Statement From Jose Francisco Carranceja on Liquor License Regulation Changes

20 December 2017

Read Mary Ntalianis and Lily Minken’s article on the liquor license regulation changes here. This statement contains the personal opinions of Carranceja; not the Science Students Society.

My name is Jose Francisco Carranceja, and I am the Vice President of the Science Student Society.
So far in my university career I have attended 5 university camps. I was a first year camper on both the SSS Orientation camp (“o’camp”), and Destination Melbourne in 2015. I was a leader for SSS O’camp in 2016 and 2017, and helped out on MU Astronomy Society’s “Camp of the Cosmos” in 2017 as a committee member. In 2018 I will be one of the executive team who runs SSS O’camp.

“Camp culture” is subjective to each camp, and each person on it. You can’t define the culture of a specific camp (e.g. MUESC’s or Science’s) without having personally experienced it, as each of them are run differently. This culture you experience changes when you’re a camper, vs. a leader, vs. an organizer, but the goal of the camps ultimately stays the same. That’s bringing and creating the most enjoyable experiences, and providing great positive opportunities to all the campers to create lasting connections with others in the student community.

As the largest orientation camp, SSS receives a great variety of incoming first years, with various backgrounds and experiences. To ensure that all of these people get the most out of the camp we have a structure which focuses on inclusiveness:
– Making activities catered for both drinkers and non-drinkers. 

– promoting a safe, open-minded and positive environment and atmosphere, 

– Encouraging participation but never enforcing it. 
In the past, we have always run our camp as “BYO”. Alcohol itself of course doesn’t play the most vital part of camp, but it does really help to create a great atmosphere where people – particularly more timid or nervous newcomers who have yet to find themselves comfortable outside their shells – feel more empowered to relax and make friends. Personally, if I wasn’t able to have a few drinks with my other campers I wouldn’t have the amazing friends and connections I have today (most of whom I either met on o’camp or met through having the newfound confidence to branch out thanks to my o’camp connections later in the year). 
My own thoughts regarding this liquor licence regulation are split. On the one hand, the reasons behind the desire for a change of culture is something I stand behind, and I feel everyone else should too (particularly for the reduction of sexual assault cases in regards to the release of the sexual assault surveys). But, the methods of which C&S and UMSU have used to pass these regulations were badly organized, and were done without the actual consultation of the clubs who would be affected by these changes. 
The change would have been received much better from the clubs community if C&S properly included them in the development of this regulation months ago. Instead, they’ve kept it in the dark and suddenly brought it up right after the exam period, when it will go mostly unnoticed because students are absent from uni on holidays, and during a time where we are already in the middle of our camp preparations. Without our exec having non-authorised notification of these changes before the official email was sent out, we would have been caught blindsided by it like many of 
our fellow clubs, which meant we would have been in a worse position than we are now.

C&S have made this change giving us neither the time to organize our liquor license, nor even the training or assistance to deal with this change, or a way to argue it in a way that would produce any compromise. The choice was either to adhere to the new regulations without a say, or otherwise face disaffiliation or run a completely dry camp (out of the last two, many of the society voiced that they would prefer to do the former being something that many of the society have voiced they would rather do than the latter). While they have provided us with guides to get the licence, it has holes which could mean we don’t receive the licence on time. We’re working to make sure this doesn’t happen, but it is a possibility that C&S should have allowed for.

What C&S has done is instead of proactively trying to work with clubs to find a sustainable culture shift, they have forcibly pushed a culture shift seemingly overnight, which has seen almost nothing but confusion and resistance from the majority of the community and leaving those organizing camps scrambling for ways to deal with this.

Besides the timing issues here and the real lack of communication from C&S rather than the multiple, timely emails clubs deserved, the complete BYO ban does little to help with the original goal of increasing the safety of campers. Previous camp culture encouraged *social* drinking. There were large groups of campers sharing a few drinks together with the supervision of leaders who were able to take care of them immediately if required. Instead, having a liquor license encourages campers to secretly drink large quantities of hard liquors in their cabins – where they won’t be seen with their own alcohol. To themselves and to leaders, this is far more dangerous. They’ll become much more quickly intoxicated and be too scared to tell anyone what they’ve had. The amount of leaders available doesn’t make it possible to monitor every section of camp all of the time, and this puts the campers and the leaders at a much greater physical and legal risk.

This has honestly made organizing the camp a nightmare, due to restricting at least 50% of the activities and the running of the camp as a whole. Our activities weren’t inherently dangerous, but they aren’t allowed as they were under the very strict laws associated with the liquor license. It’s going to be almost impossible to hold a camp which passes down long-standing and good traditions.

This is also a huge financial strain. The alcohol cost will fall upfront on the campers who would normally face this with their personal alcohol purchases much closer to the camp. If this reduces interest in the camp then SSS must face the costs, something which neither we nor many of the much smaller clubs, who will be more severely affected, are able to do. This could severely cripple, or end, some clubs.

Alcohol is a part of society as a whole, not just student culture. The world is moving towards a safer culture, clubs are aware of this and are happy to instigate safer measures where we can. Whilst heavily regulating the alcohol may seem like the best step forward from C&S, I doubt it will do much to quell the issues at all, as while
alcohol does play a small part in the behavior of aggressors and vulnerability of victims, it’s not the root cause of the issues. Enforcing overnight changes as large as this one wasn’t what C&S should have done, and it wasn’t the only option available to them. You can’t expect to put a ban on something so deeply imbedded in the culture and receive complete compliance and docility without any resistance. C&S should have talked with clubs first, and used their experiences to shape a proactive and precautionary solution to these problems which was more viable for everyone involved. In this kind of circumstance, a positive approach needs to be taken with more leader training and emphasis on healthy alternatives such as time restrictions on drinking and more dry events, which would allow a more organic community culture change that worked because everyone was onboard.

The Science Student Society (as well as other clubs I’m sure) are looking at ways every year to make camp safer and more enjoyable for all campers, and amongst the executive team we have had many discussions as to what can be done to help create a healthier and safer culture on camp including expanding our welfare team, increased training for leaders and investment in various equipment for safety purposes.

We are getting a liquor license for next year’s camp and making it safer where we can. We can only hope that all of our efforts are worth it.

Response from UMSU clubs and societies department

The Clubs and Societies Department’s decision to amend the regulation of club camps, requiring clubs to obtain a liquor license if they wish to involve alcohol, and banning BYO alcohol, is a necessary change. There has been no dispute that the BYO practice was not sufficiently robust to prevent intoxication and harm. Club Executives who allowed camp attendees to become intoxicated were already in breach of their responsibilities as event organisers under both University and UMSU policy, breaching their own risk assessment documents submitted to UMSU, and leaving themselves open to negligence claims should injury occur.

Prior to this change, camp organisers were exposing UMSU to being sued for negligence should harm arise from the difficult-to-manage alcohol environment of club camps. UMSU has decided to no longer accept this risk, and view this decision as being in the best interests of both club executives, endorsing a legally compliant environment, and camp attendees, prioritising their safety and wellbeing.

We acknowledge that this process has been implemented in a somewhat quick manner, however, once the decision was made it was not one that could wait for another year for implementation and communication was circulated to the clubs as early as possible. Club Executives take on a high degree of responsibility with their positions, and the department is content that the there is sufficient time for them to organise their orientation week camps to a high standard, in compliance with the policy, regulations and most importantly, the law.

On the matter of consultation, it was deemed unhelpful to run a forum for discussion on this matter, which was essentially not open for discussion. But that does not mean the decision was made without consultation. The Clubs and Societies Committee is composed of seven individuals, who between them represent no less than 10 different clubs, including two of the biggest stakeholders in this issue, the Arts Student Society and the Science Student Society. Fundamentally the Committee’s primary purpose is to represent clubs as a whole. Ideologically this change is unchallenged, and the decision is endorsed by the CEO of UMSU, the Clubs and Societies Coordinator, and both the 2017 and 2018 Clubs and Societies Officers and Committees.

The Clubs and Societies Department exists to support clubs in their endeavours, and the liquor licensing regulation change does not deviate from this purpose.

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