Freshers starting at Newcastle in 2009 really took the plunge – by taking a dip in a bathful of beans. This was part of a campaign by Taybarns restaurants to promote their £4.99 buffet offer to students. 14 eager freshers accepted the challenge, which offered quite a tempting grand prize – a free meal at the restaurant every week for a year. The prize was won by 1st year Ancient History student Tom Nicholson, who described how “freshers’ week is all about new experiences, and it’s not every day that you get to jump in a bath full of beans”.
Beany baths weren’t the only surprise for freshers that year, however; Princess Eugenie of York, who at the time was sixth in line for the throne, arrived at Newcastle to start studying Combined Honours in English, History of Art and Politics, from which she graduated in 2012 with a 2:1. Eugenie stated that she chose to come to Newcastle “because it’s a great city”, though this may have been before she first set foot inside her room in Leazes. While living there, Eugenie had round the clock protection from Metropolitan Police, which Hello! Magazine claims cost £250,000 a year. Her admission to Newcastle University, however, has recently caused controversy, after it was alleged that she was initially rejected from studying English Literature and only offered a place on the Combined Honours course after staff noticed her royal credentials.
Plans to hold a mass “snogathon” and feature in the Guiness World Book of Records were scrapped after Vice-Chancellor James Wright expressed concerns that it could put freshers at a heightened risk of contracting meningitis. Such concerns, however, were not reflected among the freshers themselves, who didn’t see the threat of meningitis as a barrier to their first sexual experiences at Newcastle, with one saying “I’ve gone and lost my [freshers’] wristband while I was having rampant sex”. Two freshers were even made to share not just a bedroom but a bed at Ricky Road, which has since been replaced by Park View, after an accommodation blunder allocated two students to the same room. Angry Alastair Brown claimed: “I’m much too cute to run that kind of risk”. Another pair had to share a room in the same Ricky Road flat too, with the Courier describing how the students had to share “a set of BONK beds”.
Safety was clearly at the front of the University’s mind in 1999, as alongside the meningitis concerns it was also reported that Education Policy Professor James Tooley had appeared on Richard and Judy over that summer, suggesting that students’ unions should close their bars. He argued that “the best way to fight student poverty would be to close the bars”, after having previously publicly stated that students come to university “to prolong the joys of youthful irresponsibility and decadence”. This stemmed from his belief that the working classes shouldn’t be subsidising the cost of higher education if students then spend this money unwisely.
A parent was removed from the 1996 freshers’ fair after “ranting at several stallholders”. The Courier reported that “the forceful father was progressing round the stalls shouting at them all in turn. At the Labour Club’s table he started that their party’s quality of debate was not up to standard and proceeded to argue with fervour in an attempt to stir things up”.
The first year celebrations included a kilted Ceilidh, and a somewhat more unorthodox “Crazy Carnival”, which featured “a bloke performing obscenities with a banana [which] would have been enough to shock even the most liberal of souls”. Further chaos was caused by the banning of Guinness from students’ unions across the country following a decision by the NUS buying consortium.
The University Housing Office was blasted after 200 students were initially left without accommodation, as 245 students were promised temporary Castle Leazes accommodation for during freshers’ week despite only 45 rooms being available. Despite this hiccup being resolved, first year students from 1987 had mixed reviews of their first week at Newcastle, with remarks ranging from “I want my mummy” to “sod off”, “cold” and “hall food terrible”.