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Friday, 28 September 2012

Stay safe and fit when you drink

This information is coped from the DrinkAware website:

University can be the best years of your life, made up of a whirlwind of parties, fun and some studying thrown in.

Alcohol often ends up being a big part of the experience too. The freedom of being away from home combined with lots of socialising means many students drink heavily.

It can be difficult to balance out a social life with essays, coursework and exams, and students often feel like they're burning the candle at both ends. As with everything at university, there's a balance to be struck. While moderate amounts of alcohol can play a part in the good times, when consumed in excessive amounts it can have a negative effect on work and could lead to unexpected and unwanted consequences.


Student life is frequently portrayed in the media and popular culture as one big party. From the mayhem of freshers' week through to the celebratory graduation ball, alcohol seems to have become synonymous with university; sadly it is now as ingrained in university culture as going to lectures and joining societies. Research shows that over half (52%) of male students and nearly half (43%) of female students drink more than the government's daily unit guidelines (3-4 units a day for men and 2-3 for women).

With cheap deals on alcohol in student unions and deals aimed at students in other bars, cost isn’t much of a barrier to drinking at university. And with those deals extending to weeknights, students can often go out anytime and drink cheaply. However, spending does add up - The National Union of Students estimates that the average student spends £675 a year on socialising.

Of course drinking at university can be fun, especially when handled sensibly, but it's not essential to enjoy the experience of student life. It might help ease those initial nerves of meeting new people, but drinking your body weight in cider is not necessarily an essential initiation into university life.

Caught up in the excitement of a night out, how you might feel the next day is often the furthest thing from your mind, but writing an essay or revising for an exam is difficult enough without the extra pressure of a hangover dulling your concentration and motivation.

Drinking too much could also lead to taking unnecessary risks with your personal safety, like taking an unlicensed taxi or walking home alone. Being drunk can increase your chances of getting into trouble when you're out. The British Crime Survey 2008 revealed that students have the highest risk of being a victim of violent crime compared with other occupations. The soundest piece of advice to help you avoid potentially risky situations is to keep an eye on your mates and try to stick within the government's daily unit guidelines.

Health risks

No-one expects students to be "tea" total.

Indeed, student life wouldn't be student life without a few trips to the Union. But to make the most out of your student experience, isn't it worth at least balancing the benefits and risks?

For example, Drinking above the Government's daily unit guidelines can damage your health in the short and long-term, not to mention the potential impact on your academic performance.

In the short term, drinking too much in one evening can cause all sorts of problems and if you drink really heavily it can lead to alcohol poisoning and even a spell in hospital. In the long term, heavy drinkers are at risk of liver disease, cancer and stroke and mental health problems like depression. University is tough enough without alcohol making you feel down too.

Drink too much at uni, and you might also experience the phenomenon of the "Freshers' 14". Students reckon they put on 14 pounds in weight when they start uni thanks to all the calories in alcohol and fast food.

Did you know there were there are 130 calories in a medium (175ml) glass of wine, and around 200 in a standard pint of beer?

Tips for smarter drinking

Remember, you don't have to drink to have a great night out. Find an activity or join a society that doesn't revolve around drinking. For example, joining a drama society could mean spending your evenings down the local theatre instead of the pub: a great alternative.
If you know you are going to be drinking alcohol make sure you eat something first to line your stomach.

Drink plenty of water and soft drinks throughout the night to keep hydrated and slow down your drinking. Perhaps you could have a soft drink after every alcoholic one?

Don't drink every day. If you've had a heavy session, give your liver a break and take a couple of days off the booze.

Decide on a budget before you go out to avoid being tempted to overspend on cheap drinks. Or only take cash and leave your bank card at home.

Always plan how you'll get home from a night out and never walk home by yourself. Stick with your mates and split the cost of a taxi from a reputable firm.

Watch out for drink spiking. Keep an eye on your drink and never leave it unattended. Be careful if accepting drinks from strangers.

Help protect yourself from drink spiking

This is a re-post from February 2012:

There have been several reports recently of students’ drinks being “spiked” by the addition of hypnotic drugs to the drink that can cause severe drowsiness and amnesia. Incidents have been alleged in local clubs and bars popular with students, venues in west London, and in one case inside one of the intercollegiate halls.

Fortunately, in those cases reported by residents in the intercollegiate halls, no one has been harmed and nothing bad has happened to them whilst they were under the influence of the hypnotic drug; but drink spiking is sometimes a technique used by criminals who may abduct, rob, or assault their victim whilst they are drowsy and leave the victim with no memory of what happened.

Drink spiking is still a rare occurrence. But you can protect yourself and your friends from becoming victims by being aware of the risks and following the advice below.

· Keep your drink in your hand instead of on a surface.
· Consider sticking to bottled drinks and holding your thumb over the opening between sips.
· Keep an eye on your friends' drinks.
· Never leave your drink unattended.
· Never accept a drink from anyone you don't know or trust.
· Never take a drink from a jug or bottle that is left out on the bar.
· Don't share or exchange drinks, or drink leftover drinks.
· When possible, drink from a bottle rather than a glass because it is more difficult to spike a drink in a bottle.
· Stay away from situations that you do not feel comfortable with.
· If you go on a date with someone you don't know, tell a friend or relative where you will be and what time you will be back.
· Don't give away too much information to anyone you have just met, such as your address.
· If you suspect your drink may have been spiked:
o Tell someone you trust – in Hall this should be the Duty Senior Member; outside, it might be the pub landlord, bar manager, or a close friend.
o If you feel unwell, someone you trust should take you to A&E at the nearest hospital and tell the medical staff that you think your drink has been spiked.
o Report it to the police as soon as you can. They will need to take blood and urine samples. Most drugs leave the body within 72 hours of being taken (the date-rape drug GHB leaves the body within 12 hours), so it's important to be tested as soon as possible.

Once again, please be reassured that in the cases reported by intercollegiate halls residents, no one has been harmed. But we do advise you to take the steps above to protect yourself from possible drink spinking.

Please share any information you have about drink spiking in local venues so we can build up an idea of where this is taking place and help protect other students: report any incidents to the police immediately and to me at the next opportunity.

The Senior Members and I are available in Hall as always to discuss any concerns you might have about this or any other issues.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Proposed amendments to Residents' Club Constitution September / October 2012

It is proposed to reform the voting system for officers of the Residents' Club Committee.

At present, there are five elected Officers: President, Treasurer, Secretary, Sports Officer, and Entertainment Officer. If a resident wants to be on the Committee, s/he must decide which post s/he would like and stand specifically for that role. His/her application must be proposed and seconded by two other residents. On election day, every resident has one vote in each of five separate ballots: one for each Officer. We believe this system may have contributed to declined numbers of nominations and the increasing number of uncontested posts (meaning that somebody wins by default).
The proposed reforms would mean that everyone who wanted to be on the Committee this year would simply stand as an "Officer". There would be no distinction in the election between President, Secretary, etc. Every resident will be allowed to vote for up to three candidates for the position of "Officer".
The top five candidates in this single poll will all be elected as Officers of the Club. The candidate with the greatest number of votes will automatically be President. The remaining four Officers must then decide between themselves who will take on the duties required on the Secretary, Treasurer, Entertainment, Officer, and Sports Officer.
Next year, a more thorough review of the Constitution may lead to the abolition of many of these separate titles all together.
We need your feedback. If you disagree with these proposed amendments, please email no later than 12 midday on Tuesday 2nd October. If objections are received from fewer than 5% of the resident community by that time, the amendments will be adopted.
You can visit the Residents' Club web page here:

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Please do not cover smoke detectors

It is the first week of the University term and I have already received a report from the Hall Management team that the smoke detector was found covered in a resident's room.
I would normally mention this particular issue in my welcome speech next Monday, to emphasise how important it is, and how seriously we deal with allegations of interfering with fire safety equipment. Given this very early incident, however, I should like to make sure that everyone is aware of the following as of today.
Any interference with fire safety equipment in Connaught Hall - including covering smoke detectors - is in contravention of:
The Residents’ Handbook states:
Tampering with fire safety equipment (including covering smoke detectors) is illegal in the United Kingdom and a very serious disciplinary offence within the University of London. This is clearly set out in the Licence Agreement and the Supplementary Regulations.
Anyone who deliberately causes a false alarm, irresponsibly discharges fire extinguishers, covers smoke detectors, interferes with fire exit signs, or who tampers with fire safety equipment in any way whatsoever, will be dealt with under the student disciplinary procedure and can expect to be removed from Hall without delay. The matter will also be referred to their college.
We have one small fire at Connaught Hall almost every year, and a more damaging fire occurs about every eight-to-ten years. By delaying the detection of a fire and activation of the evacuation signal, covering smoke detectors jeopardises the lives of everyone in the Hall: fire and the smoke it produces can kill very quickly. Our strict rules about this are grounded in genuine concern for everyone's safety and wellbeing.
Please do not cover your smoke detector, nor interfere in any other way with the Hall's fire safety precautions.
No further warnings will be issued on this matter.

Friday, 14 September 2012

How to cope with the stress of student life

This is an excellent booklet from Mind, the mental health charity, about coping with some of the stresses that we all face when becoming a student at university:

Thursday, 13 September 2012

FAQ: Room swaps and hall moves

Can I change to a different room?

If you want to move to a different room, you must contact Housing Services (based on the fourth floor of Student Central on Malet Street). Email and carbon copy your email to

Can I change to a different Hall?

If you are not happy with the Hall you have been allocated, you must contact both the intercollegiate halls accommodation reservations team (email and the accommodation / residences office at your college (e.g. King's, UCL, QMUL, LSE, SOAS, etc).

The staff based at Connaught Hall cannot approve any room change requests or Hall swaps. All requests must go through Housing Services.

No requests for room swaps will be considered until after mid-October. This is because it would be unfair to allow residents who arrive early in the year the opportunity to move rooms while the Hall is relatively empty, whilst denying the chance to residents who move in later, when most rooms are occupied. Normally, whether you wish to move within the same hall or to a different hall, you would need to identify another person who is prepared to swap with you.

If the reason you are unhappy with your current room is a maintenance or cleaning issue, talk to the Hall Manager about it: we can often solve the problem so you don't need to swap. If the problem is an issue with your neighbours, talk to the Warden.

Top tips for freshers

The Senior Members and I have put together our combined experience of some 35 years in higher education to bring you these top tips for freshers. Take a look! They're all tweet-sized or smaller, so really easy to digest. Thanks to Benny for comiling these into one list!

  • Always ask if there is a student discount (Marianne)

  • Get a Student Oyster card for discounted travel (Marianne)

  • Register your Young Person's railcard with your oyster to get discounted day rates (Marianne)

  • London charity shops are great - check out the rich areas (Marianne)

  • Keep a bank/building society at home AND a separate one at uni.  Then you can prove you live at both addresses and order stuff to both. (Benny)

  • Carry cash around with you instead of paying for everything by credit/debit card.  You'll get a better sense of how much you're spending (Benny)

  • If you like reading for pleasure, why not save money buying books by borrowing from uni libraries? (Benny)

  • London's an expensive place. Don't beat yourself up if your wallet/purse takes a dent. It's collateral of living in a great city. (Benny)

  • If you withdraw cash every Monday to last the whole week and only spend that amount all week, you may find it easier to control your spending (Adrian)

Living in Halls

  • Everyone feels homesick, no matter what they say (Marianne)

  • Don't let friends back home rule your life at college. Catch up with them sometimes, but meet new people and get involved in new things in London. (Adrian)

  • Talk to your neighbours in Hall. If you're friends - or at least acquiantaces - then it's much easier to ask them to shut up when their TV is too loud at 3am (Adrian)

  • However strict we might try to be, there will always be some occasional noise at night. Ear plugs are cheap and useful. (Adrian)

  •  The walls and floors are thin; we are all living close together. Try not to disturb others: we often don’t realise how much noise we can make just chatting (Adrian)

  • Investing in a nice pair of headphones will improve the sound on your laptop for music/films, but your neighbours will also thank you for it when you're deep into a late night session. (Benny)

  • Get some indoors "flip-flops" to wear in the shower if you are worried about hygiene (Adrian)

  • Freshers is fun, but you don't actually have to go out and get totally drunk every night to enjoy it. The same applies for social events the rest of the year. (Adrian)

  • Sharing food is a good way to make new friends or to start a conversation with someone you don't know too well (Benny)

  • Make the most of having the advantage of living in such a fantastic central location. (Benny)

  • Bored at Connaught looking for something to do?  Do your linen/laundry/washing up/food shopping.  Kills time + it's productive. (Benny)

  • Talk to second and third year students about getting your work/life balance right. They won't think you're a nerd: they will be flattered that you asked them (Adrian)

  • Register with more libraries that just your univsersity's own one – there are loads you can sign up to (Bill)

  • If there's a piece of uni work you're dreading, try doing it for just 5 minutes.  It doesn't seem so bad once you get down to it. (Benny)

  • Work in the library then return to Hall to relax, eat and have a drink.  Working too much in your room can make it a negative, instead of relaxing, space (Benny)

  • At Connaught, at least 8 people in your immediate hall/college life are actually paid to help you with any problems you may come across at uni. Use them! (Adrian)

  • Wear a condom (Zack) (blunt but, frankly, good advice.  RUBBER UP! Don't be silly, wrap your willy, etc)

  • Check your university email addresses daily in order to avoid such calamities as not realising a lecture has been cancelled at short notice (Benny)

  • Universities have really good counselling services that they put a lot of money into, but not a lot of people know about them (Benny)

  • Caffeine seems like a good idea to stay awake in lectures but when you crash, it's worse than when you started.  Try an apple!

Uni Life
  • Don't bother joining random groups at your SU that you will give up after a weekget involved with ones that interest you enough to maintain your commitment (Adrian/Bill)

  • Start learning a new language or take up a new hobby – 3 years at uni (minimum), a lot of spare time – make the most of it! (Bill)

  • Be yourself. There's never been a better time to stop worrying about what other people think of you. (Zack)

  • Strive to be excellent at what you do. You've chosen the course you're on, you're paying through the nose for it - now go be amazing. (Zack/KJ)

  • Bring lots of passport-sized photos with you.  You'd be surprised how many application forms require them (Benny)

  • Familiarise yourself with another culture.  London is a diverse place.  Broaden your horizons! (Bill)

  • Travel: London has some of the cheapest budget airlines in the world.  Plan ahead with friends for the best deals. (Bill)

  • If you're walking around, and you see someone giving out free samples, tell your friends where to find them too (Benny)


Visit our web page for more support and wellbeing information:

Freshers 2012

August and September are always really busy for me and my team at Connaught Hall. I have four new Senior Members (out of five) on my team for this year, so there's been lots of training and recruitment activity to get everyone ready to start receiving students this week.

This week, we've been learning about conflict resolution skills, diability and mental health awareness, and diversity issues. Next week, the new Senior Members will be trained in first aid and fire marshalling.

I've published a brand new guidance document for the Senior Members this year. I hope this will help the team to perfom better than before and really make an impact on residents' satisfaction with every aspect of life in Hall. The Residents' Handbook, Hall website, Supplementary Regulations, posters, and other documents all have to be updated in time for the new academic year - even more so this year, since there has been a major restructure of the management staff in the halls of residence, making many of last year's posters and leaflets obsolete.

I've been planning the Hall welcome dinner on 1st October: it's a special meal (we pay the catering company extra per person for this night) with wine and beer served alongside a delicious menu specially prepared by our Chef-Manager, Lydia. I have yet to write my welcome speech for the evening. Because some students (mainly from King's and QMUL) arrive almost three weeks before that dinner, we also put on an "early arrivals" welcome dinner on Monday 17th September - we're having a special curry menu for dinner and more wine and beer.

This week, I bought almost £100 of cake for our Sunday afternoon tea parties. We're all looking forward to meeting the first wave of student arrivals this Sunday.

There will be a party hosted by the Senior Member for each floor to help residents on their floor get to know one another. These will be in early October, and each will have it's own special theme. Look out for details posted by the Senior Member for your floor.

The bar needs lots of preparation, too. I'm working with last year's Bar Manager, Tom, and the new Bar Manager, Emily, to make sure we're ready to open this Sunday. The bar will open every night next week except Saturday 22nd September. Then on Sunday 23rd, we'll be open late for the Grand Opening party.

Meanwhile, the Residents' Club Committee are working on plans for a massive freshers' party on Saturday 6th October, open till 1.30am, as well as two whole weeks of social and cultural events to give our new residents a taste of everything that London can offer.

Another issue for the Residents' Club is a proposed change in its Constitution around how the President, Secretary, Treasurer, Entertainment Officer, and Sports Officer are elected in October. More about this later.

To top it all, this week has seen the University of London undergraduate open day events taking place at Senate House, so I've been showing year 13 students around Connaught, College, and International Halls so they can see the range of accommodation options open to them if they choose London to study.

So it's been a busy few weeks... we are all just excited to put all this preparatory work into use now for our new intake of students. We all look forward to meeting you.

Senior Member roles 2012-3

The Senior Members have been allocated the following roles for this academic year:

Team secretary & Senior Member recruitment: Zack Ferguson

Facilities Secretary: Marianne Neary

Multicultural Students' Forum Secretary: Bill Batziakas

Social Secretary: Benny Diamond

Bar Supervisor: KJ Cleasby