Why Rag Week had to go

Wikier via Flickr

This article appeared on studentnews.ie on November 3 2011.

It’s now well over a week since the Students’ Union in NUI Galway decided to do away with Rag Week. Turkeys voting for Christmas you might think? Sure students are only mad for drink, and Rag Week is the biggest piss-up of all.

The SU weren’t, as it happens, mad for another five days of arrests, drunkenness and rampaging through the estates of Newcastle. NUI Galway is not famous for Rag Week, it is notorious. It was this notoriety which led to Rag Week being rebranded as ‘College Week’ back in 2010, after an apparent bridge-jumping tournament off the Quincentennial Bridge, among other things, in 2009. The University itself did not sanction College Week post-2009.

Over 30 arrests in 2011 showed conclusively that the rebrand didn’t work. Emmet Connolly, SU President, told Flirt FM that Rag Week was beginning to affect the employability of NUI Galway graduates- in interviews they were being asked if they had a good session. The president of the college, Jim Browne, called for its end last March. NUI Galway, like the rest of Ireland’s universities, has tumbled down the rankings. College fees have been on the table for a number of years, and drunken students do not impress the importance of free education on Joe Taxpayer. It was inevitable that Rag Week would go.That Rag Week went by a margin of 107 to 7 is interesting. Turkeys voting in favour of cranberry sauce by such a huge amount was unprecedented. But the college had offered €60,000, index linked, to the Student Assistance Fund. Going on the piss and throwing bottles at local residents for a week or keeping poor kids in college? Well, you’d have to be the evil lovechild of Sean Fitzpatrick and Margaret Thatcher to vote against it.

What does this mean for Rag Week, the much-loved institution of all Irish colleges? Well, it doesn’t look good. The three Dublin universities, Trinity, UCD and DCU don’t really do it- mayhem in Dublin is largely confined to Temple Bar, and Coppers. UL has rebranded it College Week too, and is in constant conflict with residents of surrounding estates. NUI Maynooth has killed Rag Week, and now has a one-day event called The Gathering. There’s been legal action to prevent CIT’s Christmas Days- the mid-winter Rag Week- from going ahead. And the SU in NUI Galway have warned that anyone trying to organise an unofficial Rag Week through Facebook will be punished.Rag Week’s days are numbered, it seems. It’s easy to see why. The concept is good- students in position of privilege- and we are, by many standards, in a position of privilege- raise money for the less fortunate. The craic is mighty, and most students don’t turn completely feral. But the charity element has been pretty much forgotten about, and the minority’s ruined it. NUI Galway raised €20,000 last year during Rag Week, less than €2 a head. Students prefer to keep their cash for alcohol.

It’s a miracle Rag Week lasted as long as it did.

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