Well, Unofficial RAG Week (Raising And Giving Week) has come and gone, but one question still remains; is NUI Galway’s ban on the widely observed party-week a case of cutting off one’s nose to spite its face?
Since NUIG’s ban on the eventful charity-fundraising week back in 2011, many believe that the only changes to occur have been solely in the area of charitable donations, rather than the hearty partying of the student body.
Instead of a university-sanctioned and scheduled week of lively charity events that lecturers can schedule around and prepare for, anonymous leaders of the student body have taken to scheduling its own RAG Week behind closed doors. And unfortunately, fundraising has taken the hardest hit from the underground movement.
But has the anonymously organized party-driven movement in fact been more manageable for the city compared to previous years when the week was sanctioned by the college?
After approaching several of Galway City’s Gardaí at the Mill Street Station, all of whom refused to comment, I decided to sit down with Mark MacDonagh, a twenty-five year employee and current manager of Supermac’s – Galway’s weekly late-night hotspot and RAG Week Mecca.
As much of the Gardaí RAG Week activity and the community’s complaints have centered on late night activity at Supermac’s, a veteran employee was the second closest to the front lines of the annual weeklong war.
I hoped to hear Mr MacDonagh’s views on Galway’s new “unofficial RAG Week” and if he believed there have been any noticeable changes since the University’s disassociation in 2011;
“Well, I do [see a change,] because to me, RAG Week was always been about students raising money. They would dress up and race up and down town in hospital beds and have the craic but also earn money for charity. Since they banned it students do more house partying, and with the drink prices rising, they drink more at home before going out. I think if they had a places to go and events to go to, there wouldn’t be any problem.”
Regardless of whether more or less reputational damage has occurred since “unofficial RAG Week” has been introduced by the student body, one element of the week isn’t discussed enough; the tens of thousands of euros that are no longer being raised for charities; according to figures posted on the NUIG Students’ Union website from 2006-2011, an average of €22,700 in donations.
The anti-social behavior of the past has undoubtedly left a bad taste in the community’s mouth; however banning RAG Week hasn’t deterred students from cutting loose for a week, mid spring-semester.
Perhaps NUI Galway should take a different approach and enforce stricter disciplinary action on the few bad-eggs who get out of control. But the way things stand, this failed reform has only hurt those who need our help the most.
By Mike Finnegan