In the second month of the year of our lord two thousand and ten, Galway descended into anarchy. Cans littered the streets, flares illuminated the skies and a young student reveller took a dump on a nice couple’s porch in Newcastle.
This is all part of the tainted legacy of RAG Week that the central authorities of the University sought to distance themselves from when they exerted considerable pressure on the Students’ Union to ban the god-awful week of debauchery in 2011.
The common argument raised is that banning RAG Week simply erodes the authority of any student who wishes to hold a sanctioned event to raise much-needed funds for charity, while allowing the afore-mentioned debauchery to continue unencumbered.
However, this strawman argument is refutable simply by making reference to the simple truth that it is not illegal to organise University-sanctioned charity events outside of that fabled week in February.
That being said, there is undeniable merit in harnessing the general student body’s infinite ‘fondness for a pint’ and using it to raise money for charity, only a witless worm would think otherwise. The uncomfortable reality here is that things got too out-of-hand in Galway about 6 years ago.
Students occupy a precarious position in a society with taxpayer-funded third level education (for now, at least). We must simultaneously expand our own personal and intellectual horizons while also remaining keenly aware of the need to toe the line. All SUSI recipients, myself included, owe a debt of gratitude to the state and the taxpayers underpinning it. We must remain mindful of the fact that over-indulgence during RAG Week, be it official or unofficial, simply adds fuel to the fire of the detractors of free third-level education. Why should taxpayers continue to finance the schooling o someone who doesn’t appear to be studying diligently, instead eagerly partaking in the week-long general ruination of the idyllic town that hosts him/her?
The other point that arises commonly on the outraged comment threads of RAG-related Connacht Tribune articles is what I like to call ‘irrelevant race week reference’. The general supposition amongst pro-RAG Week students is that since Race Week is on a par with RAG Week in terms of citywide carnage and destruction, it should be re-instated in the name of equity. Alas, two wrongs can’t make a right, and two weeks of general anarchy are not better than one.
The decision to ban RAG Week was made by the University out of consideration for their image, their standing in the world. I can sympathise with the University’s governing bodies for wanting to be known for their commitment to innovation and research as opposed to late-night pole climbing parties. Actually, that last one was pretty cool and if you haven’t seen it then YouTube it.
To return to the topic at hand, the rampant carnage of RAG Week is more of a consequence of the University and not its sole aim. Race Week is essentially a week of drinking and enjoyment by definition, it serves no higher purpose unlike our venerable University. Moreover, it seems needless to point out that the thousands of punters who attend the Galway Races dispense with a lot more funds over the course of the week than your average 6 cans for 10 euro student. Therefore, if it came down to a choice between the two weeks you would surely have to advocate banning the week which supports less jobs.
According to The Irish Times¸4000 ecstasy tablets were seized in Galway in the run up to this year’s unofficial RAG Week, seemingly ‘destined for the student market’. My sources inform me that no percentage of the proceeds of sale on these disco biscuits was going to the beloved charities that champions of RAG Week love to mention. These are not the kind of headlines the University wants to be associated with. Imagine being a perspective student from the US scoping out potential Universities and googling NUI Galway around this time of year. They say no publicity is bad publicity but I would argue that having your 10000 euro a year (for non-EU students) University seemingly implicated by name in a drugs bust is not an ideal business strategy.
If the charitable aspect of RAG Week is so dearly important to the students who advocate re-instating the week in its entirety, then why not come together and resolve to make Unofficial RAG Week a week of charity fundraising as opposed to one of senseless hedonism? If nothing else, it would convince the University of the merits of re-instating our beloved week and generate some positive headlines, which NUI Galway absolutely crave.
While it would be much better for local Galway Charities if RAG Week were official, it is not hard to understand why it was banned in the first place. The SU were granted concessions to do away with it, yet the carnage continues. The banning of RAG Week allows the University to maintain its stellar reputation while also enabling the depravity to continue. Perhaps we could copy the line of UCD (who have had their own RAG Week re-instated after a five-year absence), and host a number of non-alcoholic charitable events to prove our worthiness.
-By Eoghan O Connaire