More students opt for UCC’s ‘dry’ apartments

Demand for booze-free housing in University College Cork has increased this year, leading to a major expansion of a student wellbeing programme.

More students opt for UCC’s ‘dry’ apartments

Six people signed up for ‘dry’ apartments at the college-run Victoria Lodge student accommodation complex at Victoria Cross when the scheme was announced last year.

However, a spokesperson for UCC confirmed last night that 24 students have opted for the accommodation this year.

“The rise in demand has convinced UCC Campus Accommodation to expand the scheme further by introducing a dedicated social programme as part of a move towards wellbeing housing,” he said.

The news emerged ahead of the annual Freshers’ Week, which sees first-year students marking the start of the new college term.

The spokesman said 48 students initially applied for alcohol-free accommodation this year.

However, half opted out leaving 24 students — 16 female and eight male — taking up the dry apartments this year.

Eight are Irish students, with the rest from France, Germany, Denmark, Singapore, Malaysia, India, Australia, Austria and Canada.

They provided different reasons for opting to live in an alcohol-free environment, including a wish to concentrate on study. Some didn’t want to live within an environment where alcohol would be present, and some just don’t drink alcohol.

UCC’s head of student experience, Dr Ian Pickup, said the college authorities take student wellbeing, and their role in the local community, very seriously.

“I encourage students to enjoy their first week in UCC, but to also be respectful and mindful of those around them in the wider community, whilst also looking out for one another,” he said.

UCC students’ union president, Mark Stanton, accepted that previous Freshers’ Week activities have disturbed local residents, including young families and older people, as booze-filled students returned home late at night.

“This year, the message we are trying to send out to students is simple,” he said.

“You wouldn’t like if your grandparents were being kept up at night, so don’t do it to others.

“We want students to stop and think about their neighbours during Freshers’ Week and throughout the year.”

Prompted by the increased demand for the alcohol-free housing, UCC has launched a ‘Living Learning Community’ (LLC) pilot scheme for 13 incoming first-year students, one second-year student, five postgraduate students and five visiting international students.

It will see students with similar academic and social interests living and learning together in an environment that aims to encourage wellbeing, and social and academic engagement.

Verdi Ahern, the Academic Year Services Manager at UCC Campus Accommodation, will manage the project.

She said students will explore the richness and diversity of the Irish language and culture through poetry, dance, music and literature, as well as trips to the Dún Chiomháin Kerry gaeltacht.

The students will link in with the university’s Irish language housing unit, Áras Uí Thuama, its Ionad Na Gaeilge Labhartha and An Seomra Cadrimh.

They will also be involved in a ‘wellbeing housing’ programme to explore how to live a better life and how to improve the wellbeing of others.

Among the activities planned are a healthy living lecture series, trips and activity weekends away.

Health matters

UCC was under fire four years ago when alcohol-fuelled anti-social behaviour, which peaked around Freshers’ Week, reached crisis point.

Since then, student leaders, college authorities and gardaí have been working together with local residents’ associations on a detailed strategy to tackle the problem.

It saw the launch in 2009 of the Student Community Support scheme, which sees students policing students in the early hours of the morning, and the setting up of the UCC Health Matters initiative — a year-round action plan to reduce alcohol-related harm among students. It won the top award at the Irish Healthcare Awards (IHA) last year. That initiative includes:

- an online alcohol educational tool which has been completed by more than 13,000 UCC students;

- screening, referral and treatment services;

- zero-tolerance policy on anti-social behaviour in and around the campus;

- two meetings a year between students, residents and local gardaí to help reduce alcohol-related harm and anti-social behaviour

- lobbying various interest groups on the marketing and selling of alcohol;

- and the installation of a garda-monitored CCTV system at several locations around the university precinct.

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