, typically between 35-40% abv, is 1.3 units.
- A pint (568ml) of low strength (3.5-4% abv) beer, or lager, is 2.3 units.
- A standard measure of port, or sherry, (50ml) is 1 unit.
Pre-loading is the practice of consuming alcohol at home or a friend’s house before going out to pubs, bars or clubs or on to a College event. When people pre-load they are considered four times more likely to consume over 20 units on a night out (including pre-loading and pub/bar/club drinking). This level of consumption is strongly associated with increased health and safety risks.
The short and long-term effects of alcohol consumption are wide-ranging and can have a significant impact on a person’s body, lifestyle and mental health.
An estimated 23,000 alcohol-related incidents take place in Britain each week. The risks of short-term harms like accidents or injuries increase between two to five times when drinking five-seven units (equivalent to 2-3 pints of beer). Being out under the influence of alcohol therefore puts students at greater risk of harm. The College recommends that students familiarize themselves with useful tips to help stay safe whilst drinking by visiting the Drinkaware and NHS web resources.
See Appendix B for guidance in the event of alcohol poisoning.
It is irresponsible and dangerous to encourage or pressure others to drink any more alcohol than they ought or wish to. Participation in competitive drinking games including ‘pennying’, the spiking of drinks with any/extra alcohol or pressurizing others to take part in an ‘initiation’ to student societies is strictly prohibited and any student engaging in such activities will be subject to the College’s disciplinary procedures.
Violence or antisocial behaviour
For a small minority of students, alcohol can play a significant role in situations where violence or antisocial behaviour occurs. Violence and antisocial behaviour will not be tolerated and may be subject to the College’s or University’s disciplinary procedures. Excessive alcohol consumption will not be considered a mitigating factor.
Students should be aware that they are responsible for their own actions and will be held fully liable for any expense arising from breakages, damages or additional cleaning to College or University property resulting from antisocial behaviour.
Any Fellow of the College or the Porters may stop a gathering within College if it is causing disturbance to other members of the College or the neighbouring community, and they can also submit a report to the Dean and the Senior Tutor.
Implications of alcohol misuse
The College has a legitimate interest in protecting the College community from the potential consequences of alcohol misuse. It is important to acknowledge that the actions of students whose behaviour causes damage to property, or harm to either themselves or others as a result of alcohol misuse will need to be considered fully when deciding on an appropriate course of action.
Therefore, in situations where the misuse of alcohol is significantly affecting a student’s academic performance, conduct, relationships or future career choice, the situation may need to be considered under a specific College or University procedure, including but not limited to:
- Fitness to study
- Fitness to practice
- Harassment and sexual misconduct
Students should also be aware that, under the College and University Disciplinary Procedures, the effects of self-administered alcohol or non-prescribed drugs shall neither constitute a defence to a charge of misconduct nor afford a basis for mitigation of sanction. In addition, any breach of the Rules of Behaviour may be considered more serious if it took place under the influence of alcohol or illicit substances.
Very serious cases involving potentially criminal activity may result in a matter being reported to the University and/or the police.
Support for those with alcohol dependency
It is recognized that moderate alcohol consumption for many students will be an enjoyable and relatively harmless element of university life. However, in a University with a student population size as large as Cambridge, it is inevitable that some students will have or develop a problem with alcohol.
Alcohol dependency is an illness and if a student proactively and voluntarily discloses a problem with alcohol to the College, they should be reassured that they will be treated with sympathy and sensitivity and every effort will be made to assist them in finding the support that they need.
Support might be offered through the College Nurse, College Counsellor, Senior Tutor and Tutors or the University Counselling Service. Referrals to external support agencies may also be considered.
Wherever possible, the disclosure of information by students will be kept confidential within the College welfare team, unless the student consents for such a disclosure to be shared or if the student or others are at serious risk of harm.
Whilst the College encourages any student with a concern about alcohol to disclose it to the College so that full pastoral and study support can be provided, it is recognized that not all students will wish to do so. Students wishing to seek help outside of the Collegiate University may find the following resources of help:
- UCS self-help leaflet
- Your General Practitioner
- Drinkline - the free national alcohol helpline. 0300 123 1110 (weekdays 9am – 8pm, weekends 11am – 4pm)
- Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
- Change Grow Live Cambridge
- Alcohol Change