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Only 23 students have signed up for Dry January campaign

Mella Fuchs,
20 januari 2022 - 13:40
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Six universities and colleges, including the UvA, are participating in the Dry January campaign IkPas. Of those six universities and colleges – 205,000 students – only 23 students signed up. Did students become too fond of alcohol during the corona crisis?

There were plans to set up a large-scale campaign on the UvA campus, among other things, but corona caused problems, says IkPas campaign manager Martijn Planken. ‘The lockdown resulted in empty UvA buildings, so there was little point in putting up posters everywhere. Online opportunities were also limited, because not everyone reads the newsletter. So the question was whether the message would get across.’

‘I have friends who join Dry January every year. On February 1, they all start drinking heavily in the club’

The message does not seem to have really gotten through, but that was in line with expectations, according to Planken. ‘We want to make it a tradition, so you have to start somewhere. We didn’t think we’d start with thousands of students right away, but we wanted to give them a taste of the concept, so that we’re really well prepared next year.’


Theatre studies student Duncan Plas (25) agrees. ‘In these times you have to take every opportunity to drink, right’, he says. ‘There is not so much to you, you can not go to the pub, and then you have to decline a glass of wine during those few dinners with friends? No. If you want to drink, you drink, and if you don’t want to drink, you don’t drink. You don’t need Dry January for that.’ He doesn't really understand the whole concept of Dry January. ‘I have friends who join every year and then on February 1 they start drinking massively in the club. Does is make sense then?’


Cocaine problem

Duncan does drink ‘exponentially less’ than before the corona crisis. He used to be in the pub three to four nights a week and sometimes drank ten glasses of alcohol in a day several times a week. ’More and more I’m wondering why I am really doing it. If I’m with friends and we’re not going to get waisted, why should I drink three or four beers?’

Foto: Duncan Plas

He does expect the difference in drinking to be permanent. ‘I think I’m going to choose my moments better. Now you’re more likely to take walks or go for coffee. The financial aspect is also a thing; before I used to throw away a hundred or a hundred and fifty euros every weekend on drinking. Now I just have that amount in my account. But when the bars reopen I go there immediately, because I miss the craziness. Besides, I work in the catering industry, and alcohol is part of that too.’


He didn’t find his pre-crisis drinking problematic. ‘I’m not an alcoholic, I don’t drink on my own. I think a cup of tea is better.’ He also doesn’t necessarily see many problematic cases around him. There are people for whom it has been a problem for a long time, but that is a very small minority. I rather see a cocaine problem around me.’


Interdisciplinary social sciences student Wini Wildervanck (23) participated in Dry January but stopped after four days. ‘I had a rule to drink one day in the weekend, but then that became a weekday. The next day I would also see people again with whom I wanted to drink, so then I gave up.’ Those four days did pay off for her. ‘I now have more frequent days when I don’t drink alcohol. And in those four days without alcohol I suddenly slept for a very long time. I sleep better when I don’t drink, but in the end I still prefer a drink.’


Wini drinks about five days a week. ‘Usually that’s three glasses a night, although before Dry January it was more. I also started drinking more during corona, because there’s not much to do and the easiest thing to do is having a night of social drinking.’

‘There’s not much to do and the easiest thing to do is having a night of social drinking’

She doesn’t have any worries about her drinking. ‘Maybe it’s a lot for the average person, but not for the average student. Around me I also don’t see that many people suffer from their alcohol consumption. According to the UvA, there are many students who do, then it’s good that they are trying to do something about it. But for myself, it’s not a problem. I still function, even when I sleep less.’

Foto: Daan Jellema

Chemistry student and leader of student beer party Slaafs Daan Jellema (23) thinks an alcohol policy at the university is nonsense anyway. ‘I’d rather not drink for a month than participating in a campaign like that. Although the UvA is still doing relatively okay. In Utrecht, beer is no longer allowed on campus. Here, at least, they understand that it’s part of student life.’


Daan spends the scholarship he receives for his student council membership on free beer for his party. ‘Beer is sociable, fun, it connects people.’ But it's not like he drinks extremely. ‘I don’t always have to have beer or be tipsy. Sometimes I drink three times a week, sometimes not for a few weeks. I’m better at giving away beer than I am at drinking beer.’ 


In any case, the university shouldn’t get involved, he says. ’I think alcohol policy is a bit childish. We are adults, we just have our own responsibility.’


According to Jolien Dopmeijer, chief researcher of Student Monitor at Trimbos, the average drinking of students decreased during the corona crisis. 39 percent of the students indicate that their drinking has remained the same, for 45 percent it has decreased and for 16 percent it has increased. Still, Dopmeijer is not happy. ‘There are still many excessive and heavy drinkers among students. If we were to use the questionnaire we use for non-students to investigate alcohol use, 80 to 90 percent of students would fall into the category of risky or problematic drinker.’

Foto: Jolien Dopmeijer

The motive for young people to drink is mainly social, says Dopmeijer. Few students say they use drinking as a coping mechanism, but that doesn’t say everything, because excessive users are not always aware of the seriousness of their problem. ‘Especially in student culture: no one notices if you drink a lot, because almost everyone drinks. But if you notice that you start isolating yourself to drink, or the quantity and frequency get out of hand, or you drink alcohol for reasons that are not social, then you have to take action,’ says Dopmeijer.


House parties 

It is not known among which groups of students alcohol use increased during the corona crisis. ‘Presumably the students who are having a really hard time during the lockdown started drinking more,’ says Dopmeijer. ‘But we know that in normal times it is mainly students who live independently that drink a lot, and international students, for example, are on average heavier drinkers than Dutch students. It is possible that these students have started drinking even more as a result of the increase in house parties. Before, they might go out three times a week, but now there’s a house party somewhere every day.’