Opinion: Is RAG week damaging our reputation as students?

Emer Handly

RAG Week. Credit: Darragh Culhane

Raising and Giving Week (RAG Week) is supposed to be a week during the college semester where students organise events and raise money for charity while having fun.

Originally it started off as doing good deeds, but it now has a long history of students misbehaving and using ‘charity’ as an excuse to do so.  Basically, “let’s all have a session and we might raise a bit of money along the way, but at least we’ll be drunk.”

This RAG week attitude is adding to the negative reputation of college students in Ireland.

Looking back at RAG week through the years, it is understandable why some believe it to be a ‘disgrace’. In the mid-1900’s Trinity students dressed up in costumes were charged at by Gardaí after they threw fireworks at Trams.

RAG week was banned in UCD after students carried out some high-profile pranks, including the “kidnapping of sales girls from Clerys.”

There has always seemed to be a fight between Universities and their students over RAG week.  Despite some successful efforts to calm the activities that go on ‘in aid’ of RAG week, it is still a topic that remains in the headlines and brings tension.

So much so that just before the week starts, most Universities urge their students to behave.

This year Gardaí issued warnings to students who planned to take part in RAG events. They said they want students to enjoy themselves responsibly but are taking a ‘zero tolerance’ policy towards anti-social behaviour.

NUI Galway and Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology withdrew their support for the event.

In more recent years there have been some activities that shocked the nation as students continue to use RAG week as a reason to get drunk, take drugs and do stupid things.

In 2013 a number of students were arrested after fights broke out at an unofficial RAG event.

Then in 2014, Gardaí shut down an event in a night club after a crush occurred outside. This year 4,000 ecstasy pills and herbal cannabis were seized in Galway.

It isn’t students from one University though; it is the Irish student body as a whole that keep damaging our own reputation year after year. Doesn’t this make you feel slightly ashamed to be an Irish college student?

We need to get out of this cycle of bad behaviour.

However, it is not all doom and gloom. Students have raised a lot of money for charities and we should be proud of that.

There is a great atmosphere at some of the events. And yes, of course students are allowed to have fun and get drunk. That is part of our college experience.

However, the main problem with RAG week is that we are using charity to justify the misbehaviour. This is not okay.

I am all for students having fun and raising money in the process, but we seem to have strayed from that. We need to remind ourselves that RAG week is not about getting twisted, it is about giving to others.

Emer Handly