By Prof Vivian de Klerk, Rhodes University dean of students
When you arrive at Rhodes, the message seems to be everywhere: ‘cool’ people drink. In residence, in digs, at all the pubs and clubs in town and at society functions, you’re told, again and again, that if you want to fit in at Rhodes, you should pick up a bottle or can, knock it back and become ‘one of the crowd’. Well, think again before you succumb to peer pressure. It’s also cool not to drink.
Firstly, it’s interesting to note that the level of drinking at Rhodes is probably no higher than that at any other university in South Africa. The drinking behaviour is just much more visible, because of the size of the town, and because of the location of many off-campus pubs and bars near to the University. This means that Rhodes students who drink tend to do so in a very concentrated, small area, whereas in large cities, other university students are doing the same thing, but anonymously.
Secondly, plenty of Rhodes students prefer not to drink, and they still have a fantastic, fulfilling time at university. They still make a lot of great friends. They still get involved in societies, sports clubs and residence activities. These people are popular, well-liked members of the Rhodes community. So don’t feel ‘left out’ or ‘uncool’ if you choose not to drink.
As the new Dean of Students, I will be working closely with the SRC to ensure that Rhodes students are fully aware of the physical, emotional and social dangers of binge drinking. This should not be misconstrued as an attempt by the University to stop ALL drinking: we accept that social drinking is normal for large numbers of people; we’d just like you to learn your own limits and drink responsibly.
All students, whether they choose to drink or not, have something valuable to add to the University. My door, and the doors of the Counselling Centre, are open to any students who want to talk about ‘fitting in’ and coming to terms with peer pressure at Rhodes.