I recently came across an article in the Galway Independent in which the president of the GMIT Students’ Union was complaining about promotions that were being run by nightclubs, pubs and off-licences in Galway to coincide with an unofficial ‘RAG Week’ that was occurring in the city.
It was “grossly irresponsible” said GMIT SU president Sam O’Neill, for these outlets to act in such a “self-serving” manner. According to O’Neill, by running alcohol promotions these businesses were “fundamentally undermining” the work of the students’ unions of GMIT and NUI Galway, who have sought to distance the students of both institutions from ‘RAG Week’ following the shameful scenes produced during the week in recent years.
While it may make for a snappy headline in the local paper, the result of blaming the entertainment and drinks industry for the ills associated with ‘RAG Week’ is that it alleviates individuals, student or otherwise, of taking responsibility for their actions. The implication is that everything would run smoothly were it not for the clever marketing of off licences and nightclubs. It is an admission that students are merely mindless beings, easily susceptible to the most basic manipulation.
Should we as a society accept this analysis?
In this Youtube video from 2012, a man remarks that RAG Week had been in his calendar since the start of the year. Are we to believe that he simply could not resist the promotions of certain Galway businesses? Or is it more reasonable to assume that he made the decision, of his own volition, to attend the week’s events and to take a drink?
My own experience of ‘RAG Week’ culture is that it was only loosely concerned with charity. The main draw of the week was that it was a period of mass intoxication, in which lecture halls would be empty and pubs would be packed. Lectures were not officially cancelled, it was just that people did not bother turning up.
From student villages hosting stupid bottle throwing competitions, to impromptu raves in fast-food restaurants, there is no shortage of evidence to support the view that RAG Week is characterised by excess rather than a genuine concern for charity. Is the drinks industry responsible for all of this?
In order to truly address the issue of RAG Week Sam O’Neill et al must face up to the reality that hordes of students and other adults simply choose to display depravity rather than charity. Ultimately, it is a problem of attitude.