Spending on Freshers’ Week by JCR committees varies greatly across the University, especially regarding the budget set aside to buy alcohol.
Queen’s College have allocated a budget of £4500 for Freshers’ Week, which includes £400 for a sightseeing tour of Oxford by bus for new students. Meanwhile, Oriel are spending £250 in total for the entire week.
Of the colleges surveyed by Cherwell, the average JCR spend on Freshers’ Week activities was £1900, all of which came out of the JCR budget. The only college whose MCR to contributed to Freshers’ Week was Mansfield.
The vast majority of JCR spending goes towards venue hire and alcohol, although other costs include magicians, barbecues, and a bouncy castle at Lincoln.
Many colleges try to win their money back through the sale of Freshers’ T-shirts and club night tickets.
Encouraging new students to go clubbing has been disallowed by some Colleges, after fears from College Governing Bodies that this could encourage excessive alcohol consumption, and endanger student safety.
But despite the concerns, some JCRs have spent thousands of pounds on alcohol for students. St Hugh’s budget totals £3000, of which £400 was spent on wine and £1000 on Pimm’s.
A cocktail evening and accompanying entertainment organised by Queen’s for incoming students cost £1000, and Magdalen have also set aside £1000 behind their college bar.
Chewell found that at least six JCRs are supplying no alcohol whatsoever. St Anne’s pastoral staff explicitly disallowed more than one official college club night this year after problems with drunken behaviour and an arrest in Freshers’ Week last year.
One member of the St Anne’s Freshers’ Committee commented, “It is ridiculous to only let us have one night where alcohol is officially allowed. By being so strict the College is making students more determined to go out and get really drunk.
“There would be less chance of something going wrong if college recognised that everyone is going to drink in Freshers’ Week, no matter what they say, and helped us organise it properly and safely.”
Corpus Christi organisers have also been monitored by the governing body, which has insisted on at least one “non-alcohol centred” night during Freshers’ Week.
“They told us there is enough drinking involved in Freshers’ activities as it is”, a Corpus Christi Freshers’ Week organiser commented. He went on to describe the attitude of the college as “stingy and generally anti-fun.”
Many new students are worried that their time at Oxford will not be as enjoyable as that of their friends starting at other universities. Facebook groups for incoming freshers express fears that Freshers’ Week will be “disappointing” and complaints that the planned schedule is “a joke.”
However, some students have welcomed increased involvement from staff. A second year Teddy Hall student commented, “Freshers’ is probably the same at every university but there are always people who take it too far with pennying and drinking games.
“Not everyone likes to get wasted five nights in a row and you shouldn’t feel pressured into it. There is a permissive lash culture in Oxford because of drinking societies and it can be a real social divide. It must be terrifying for shy new students.”
A second year History student said, “My friend drunk so much on the first night of her Freshers Week that she wandered out of a club to a building site and passed out. No one realised she had gone missing and eventually a passer by phoned A&E. She woke up the next morning in the John Radcliffe Hospital. It is really terrifying to think of the dangers of excessive drinking during Freshers Week.”
A University spokesperson said, “Everyone attending Freshers’ Week events will be an adult, and if not, should not be drinking. Responsibility for their behaviour lies with themselves.”