Drinking campaign leaves a sour taste

September 20, 2002

As thousands of students raise their glasses to celebrate freshers' week, the National Union of Students is being accused of hypocrisy over its campaign to promote sensible drinking.

After Her Majesty's Armed Forces, the union, through NUS Services Limited, is the UK's single biggest bulk buyer of drink. Moreover, many activities run by student unions are financed by profits made in the bar.

"As one of the largest bulk buyers of alcohol in the country, the National Union of Students may seem a tad hypocritical," says the student website educationet.org.

The site was created by Joe Rukin, a postgraduate student at Coventry University. He said: "To most students, the primary function of their student union is to provide a bar with cheaper beer than the rest of town.

"In times of ever-decreasing support from cash-strapped institutions, the cash in those tills is the very lifeblood of student unions, providing the much-needed income to subsidise clubs and societies, advice centres and a plethora of other services. This will ensure that any campaign may well be half-hearted."

Mr Rukin said the campaign would also divert attention from the issues of student stress and poverty. He said the campaign could reinforce "the public perception that students waste all their money getting drunk" just before the NUS begins a drive to demand more money for students.

"The campaign fails to see the real factors at work in the proliferation of binge drinking."

NUS president Mandy Telford said: "The NUS sensible-drinking campaign is an awareness-raising campaign. It highlights the risks attached to drunkenness for the drinker and for other people, including accidental injury, short and long-term health problems, violence, anti-social behaviour and becoming a victim of crime.

"It is one of the welfare campaigns we run over the year to ensure that students are fully informed on a host of issues that directly affect them, such as meningitis and finding safe student accommodation."

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