Let’s ban stuff


Let’s reverse all trends toward greater freedom in order to attract more rabid reactionaries. What a good plan!

A London University may become the first in the country to ban alcohol from part of its campus to attract more Muslim students, its Vice Chancellor has said.

It could ban women from part of its campus, too, or it could ban just women with naked heads, or it could split the difference and ban just women not in burqas. Would that be a good plan?

London Metropolitan University is considering banning the sale of alcohol from some parts of the campus because a “high percentage” of students consider drinking “immoral,” Prof Malcolm Gillies said.

One-fifth of the University’s students are Muslim, and of those the majority are women. It is an issue of “cultural sensitivity” to provide drink-free areas, Prof Gillies told a conference, adding he was “not a great fan of alchol on campus”.

It’s likely that a high percentage of students consider bans on alcohol immoral, too. Four fifths of the University’s students are not Muslim; is there an issue of “cultural sensitivity” to refrain from banning alcohol in places where it’s currently allowed?

Professor Gillies said the University was “much more cautious” about the portrayal of sex on campus than universities had been 30 or 40 years ago, the Times Higher Education reported.

Many of its female Muslim students “can only really go to university within four miles of home and have to be delivered and picked up by a close male relative”, he said.

“Now we’ve got a younger generation that are often exceedingly conservative, and we need to be much more cautious about [sex] too.”

Power to the conservatives! Let’s everybody go backward! Soon no women will be allowed to do anything unless accompanied by a close male relative. Utopia!

 

Comments

  1. says

    Lots of college campuses already ban alcohol in the USA. They are the so-called “dry” campuses. Still, having a wet campus doesn’t seem to stop people who follow the religion of Islam from attending, and I doubt it would in London, either. It would be rather funny if they went through with this illfounded plan and ended up not attracting a significantly greater number of Muslim students.

  2. Pam says

    What the heck!!!????

    You would think a University would have at least one brain cell to rub against a stupid idea wouldn’t you? but NO! lets treat religion with special rules- or maybe just maybe- the ones who don’t like alcohol don’t go near it? and the majority that do- carry on as before.

    Thin end of the wedge as a great man used to say :D

  3. says

    Many of its female Muslim students “can only really go to university within four miles of home and have to be delivered and picked up by a close male relative”, he said.

    I think I began to find being picked up after class a vaguely demeaning experience around Year 5 or 6. The idea of 18 to 21-year-olds feeling obliged to be chaperoned is truly gross.

  4. eric says

    Yep, what Aratina Cage said. Lots of US campuses are dry for economic/legal reasons having nothing to do with morality or puritanism. Basically, they don’t want the legal liability.

    Officials at LMU may want to learn from US history lest they are doomed to repeat it: what inevitably happens when a campus goes dry is that a bunch of bars spring up across the road from campus. Students have to walk all of 50 feet further to drink. Their gesture would end up being largely symbolic, and any muslims visiting (or going to) their Uni would encounter the exact same amount of drinking as anywhere else.

  5. Gregory in Seattle says

    Twenty percent of the school is already Muslim, in a country where Muslims make up just over 4% of the population.

    Seems to me like they are doing just fine with alcohol sales everywhere on campus; why do they need to attract even more?

  6. godlesspanther says

    Yeah, sitting in a classroom listening to a professor talking about Aristotle — then some student breaks out a bottle of scotch and they start passing it around — yeah that could really turn off the Muslim students.

  7. Dianne says

    Personally, I don’t like alcohol. I hate the taste, it makes me feel crappy, and I don’t like the way other people act when they’re drinking. Oddly enough, I’ve never felt the need to demand that alcohol be banned from my surroundings. I’ve never found it the least bit difficult to simply not go into bars or refuse drinks offered to me at parties or tell drunk friends that I didn’t want to deal with them now and they could piss off until they were sober again. No need to demand everyone else follow my rules at all.

    Perhaps this is another example of the weakness of religious people: an atheist can simply not drink if she doesn’t want to, a Muslim must have a whole campus cleared of alcohol if s/he is to stay “pure.”

  8. inflection says

    I have to say, as a faculty member at several large universities over the past few years I wouldn’t shed a tear if my campus went dry, for the strictly secular reason of the disastrous effect alcohol has on students’ lives. Can’t control what happens in the frat houses except to limited extents through university recognition, of course.

    Might be different in non-American universities. Here in Portugal they sell beer in the dining halls. But everything I heard from the Student Life coordinators at my previous posts told me that alcohol is pretty much an unmitigated evil on campus, and the only reason it isn’t banned entirely is the ruckus that the students (and alumni) would raise.

  9. Godless Heathen says

    inflection,

    pretty much an unmitigated evil on campus

    Can you define “unmitigated evil,” please? I want to respond, but I’m not sure what you mean by it.

  10. Escuerd says

    What Dianne said.

    Don’t drink and never have, but it’s not my right to demand that no one else do the same around me.

    There’s just something deeply disgusting about the idea that, in order to appeal to some people, a university should start enacting repressive policies. The university could well do without the kind of people who this would attract.

    Sadly, those same people are probably some of the most desperately in need of some good secular education.

  11. says

    Might be different in non-American universities. Here in Portugal they sell beer in the dining halls. –inflection

    Hmm, that might be a little strange (correct me if I’m wrong) for a college dining hall in the USA (perhaps it varies from state to state since some states have blue laws and other idiosyncratic alcohol sales regulations?). I think that if alcohol is sold on a campus in the USA, it is usually sold at a separate pub or at a stand on a game day, otherwise you have to bring your own.

  12. says

    Having spent the vast majority of my time on a dry-ish campus, it was really strange to me to study at Oxford for a summer and find bars right under neath the dining halls. It was also a very welcome experience, as it happens, and didn’t get in the way of either my studies, or anyone I knew in the program.

    In short: I don’t feel entitled to buy alcohol on college campuses, but banning something in order to please religious zealots is incredibly uncool.

  13. sailor1031 says

    When I attended university in England, lo these many years ago, alcohol was not considered a problem. I think the problem with american universities is the fraternities not availability of alcohol. There didn’t seem to be fraternities in England (although I believe some germans were still wearing sashes and duelling…..) and a good thing too!

    Seems to me what should be banned is forcibly holding down teetotalling students and pouring alcoholic beverages down their resisting throats until……what?

  14. Shatterface says

    Universities are supposed to prepare you for life, as well as provide formal education, so banning sex and alcohol to make Muslims more comfortable is a brilliant idea if you intend to follow through and introduce Sharia for the entire country.

  15. Dianne says

    Hmm, that might be a little strange (correct me if I’m wrong) for a college dining hall in the USA (perhaps it varies from state to state since some states have blue laws and other idiosyncratic alcohol sales regulations?).

    As far as I know, the legal age to buy alcohol is 21 everywhere in the US. Since most college students are age 18-22, selling alcohol in the dining halls would probably be frowned upon.

  16. says

    Inflection (and a few others). The point is not whether alcohol on campus is an “unmitigaged” anything. The point is that the university is changing its customs and restricting freedom in order to accomodate religious belief. This is regressive and stupid and dangerous. Let’s all march backwards into the dark! This really is so stupid, and sets entirely the wrong kind of precedent. Why are we surrendering so easily to the forces of Islam?

  17. says

    What Eric said.

    More generally, I’m completely with Ophelia on this one, and I’d hope this is an issue on which we could all agree – deference to religion leads to illiberalism and, well, banning stuff. Generally speaking, we should be against banning stuff.

    I fear, though, just looking at the thread above and not going any further, that we can’t even agree on this.

  18. Rudi says

    I had three close Muslim friends at uni and they all drank alcohol regularly.

    What a despicably condescending and presumptious attitude for the university to take. Presumably this is yet another kneejerk reaction to some fundamentalist fool who presumes (and is presumed) to speak for all Muslims.

  19. says

    I was at a prize-giving at Macquarie University last night. Afterwards, beer and wine was served to students and guests. Prizewinners with names like Mohammed didn’t seem to have any problem in accepting orange juice.

    Slightly off topic, I was gratified that rather more than half the prizes in Science went to women (my daughter was one of them, boast, brag) and not much less than half in Engineering. What a difference from my day when out of 600-ish first year students in Physics only a couple of dozen were women and three made it through to a degree and only one to honours.

    I was disgusted to find that Macquarie has a department of chiropractic. However, only one prize went to a woman. IOW, women are well represented in real science, but men dominate in the woo.

  20. Jeff Sherry says

    Who needs to worry about radical sharia creep into the system when an education system is willing to cater to muslims? Looks like regressivism is becoming the norm in GB starting with LMU.

  21. Jeff Sherry says

    Dianne (16), several years back many U.S. universities had set up a percentage of dorms to house over 21 year old students. The dorms were alcohol tolerant for the residents. It’s been 30 years since and may have changed on many campuses.

  22. eric says

    @18:

    More generally, I’m completely with Ophelia on this one, and I’d hope this is an issue on which we could all agree – deference to religion leads to illiberalism and, well, banning stuff. Generally speaking, we should be against banning stuff.

    I fully agree about deference or exceptional treatment of one religion (or none) being bad. I think what several people are saying is this: the situation in the US is complicated by the fact that there are nonreligious, secular/civic reasons for Unis not to serve alcohol. So, at least in the US cases, you can’t just look at the end result of no alcohol on campus and say “Boo! Hsss! Religious exceptionalism!,” because it may be nothing of the sort.

  23. Jeff Sherry says

    Aratina Cage, my experiences with colleges and universities in Indiana and Michigan, the bars were off campus on non-university property. I remember Ball State University trying to remove an enclave of bars on the edge of campus in Muncie, IN during the late ’70s.

  24. Shatterface says

    The OP is about London, not the US.

    Obviously the US has ‘secular’ taboos surrounding alcohol, but the US’s high age limit for alcohol is historically rooted in the religious Temporence movement.

    Most prohibitions are based on ‘sin’. Health concerns are generally a veneer of secularism to get prohibition past the legal requirement for seperation of church and state.

  25. says

    @Dianne

    As far as I know, the legal age to buy alcohol is 21 everywhere in the US. Since most college students are age 18-22, selling alcohol in the dining halls would probably be frowned upon.

    Yes, that’s probably a large part of why the campus dining halls in the USA don’t serve it (though I don’t see why they couldn’t inspect the identification cards of diners who wanted alcohol).

    @Shatterface

    Obviously the US has ‘secular’ taboos surrounding alcohol, but the US’s high age limit for alcohol is historically rooted in the religious Temporence movement.

    Well, the whole 21+ thing for alcohol and the ghastly punishments for violators is relatively recent–since only the 80s really. I suppose it could be the modern version of the Temperance Movement.

  26. says

    I can’t actually think of any good non-religious reason not to make alcohol available to young adults. It causes no great problems here in Australia that there are bars on university campuses and that drinks are fairly freely available to 17 and 18-y.o.’s at on-campus functions (though, alas, less so than when I was a young student … we are suffering the same shrinkage of liberties here to an extent). Union bars and the like tend to be civilised, enjoyable places in my (fairly extensive) experience.

    But the US does have a tendency to infantilise young adults (it also seems to have higher age of consent laws for sex than other industrialised nations). This might also have origins in America’s unusually high religiosity, but it’s counterproductive if we want raise responsible young people. With alcohol, it’s best for families to gradually introduce kids to it in moderation from a fairly early age. By 17 or so, they should then be smart enough to drink sensibly.

  27. Shatterface says

    I take it they’ve also banned anyone performing full Christian mass on site, what with the wine and all?

  28. says

    I dislike the emphasis students can place on the wonders of alcohol but if it was banned on campus – even if it was for better reasons than those of the London Metropolitan University – wouldn’t they just go elsewhere? And if their sights were turned to the supermarket they could get a lot more of it at much cheaper prices. Sainsbury’s basics bitter is going at, like, 99p for 4 cans nowadays.

  29. says

    I agree with OB – seems a bad move. In practice, surely, alcohol doesn’t really dominate campuses. I’m a lecturer and I’m hardly aware of it. And one rather welcome development which postdates my time at university (80s) is the proliferation of coffee shops – appealing places to socialize which, by their nature, don’t serve alcohol.

    I’m also concerned by the point made in the Telegraph piece about sex having to be downplayed – that could have serious implications for teachers of Eng Lit (like me), film and many other disciplines.

  30. says

    Banning alcohol doesn’t bother me as much as the fact that they’re doing it for the wrong reason — to appease a few religious nutjobs at the expense of everyone else.

  31. Godless Heathen says

    Well, the whole 21+ thing for alcohol and the ghastly punishments for violators is relatively recent–since only the 80s really. I suppose it could be the modern version of the Temperance Movement.

    Was this related to Reagan and the Moral Majority movement in the 80s? (I was born in the 80s, so I’m not sure, but I do know that Reagan made federal highway funding to the states contingent on raising the drinking age).

    I went to a small college in rural Iowa (graduated about 6 years ago) and the school had a pretty liberal alcohol policy, because the Dean of Students at the time didn’t want to drive drinking underground. Alcohol was allowed in dorms, RAs didn’t have to write students up for having alcohol, and students throwing parties in dorm lounges or the main concert hall on campus, could provide kegs as long as they checked IDs and only gave beer to students 21+.

    The restrictions that we did have were generally related to insurance issues and trying to not pay ridiculous rates for whatever insurance the school bought.

    I know we got a new dean of students 2 or 3 years back and students were upset with the new alcohol policies, but a year or two before that a bar was opened on campus that serves alcohol (and food). That didn’t exist when I was there.

    Anyway, this isn’t really relevant to the original article, but I wanted to point out that US colleges and universities vary greatly on their policies towards alcohol.

  32. psocoptera says

    Godless Heathen – I thought tying the drinking age to highway funds was a move endorsed by Mothers Against Drunk Driving. I don’t know how closely they were aligned with the “moral majority”. I think they genuinely thought this move would reduce drunk driving deaths.

  33. Rrr says

    If London University is so utterly averse to sin, why does it even maintain a Vice Chancellor at all? Or is the fear of spirits in general and such in bottles in particular?

  34. shatterface says

    I dislike the emphasis students can place on the wonders of alcohol but if it was banned on campus – even if it was for better reasons than those of the London Metropolitan University – wouldn’t they just go elsewhere? And if their sights were turned to the supermarket they could get a lot more of it at much cheaper prices. Sainsbury’s basics bitter is going at, like, 99p for 4 cans nowadays.

    When I was a student the area around our campus was surrounded by racist gangs who would beat up black and Irish students if they went into the locsl pubs. It would be too expensive to get a taxi into the city centre so the bar on campus was a lifeline.

  35. says

    I had always heard that one of the reasons the drinking age was raised from 18 to 21 was so that there wouldn’t be high-school kids old enough to legally drink, and that this would help cut down on underage drinking, because the 16- and 17-ers would have to go find people outside of their social circle to buy alcohol for them.

    Don’t know if this is true, or if it works, just an explanation I heard once of the thought processes.

  36. Dan says

    I find it hard to see the alcohol question as a secular issue.

    What it really seems to be about is cost cutting. London Met is not a happy higher education bunny, as you will observe from googling their name. Cutting University bar subsidies will save money. That’s likely to be the real agenda.

    But also, universities do have to respond to students. If lots of them don’t drink inevitably student events and services will need to be based less around alcohol. It’s not as though there isn’t widespread discomfort around the problems of drink anyway.

    And it’s also worth observing that the 19th century secularist movement in Britain might have approved of Gillies. There were close links between some of them and the temperance movement. In Sheffield, for example, the local secularist group met for a while in a temperance hotel. And that wasn’t unusual. What would Bradlaugh say?

    But what is a worry is Gillies’ more general point about responding to conservatism among students.

    Partly this is to be expected, since a market in higher education is developing. London Met’s VC obviously sees an advantage in appealing to – for example – to those Muslim women who get chaperoned about. We can fulminate all we like about that, but how should a university respond? Ban chaperones and effectively exclude some young women who would surely benefit from the experience? Or meet them halfway somehow and start to break down the barriers? It’s a challenge.

    But more generally, Gillies is hinting at something else. Now the government is marketising higher education and encouraging private provision, how long before we start to see an expansion in explicitly conservative religious institutions? The logic of the governments policy leads in that direction, just as with primary and secondary education.

    The Archbishop of Canterbury already has degree awarding powers.

  37. The Future says

    Don’t worry, in the western world each successive generation of Muslim ancestry will become more secular.

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