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Ragging on RAG

Written by Campus Comment

‘Raising and Giving’ Week is certainly good at making itself known: high-profile events, students running around in brightly-coloured hoodies and, of course, incessant bickering on Newfess.

It’s also for a great cause: the focus on local, national and international charities helps strike a balance between helping those nearby and whoever needs help the most, regardless of where they are in the world. £6 440 were raised last year (and £104 000 across the entire year, not just the week), and over £5 000 this year; that deserves to be celebrated is hard to doubt.

However, it would be dishonest to suggest that that’s all that happens on RAG. Both RAG and Freshers’ Week crew are notorious for two things: the focus on alcohol, and for operating through cliques.

The banner outside the SU last year
Image: @nusurag on Instagram

To some extent, cliquishness is understandable: both events are logistical nightmares, and less formal networks of people that the higher-ups know can be relied upon can be a helpful shortcut. In spite of this, RAG still seems welcoming. This year, committee members were integrated with crews to break up any existing upper-echelon cliques.

A problem can still arise, though, when higher-ups become unable to see outside the bubble, and start taking criticism as a personal attack. The Newfess bickering wasn’t mentioned at the start for no reason. Throwing the idea of charity in a detractor’s face does not address the issues they’re trying to raise, and such knee-jerk hostility deters people from reporting similar problems in future.

Then, there is the focus on alcohol. Previous RAGs were witness to things like Chin the Bin – where people would empty drinks into a bucket before downing the entire thing – and Point and Pull – where people would be ordered to get with someone else on RAG crew for a laugh – which have toxified its reputation. Nowadays, there is far less – if any – focus on games like these (neither of which took place on this year’s RAG week), and an increased drive towards sober socials, but the culture of alcohol lingers.

While heavy drinking is far from unique to RAG, this is an organisation that presents itself as the society for a cause, which seems dishonest

It’s easy to feel like you’re missing out on the full RAG experience if you don’t go out every night, for example. Meanwhile, contributing some of the proceeds of sales of diesel to charity provides a direct – albeit small – incentive to drink. While heavy drinking is far from unique to RAG, this is an organisation that presents itself as the society for a cause: to then turn around and present this as the actual focus, as some do, seems dishonest.

RAG is a victim of its past, parts of which are so toxic that people are unwilling to give it the time of day today. Those that do will find an organisation that is genuinely trying its best to improve: in some areas it’s getting it right, and in others there’s still a way to go.

To get involved with RAG see their Facebook.

Featured Image: Newcastle Student Radio

Last modified: 10th February 2020

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