RAG week is a tradition amongst most colleges. Traditionally a week of ‘raising and giving’, the Students’ Union and students themselves would help charities out through events such as on campus gigs. In 2011, the SU of NUI Galway voted to scrap RAG week, on the basis that five concessions would be made by the college.
According to an RTE article at the time those five concessions were as follows: ‘a one-day concert to replace RAG Week, an extra €60,000 a year, index-linked contribution to the Student Assistance Fund, the abolition of a €2 charge for the student gym, and a guarantee not to introduce charges to visit a doctor or nurse at the Student Health Unit and extra notice boards were also agreed.’
While we do have a free college doctor and extra funding, the ban has taken away from a fundamental part of college life. I also think we chose RAG week as a scapegoat for antisocial behaviour in general in Galway.
RAG was a week where students were able to give back to the community: in 2009, the Students’ Union raised over thirty thousand euro for local charities through non-alcoholic events. It’s true there are a few instances of antisocial behaviour, but look at the likes of Freshers week or the Galway Races, neither of those have been cancelled.
I believe the decision to ban RAG week was rash. There were a number of arrests in recent years but of those how many can we be sure were from NUI Galway? Furthermore, as the college and the Gardai like to make students out to be the problem, the decision that was made at the time has not curbed the antisocial behaviour in Galway during this time of year, if anything it has only added fuel to the fire.
If RAG week was official at least there would be some system in place that could help prevent any violence or fights during the week, or at least provide students with information in relation to binge drinking and its effects.
As the SU has said in the past it isn’t an issue of all students engaging in antisocial behaviour but a minority of them have in the past. By banning RAG week the college has only given students more reason to try to keep the tradition going. Students are being drawn into the unofficial RAG week events hosted across the city, but they are no longer fundraising for local charities or taking part in college-run events.
It’s a shame to see an opportunity to give back to the community being wasted. The college can distance itself from these events, but at the end of the day it gives the University a bad image if its students are organising their own version of the week despite the ban – if anything it has made rag week more popular in Galway.
Students are drawn in by the viral videos online, the tweets about lining up for the Hole in the Wall at 8am and the college still makes the headlines even though they banned RAG week. The antisocial behaviour is a problem, that we can all agree on, but this severe punishment not only affects those responsible but also all the students who were taking part to give back. In the eyes of the college and the Gardaí however it would seem we are all the same and they do not differentiate trouble-making students from those merely having a good time for a good cause.
By reinstating RAG Week, we could change that image, we could give back to the community. College based events would keep students off the streets and in a more safe and secure environment. There will always be a few black sheep in the herd, but if NUIG were to allow us to reinstate RAG week, the bottom line is that the antisocial behaviour would decrease.
-By Aileen O’Leary