Article by Belle George (UWCAC ’14-’16)
There’s a lot of acronyms in the United World College movement. The most obvious one is UWC, and then there is each college’s one: SEA, LPC, RBC etc. More recently a new acronym has been created that spans the 14 current colleges – IUSF. This stands for Inter UWC Student Forum (acronyms within acronyms, we really do have a thing for them!) The name is self-explanatory – a student run forum with representatives from each college. Here at AC I was fortunate to have been drawn, along with a second year, to be a link to between the 360 of us here in Wales and the thousands of other UWC students across the globe.
The purpose of the forum is to exchange ideas with the hope that this exchange will lead to positive changes in each of the UWCs. The topic of alcohol was chosen and the first meeting was held on Sunday the 8th. The app “Go To Meeting” was used, and aside from issues with technology – accidental mutings, batteries dying, internet connections disconnecting, to name a few – the meeting was in my view, a success.
Hearing about the policies in place at other UWCs regarding alcohol was surprising and interesting. The use of alcohol ranged from nearly none to students drinking every weekend, Friday and Saturday nights. And the range of how breaking rules around alcohol is dealt with was just as large. Schools where the administration appears fairly relaxed about student drinking, to schools with 2 or 3 strike systems and then expulsion, to various other inbetweens – gatings, restorative circles, letters to parents or national committees.
It was clear that several factors contributed to this span of drinking cultures. Three main ones were the day student to boarder ratio, the culture and laws of the country the college is situated in and the location of the college within the country (countryside, city, town etc.). But the fourth factor that stood out to me the most was the age of the college. From the perspective of a student at the oldest UWC, where there have been students drinking (legally and illegally) it seems the drinking culture is passed down, from second years to first years. But this year two new colleges have opened. No second years. So the students in this first generation are making the traditions. And this is a 100% personal view, but it does seem the new students at these colleges had less of an expectation around alcohol than other first years in some colleges. Interesting.
This thought aside, the results of the IUSF will have to wait and be seen. Minutes of the meeting are being put together by the representatives from Robert Bosch, who moderated this time. From there, each college will take it’s own steps in how it wants to implement change based on what we have learnt from each other. The next meeting is set for March 8th.
If you’re a current UWC student with an idea for a future forum discussion topic, do not hesitate to contact your representatives!
AC over and out,
Belle George (New Zealand, ‘14-’16)