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Father of student who died after ag society initiation warns others of dangers

The father of a student who died after an agricultural society initiation event has launched a campaign to reiterate the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption.

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Father of student who died after ag society initiation warns others of alcohol dangers

Newcastle University student Ed Farmer died in December 2016 after an initiation-style bar crawl, organised by members of the university’s agricultural society.

 

During the inquest, the coroner said there was a risk of similar future deaths because students were ‘unaware of the risks of consuming large quantities of alcohol over a short period of time’.

 

At the time, his father, Jeremy Farmer, criticised Newcastle University for its ‘underwhelming and frustrating’ stance towards initiation events.

 

He has since teamed up with the university to launch a project to help raise awareness of the danger of taking part in such events, as well as other danger signs including bullying, coercion, manipulation or sexualised behaviour.


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Mr Farmer said he wanted to reduce the risk of something similar happening again.

 

“The loss of any young man at the start of their adult life is a tragedy,” he said. “When the young man in question is one of your own sons, who had intelligence, wit and compassion beyond his years, but yet died so needlessly, the loss is all the more devastating.

 

‘Minimise the chances of anything like this happening again’

“I do believe that if students were made aware of the dangers of drinking large volumes of spirits in short periods of time, and maybe aware of the signs of someone that is no longer just drunk but in a life-limiting state and use the example of Ed to give the message some relevance, then possibly just one student might be luckier on a night out than Ed.”

 

Vice-chancellor and president of Newcastle University Professor Chris Day, who joined with students’ union staff and sabbatical officers, relevant faculty and professional service staff, representatives of key student clubs and societies, and alumni representation to consider how to tackle the problem of initiations, added: “We all wish we could rewind three years and change what happened that night.

 

“But we cannot go back and so instead we are looking forward and doing everything we can to minimise the chances of anything like this happening again.”

 

As part of the recommendations, universities were advised to:

  • adopt a clear definition of what constitutes an initiation which focuses on prohibited behaviours;
  • foster cross-working and a whole university approach, including work to prevent initiations as part of strategies to tackle harassment and promote good well-being and mental health;
  • evaluate new initiatives and share knowledge and good practice;
  • update or develop policies and practices to explicitly refer to initiation events and the problems that arise from them;
  • ensure proportionate disciplinary processes and sanctions are in place;
  • provide clear reporting systems and advertise support available to students;
  • raise awareness of initiations and their risks;
  • organise appropriate staff training, identifying the levels of training needed for difference staff;
  • work with the local council, licensees and partners to ensure the campus environment promotes responsible behaviours towards drinking;
  • work with alumni to encourage an increased sense of responsibility for the safety of student groups and societies.
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