THE (Times Higher Education) - - CONTENTS -

The first term of uni­ver­sity life will mean many things to many peo­ple – in­de­pen­dence, a fresh start and the chance to ex­pand one’s in­tel­lec­tual hori­zons. If The Sun is to be be­lieved, for some at the Uni­ver­sity of Ox­ford it also means mass or­gies. Re­port­ing on 28 Septem­ber on what it de­scribed as “wild, topless par­ties, drug-fu­elled or­gies and ‘vir­gin spank­ing’”, the news­pa­per said that some col­leges were now lim­it­ing the num­ber of overnight “guests” their firstyear res­i­dents are al­lowed to host. Prospec­tive stu­dents might be in­ter­ested to con­sider their pre­ferred col­lege’s take on the mat­ter – Brasenose Col­lege al­lows as many as nine overnight stays per term, for ex­am­ple; but Mag­dalen Col­lege for­bids all guests with­out ex­cep­tion. “Per­haps that’s why Ox­ford stu­dents go so mad at par­ties, as they’re forced to re­press it,” said one par­ty­goer.

Col­leges have ev­ery right to be con­cerned, if you take an­other tabloid’s word for it. Ac­cord­ing to a head­line in the Daily Star on 30 Septem­ber, the UK stu­dent pop­u­la­tion faces an ex­plo­sion of in­cur­able sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted in­fec­tions thanks to fresh­ers’ ac­tiv­i­ties of the likes re­ported at Ox­ford. Sex­ual health con­sul­tant Peter Green­house put the blame on cuts to sex­ual health ser­vices and the care­free at­ti­tude of un­der­grad­u­ates be­gin­ning their stud­ies car­ry­ing “in­ter­est­ing” dis­eases picked up on gap years abroad. “When you add into all that an in­fec­tion that is re­sis­tant to an­tibi­otics, you get the threat of a su­per gon­or­rhoea epi­demic,” Dr Green­house cheer­fully told the news­pa­per.

Per­haps UK uni­ver­si­ties could take a leaf out of China’s book. The New York Times re­ported that a grow­ing num­ber of uni­ver­si­ties there were cre­at­ing tem­po­rary camp­sites for anx­ious par­ents to stay and keep an eye on first-year stu­dents – surely a most ef­fec­tive contraceptive if ever there was one. Tian­jin Uni­ver­sity in north­ern China has set up what it calls its “tents of love” in­side a gym­na­sium for the past five years, of­fer­ing par­ents ac­cess to show­ers and air-con­di­tion­ing. This year more than 1,000 fam­ily mem­bers have pitched up, which might sound like a night­mare for teenagers eager for in­de­pen­dence. But the pen­du­lum swings both ways – thanks to the ar­range­ments, one new stu­dent said that he had his mother at his “beck and call”, bring­ing him bowls of noo­dles and clean­ing his room.

The UK gov­ern­ment’s re­sponse to calls for a ban on es­say mills will not have im­pressed many in the sec­tor. In a non-com­mit­tal state­ment on 27 Septem­ber, the uni­ver­si­ties min­is­ter, Sam Gy­imah, said that leg­is­la­tion to out­law con­tract cheat­ing firms was “not off the ta­ble” af­ter 46 higher ed­u­ca­tion lead­ers signed a let­ter urg­ing a law to clamp down on es­say mill use. The let­ter, backed by Uni­ver­si­ties UK and the Rus­sell Group, pointed out that New Zealand, Aus­tralia, the Repub­lic of Ire­land and 17 US states had in­tro­duced or were seek­ing to in­tro­duce laws ban­ning es­say mills and de­clared that sim­i­lar ac­tion was re­quired in the UK. How­ever, Mr Gy­imah seemed to push the ball back to vicechan­cel­lors, stat­ing that he “ex­pect[ed] uni­ver­si­ties to be tak­ing steps to tackle this is­sue”. With UK in­sti­tu­tions al­ready in­vest­ing heav­ily in soft­ware to de­tect cheat­ing, warn­ing stu­dents about the con­se­quences of buy­ing ghost­writ­ten es­says and ban­ning es­say mill ad­ver­tis­ing, in­sti­tu­tion heads will be cu­ri­ous to learn what other steps they might take be­fore politi­cians get around to do­ing their bit.

Let­ters, page 29

A uni­ver­sity pres­i­dent has apol­o­gised for drink­ing from a beer bong be­fore a col­lege foot­ball game, In­side Higher Ed re­ported on 25 Septem­ber. Car­los Var­gas, the pres­i­dent of South­east Mis­souri State Uni­ver­sity, said that he re­gret­ted his de­ci­sion to take an eight-se­cond chug from a “de­vice nor­mally as­so­ci­ated with ex­ces­sive or binge drink­ing” af­ter video footage was posted on­line. His ac­tions pro­jected an im­age that “I am not proud of, is not flat­ter­ing, and cer­tainly not ex­pected from the pres­i­dent of South­east Mis­souri State Uni­ver­sity”, said Dr Var­gas, whose board of re­gents’ pres­i­dent de­scribed it as a “teach­able mo­ment”. How­ever, many stu­dents felt that Dr Var­gas’ con­tri­tion was un­nec­es­sary and strug­gled to see why any­one was of­fended by the mi­nor in­ci­dent. “What the hell is wrong with a man en­joy­ing life with the stu­dents that seem to adore him,” tweeted one of Dr Var­gas’ cham­pi­ons, while an­other likened the furore to “some­thing out of the Pro­hi­bi­tion Era”.

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