A bar too far? Drunkenness off duty won't do

October 1, 2009

It may not constitute a grave threat to academic freedom, but the freedom of academics to get drunk in their own time is being curtailed at Cardiff University.

A new policy that warns against drunken behaviour out of hours has led to complaints that managers are trying to impose a teetotal lifestyle on staff.

Cardiff's policy on the use of alcohol and drugs says: "Individuals are reminded that they should not behave outside work in a way that might bring the university into disrepute and bring into question suitability for the particular role held."

Drinking at work is forbidden, and the policy states that employees' homes will be considered part of the workplace when they work there.

Alcohol consumption is allowed on university premises only on specific named events, such as the last working day before Christmas and "retirement recognition". But prior approval must be obtained, and staff must not return to work afterwards.

Similarly, staff need express permission to drink at lunch-time events; those who do may not return to the office for the rest of the day.

Failure to abide by these terms "may result in the termination of working arrangements".

The University and College Union is contesting aspects of the policy.

In email correspondence leaked to Times Higher Education, UCU members say: "This is either an attempt to impose a teetotal lifestyle or an implicit assumption that staff will adopt a 'Nordic' approach (the purpose of any alcohol is to drink oneself into oblivion) rather than the more civilised Southern European approach."

Adoption of the policy would force the closure of the Aberdare Hall staff bar, they add.

Banning drinking while working at home could be problematic for lecturers without defined working hours, union members say.

"Could this lead to a withdrawal of the 'goodwill' entailed in, for example, marking lots of material in a short time in the summer?" one academic asks.

A Cardiff spokesman said that while there were exceptions, the ban on drinking alcohol during working hours is "appropriate given the nature of the university's work".

melanie.newman@tsleducation.com.

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