A video posted anonymously on Facebook page Grudgebridge sparked widespread backlash against Cambridge's drinking societiesAnonymous

20 of Cambridge’s drinking societies have committed to creating a code of conduct for their members.

The pledges announced today mark the largest public acknowledgement so far from Cambridge’s drinking societies of the heightened scrutiny of their culture this year, though their outcome remains unpredictable.

According to Cambridge University Students’ Union (CUSU), two-thirds of the total number of drinking societies in Cambridge did not commit. Their estimated total of about 60 societies, however, averages two societies per college – a conservative figure.

It is unclear how the societies will work with CUSU on creating their individual codes of conduct moving forward. It also remains undecided what the repercussions of breaching the codes of conduct will be, or how these codes of conduct will interact with college and University disciplinary procedures.

Anonymous allegations on Grudgebridge’s Facebook page have made hundreds of unverified claims about drinking society culture, making accusations about sexism, racism, homophobia and other forms of discrimination. Alleged incidents have included bullying, sexual harassment and assault.

In full: Drinking societies who have signed the pledge so far

1. Gonville and Caius College Cupids

2. The Squires

3. Selwyn College Bishops

4. Jesus College Caesarians

5. Selwyn College Swallows

6. Sidney Sussex College Roundheads

7. Downing College Orchids

8. Sidney Sussex College Quills

9. Clare College Bears

10. Queens College Kangaroos

11. Churchill College Bulldogs

12. Downing College Patricians

13. Clare College Crabs

14. Homerton College Ha'Pennies & T-Birds

15. Pembroke College Idlers

16. Fitzwilliam College Mornie Onions

17. Jesus College Black Widows

18. Fitzwilliam College Shallots

19. Newnham College Nuns

20. St Catharine's College Whiskers

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Presidents of the societies who have committed signed a pledge: “As the president of my drinking society, I commit to creating a code of conduct with our members in Michaelmas Term 2018.

“I recognise that drinking societies have been involved in worrying incidents of misconduct and I want my society to be part of making a change.”

They will work alongside incoming CUSU President Evie Aspinall and the Good Lad Initiative, a project which runs workshops for men on gender and masculinity, on their drafts starting next year.

The effort is CUSU’s largest endeavour to address drinking society misconduct since the societies were pushed into the limelight earlier this year. In a Varsity interview with outgoing CUSU president Daisy Eyre and Aspinall in June, Aspinall remarked: “I’ve never seen an opportunity like this in Cambridge.”

Yet this academic year drew to a close with little progress made despite the unprecedented mobilisation of the student community against drinking societies. CUSU, JCRs, MCRs, and college and University administrators are still grappling with how to effect change.

Eyre explained the rationale to create push societies to create codes of conduct: “In the short term, it was one of the main things that we could think of that would actually be helpful. From meeting JCR and MCR presidents, I think what they want from CUSU is a broader campaign or awareness-raising around drinking culture and the way that impacts students at Cambridge.”

She noted: “It’s not going to solve the issue”, calling for larger initiatives in the longer term.

CUSU launched the campaign on June 22nd following a meeting held between outgoing CUSU president Daisy Eyre, Aspinall and drinking society members. A CUSU statement said attendees “discussed the ways we could all work together to make change to the wider drinking society culture.”


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In the same interview, Eyre said that societies had displayed predictably low levels of engagement. 25 members of drinking societies had signed up, and fewer than ten had responded to an attempt to arrange a meeting.

The commitments announced today come at the tail end of months of heightened scrutiny of Cambridge’s drinking societies sparked by an anonymous video posted to Facebook page Grudgebridge on May 7th revealed members of the now-disbanded Trinity Hall Crescents joking about inclusivity. One member was filmed saying: “inclusivity” is “the single biggest problem facing the Crescents in the modern age.”

In mid-May this year, CUSU released a statement condemning drinking societies. They wrote: “Drinking Societies are a remnant of elitism and have long been a negative presence in Cambridge and we do not believe that they have a place in our University.”

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