The policy document stems from the National Prevention Agreement, which the UT as well as other Dutch universities committed to. ‘In that agreement, three major causes of health concerns came to light: smoking, problematic alcohol consumption and obesity’, says Mark Weirath (CFM), who wrote the new alcohol policy document for the UT. ‘Smoking is already prohibited on large parts of the campus. With this alcohol policy, we mainly want to tackle the problematic consumption of alcohol, ensure that people look after each other and that we offer the right help to people who are having problems.’
The policy should push the UT community toward a healthier direction with a velvet glove. According to Weirath, it is not the intention to ban alcohol from catering establishments, drink rooms, canteens and the Pakkerij – the locations that fall under the policy. ‘It certainly is not a prohibition policy. We are concerned with raising awareness about responsible alcohol consumption. We do this through nudging – so subtly stimulating healthier choices.’
Part of that strategy is, for example, offering non-alcoholic beer, only marketing non-alcoholic drinks, setting minimum prices for alcoholic drinks, serving light beer (below 3.5 percent alcohol) at events and offering non-alcoholic alternatives cheaper than alcoholic ones. ‘We want to talk about such matters with event managers and organizers,’ Weirath says.
There is also an inclusion side to the new policy, Student Union board member Godelieve Brasz adds. ‘Of course, students have their traditions and for some, it is difficult to fit in. Alcohol should not be the norm for student life. Are there enough alcohol-free alternatives? If its consumption is more normalized, it will help students to feel more welcome.’
Covenants and agreements
Weirath points out that the UT already has plenty of covenants, laws and agreements on alcohol consumption. ‘Think of catering permits, regulations during the Kick-In and covenants of the Pakkerij associations and the Organisation of Study Associations. A lot was already in order, this policy brings that together across the board.’
Brasz wants to sit down with the (umbrella) associations soon. ‘Indeed, there are associations who have covenants, but not all of them do. For example, the alcohol covenant of the study associations is a bit outdated and the sports associations did not have a covenant yet. We want to see how we can make collaborative agreements about this.’
Above all, a lot needs to be done when it comes to communication. ‘We need to start a conversation about responsible alcohol consumption. We also want to link up with national initiatives such as IkPas or UT-wide initiatives like the Healthy Campus and the Wellbeing Weeks. That also helps to raise awareness,’ says Weirath. ‘An example for students would be improving our training for bar personnel,’ Brasz says.
The UT will have to move along with the National Prevention Agreement, Weirath knows. The aim of this agreement is that by 2040, adolescents (under eighteen) and pregnant women will no longer drink alcohol and that the number of Dutch adults who drink too much will have been reduced from 8.8 per cent to a maximum of 5 per cent. ‘The definition of problematic alcohol consumption is becoming increasingly strict. It is now fourteen glasses a week for women and 21 glasses for men. The National Health Council wants to tighten that up even further,’ Weirath says. ‘Ultimately, it is not up to us to create alcohol legislation. We can only look at how we can organize our own environment to keep the UT community healthy.’
Before the Policy on Responsible Alcohol Consumption becomes reality on campus, the policy needs to pass the University Council for advice.