Chinese universities move to ban alcohol amid suspicion of drinking as ‘personal choice’

By Zhang Han Source:Global Times Published: 2018/12/11 18:13:40

A group of university students drink before graduation on a university campus in Changchun, Northeast China's Jilin Province. Photo: VCG

A college in Northwest China's Shaanxi Province recently made news headlines for its ban on drinking.

This drew public attention to the issue of regulating young people's alcohol use.

Xi'an Fanyi University, a private school located on the southern outskirts of Xi'an, issued a regulation on November 30 forbidding all students from drinking on and off campus to celebrate birthdays, holidays and graduation.

Students who violate the ban face penalties up to expulsion. Faculty members drinking with students will also be punished.

The ban is not the first in China. Yunnan Arts University in Southwest China's Yunnan Province in March promised to strengthen its ban on alcohol. Students caught drinking will find their red-faced pictures being sent to their parents via express delivery. The university also stipulated that parents would be invited to the school to help discipline their children who violate the regulation. 

The trend of tightening regulations reflects the problems of alcohol use, and sometimes abuse, among college students. In June of 2016, a university student in Guangzhou, South China's Guangdong Province, died from acute alcoholic intoxication after six cocktails. He was with his friends in a pub, which offered free drinks for finishing six glasses in three minutes.

Shi Jiawei, a graduate student from Yunnan Arts University, told the Global Times on Monday that she does not drink when hanging out with friends.

"The regulation is not emphasized in freshman orientation, but students definitely should know [that they are not allowed to drink]," Shi said. 

But many people think the schools are overreaching.

Liu Xinyue, a PhD candidate from Peking University, believes that university students should be self-disciplined rather than being regulated. "We are adults," she emphasized.

Liu, majoring in literature, likes to sip on a drink while chatting with friends and before writing essays for magazines.

Zeng Fanchen, a student from Tsinghua University in Beijing, seldom drinks. But he emphasized "to drink or not is a personal choice," beyond the school's authority. "Ultimately, drinking does not break any law," Zeng told the Global Times on Monday.

The school's regulations have a legal basis with article 53 of the Higher Education Law stating that students of institutions of higher learning should abide by the student code of conduct and the institutions' administrative rules.

"Although Chinese laws only restrict selling alcohol to non-adults and have no limits on the drinking age, colleges are actually taking the responsibility of regulating young people's drinking behaviors," said Zhu Wei, a professor at the China University of Political Science and Law.

Underage drinking is a global issue, and dangerous drinking behavior by young people has been increasing in China recently, Zhu told the Global Times on Monday.

University students live together in dormitories. Such a collective living style means the alcohol influences more than themselves, Zhu said, noting the necessity of stricter school regulations amid the increasing drinking rate of college students.

'Pure place for studies'

Schools are justified to expel a drunken student, but the effectiveness of the bans remains uncertain in preventing students from drinking.

Liu suspects such regulations are not applicable to a lot of institutions, saying that "by tradition, alcohol is part of the graduation feast honoring teachers," although students are usually not urged to drink at banquets with instructors.   

A student from Tsinghua University, who requested anonymity, said that some organizations like student unions usually hold dinner parties after holding events such as cultural festivals and sports meetings.

"Drinking is a typical way to celebrate in such occasions, although many dislike this 'tradition,'" said the student. "People who refuse to drink will be regarded as unsocial and unsuitable for taking charge of the union's affairs," he said.  

Drinking is so deeply imbued in our culture that alcohol has become a must-have when people celebrate something, Zeng said.

He also felt that peer pressure is driving college students into drinking. 

Although friends don't firmly urge their peers to drink, students may compromise in places like pubs and KTV parlors amid the atmosphere of joy and excitement. 

Zhu regarded the drinking habits of student organizations as the bad drinking culture of workplaces being reflected in universities.

"Universities' drinking bans will help filter the bad elements out of campus and keep the school a pure place for studies," Zhu said. 

As for peer pressure, school bans and the risk of expulsion will lead students to figure out other means of socializing with each other, Zhu noted.     

Zhu also emphasized that schools should cooperate with restaurants and KTV parlors around the campus to effectively implement the drinking bans.

A joint research study by Chinese and US scholars published in the Chinese Journal of Social Medicine in 2014 revealed that drinking in pubs and KTV parlors without the accompaniment of older people is more likely to generate dangerous results, including physical harm and economic losses.
Newspaper headline: Prohibition on campus

Posted in: IN-DEPTH

blog comments powered by Disqus