Durham University has claimed that they “do not tolerate initiation ceremonies of any sort” following the inquest over the death of Newcastle student Ed Farmer.
Pro-Vice-Chancellor Owen Adams released the statement following criticisms of Durham’s own initiation culture, one notorious for heavy drinking, challenges, and nudity. Just under a year ago, the Trevelyan College Rugby Club was indefinitely suspended, following mass outrage over their plans to host a ‘Thatcher vs. Miners’ social event, with Adams commenting that all activities “both on and off the field” would cease with immediate effect.
Despite Durham’s hard-line approach, initiations are still commonplace amongst the University’s societies. Known now as “Welcome Drinks” in an attempt to evade detection, these events still take the form of traditional initiations, and are apparently “anything but welcoming”.
Speaking to the Courier, a Durham student, who wished to remain anonymous, gave examples of challenges, such as initiates having to “run from one college to another with a shot of vodka in your mouth”, and having bottles of alcohol strapped to your arms and being forced to drink it all. The student also commented that “loads of [initiations] include nudity” and “streaking across town”.
Other incidents over the past few years have hit the press, such as cooking oil being poured in initiates’ eyes, and heads being shaved as a consequence for losing a challenge. Many of these ‘challenges’ are introduced by the sports teams – where most initiations take place, according to our anonymous student.
Durham University has issued warnings concerning the consequences of being involved in initiation ceremonies, with punishments including suspension, unpaid work, and even prosecution. Whether students will heed these warnings remains to be seen.