The Pub Crawl Problem4 March 2018
Now a steady staple of orientation week, pub crawls organised by large student societies routinely draw large
numbers of first-year students. Almost a University ritual, these events see students roaming from pub to pub, always dressed up and enthusiastic.
The problem with these proceedings, however, is that they contradict regulations laid out by the University and the University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU).
Prior to any event where alcohol is served, a club or society must fill out and submit a Responsible Serving of Alcohol form to the UMSU clubs and societies (C&S) department. While there are many restrictions and regulations on this form, the one directly concerning this issue is checklist item six.
The rule reads: “The event will not include any activity that encourages the excessive or inappropriate consumption of alcohol (e.g. pub crawls, drinking competitions, etc.).”
How, then, has the pub crawl become tradition?
A possible explanation is that the events are deliberately listed not as pub crawls, but rather as ‘historical tours’.
For instance, listed under the “o-week 2018” section of the Melbourne Arts Student Society (M-ASS) website is a “Historical Tour of Local Watering Holes (definitely not a pub crawl)”. At this event, students will “knock down bevs at some of our favourite venues”, and M-ASS claims that this will help students “to understand what Uni’s all about”.
Similarly, the Science Students Society (SSS) also takes advantage of this guise. The banner at the top of the website prominently displays an image of a previous pub crawl, alluding to an event listed as the ‘O-Week Historical Tour of Local Establishments’.
‘Pub Crawl’ is included in parentheses immediately afterwards. M-ASS and SSS did not respond to Farrago’s request for comment.
“Both UMSU C&S and the University have stances against pub crawls … Pub crawls create an inherently riskier
environment for the students attending them,” said Nellie Seale and Matthew Simkiss, the UMSU C&S officers.
“Pub crawls generate serious safety concerns, as students continue to become more intoxicated as the event goes on … when they are highly intoxicated there is a much higher potential for injury.”
Should any injuries occur on a pub crawl, it could reflect poorly on the student societies who have made the call to proceed in spite of these elevated risks.
It would also reflect poorly on the student union itself—despite stating that “clubs are prohibited from making alcohol the focus of [an] event”, UMSU has made little effort to enforce the regulations against pub crawls, many of which took place in o-week.
However, this is not just a problem that concerns UMSU C&S. With the health and wellbeing of students under
consideration, the UMSU welfare department is also involved.
“Pub crawls disguised as historical tours pose [a] significant welfare issue,” said Michael Aguilera and Cecilia Widjojo, the welfare officers.
“There is definitely room for improvement in this matter; however the issue of serving alcohol responsible by [clubs and societies] has improved a lot recently.”
Victoria Police have expressed concern for the wellbeing of students who participate in o-week pub crawls.
“Victoria Police urges people to drink responsibly, plan ahead and look after each other if they partake in activities during orientation week,” a spokesperson said.
An alternative perspective is offered by Meg Carney, member of the Ormond College Students’ Club.
“[Ormond College] have one organised pub crawl a year … This event usually has approximately 150 people attend, is student organised and has sober students as well as cars on hand to make sure everyone remains safe,” Carney explained.
“In my experience, students have been really good at managing their alcohol consumption, if they choose to drink at all. We have support systems in place if someone may drink to excess, and always regard an individual’s safety as the priority.”
It seems that it could be possible to reduce the risks involved in any pub crawl. However, their current planning and execution by student societies can be deceptive and contradictory to UMSU regulations.