The student stereotype: from brains to binge?

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The pinnacle of this negative stereotype came about two years ago when the story of a student who drank himself to death seized our attention in the media. In February 2008, Gavin Britton, an 18 year old Business undergraduate at Exeter University died after consuming so much alcohol that his body shut down. On a golf-initiation social, Gavin Britton was encouraged to consume vast amounts of alcohol, including four vodkas, three pints, a glass of wine, countless shots of sambuca and the list goes on. The pressure for Gavin to keep up with his friend’s drinking was perhaps an experience which many students might experience on a night out with their friends. In October 2008, another shocking story came to the media’s attention when a 19 year old at Warwick University, Jason Venezia, died after downing half a litre of vodka for a £40 bet. He was ‘unable to stand or talk and was put to bed’. Although his friends checked on him frequently, the next morning he was found dead due to acute alcohol poisoning revealing that he was over six times the legal drink drive limit.

(Photo by Joanne Bates sxc.hu)

The heavy drinking culture associated with student life isn’t hard to miss. However, perhaps it is our independence and desire to break away from studying that can sometimes result in what is commonly known as the negative student stereotype.

But are we really as bad as the media portrays? The focus of student life in the news, focuses heavily on their alcoholic habits and touches only lightly on the success and commitment to studying. We shouldn’t dismiss the fact that the majority of students go on to graduate and achieve degrees, no matter how hard they ‘partied’ during their university life. Part of the reason for universities, such as Lancaster, moving into the top 10 of university league tables, is the improvement of degree results. Surely this improvement should give students some credit rather than focussing on what they do out of uni hours? Drinking is part of the student lifestyle but it isn’t the only part but just a small part of what students choose to spend their free time when not working towards their degree.

There is still to this day a strong case that university students still don’t know all the dangers of drinking and the harm ii can incur but the same could be said about individuals who decided against further education and get a job. It’s about responsibility and individuals knowing their limits of how much they can handle. We cannot disregard what the media is saying when traumatic stories such as Gavin Britton and Jason Venezia are revealed. But it is important that students become aware of how much they are drinking before they endure a ‘heavy’ night out.