Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/03/07/cambridge_puke_shock_probe/

Media blasts Cambridge undergrads' drinking habits

From within their pint glass houses

By Lewis Page

Posted in Science, 7th March 2007 16:41 GMT

Boozy students hurl so much vomit about at Cambridge University that cleaners are now being immunised against Hepatitis, it has been revealed.

Contract cleaners at Gonville & Caius college get the jabs routinely, and staff there were said to be "furious" over a recent puking surge.

In fact, the spate of incidents actually occurred last term, when the new crop of first-years arrived at Caius. As has been happening for hundreds of years, the new students appear to have got a bit out of hand. With many of them being swotty straight-A types away from home for the first time, the results were perhaps inevitable.

But then, a mere few months later, the Cardiff student newspaper (pdf) scooped the national media when its intrepid newshawks got hold of the story two days ago.

"Cambridge University students seem to be lacking in common sense, frequently drinking more than their limit," the Cardiff student hacks trumpeted. "The university has introduced bans on drinking games...at this stage, there has been no need to enforce such extreme principles at Cardiff."

(Of course, all Cardiff undergraduates are noted for their common sense and sobriety)

The shocking tale was duly picked up by quality mainstream outlets such as the London Evening Standard and The Daily Mail, with predictable moralising about binge-drinking culture and the decay of the nation's youth.

Caption-writers at Indian outlet CNN-IBM carried things further, posting a picture of a different Cambridge college, King's, where there is no suggestion of any out-of-the-ordinary vomiting or precautions against it. The pic is subtitled "RIDICULOUS ELITISM: Cleaners at Cambridge are at a risk as they clean vomit of drunken students almost everyday."

Some slightly more realistic comment was offered yesterday by Caius' bursar, Ian Herd. "It was a small number of students, mainly freshers, who got carried away on being away from home for the first time. There has been a great improvement since then, but I would be a fool to say it won't happen again."

Or indeed that it hasn't been happening for a long time. When your correspondent went to Cambridge at the end of the 1980s there was plenty of vomiting and general youthful idiocy going on. It would be emotionally satisfying to suggest that kids these days are dissolute little blighters, can't hold their booze, etc etc, but it's hard to imagine that they're bringing up any more than previous generations.

As for the sudden new risk to the cleaners, Hep-B jabs must be offered by law to any employee who may come into contact with the body fluids of other people. Caius' cleaning contractors are merely complying with legislation. Strictly, anyone required to clean a public area anywhere should get vaccinated.

But it seems that Cambridge students' puke is more newsworthy than other people's, and the story was never going to be headlined "Cambridge college complies with health and safety law." ®