Professor Malcolm Gillies, vice chancellor of London Metropolitan University, has proposed ‘alcohol-free zones’ on campus, where booze cannot be bought or consumed, on the basis that 20 per cent of the students are Muslims. We ask: Should the university limit access to alcohol?
Yes – Pete Mercer, NUS vice president (welfare)
‘Let’s be clear: Malcolm Gillies, the vice chancellor, has not proposed stopping all London Metropolitan University students drinking alcohol, merely that in response to the beliefs of a large proportion of his students, there might be more areas where students who are uncomfortable with the consumption of alcohol can socialise without having to be around those who are drinking. He hasn’t waited for confrontation or demand, but has acted with proactive sensitivity to his students. ‘The focus on Muslim students, while predictable, is a red herring. Studies show that Christian and Hindu students are as concerned about alcohol consumption on campus as Muslim ones. ‘For some time, changing student demographics, the rise of café culture and a desire for healthier lifestyles have seen student bars changing into juice bars and cafés with great success. ‘What possible reason is there to object – as long as any savings [from these changes] are reinvested in student services –when it means only a small adjustment by others to make a group that is massively under-represented in almost every other institution in the country feel a little bit more comfortable as they study? None of the objections I’ve seen have come from students. They know that hate crime is still a problem for students of all religions –and many with no religion –and efforts to accommodate all beliefs and lifestyles are surely to be welcomed.’
No -Mark Campbell, chair of the University and College Coordinating Committee at London Met and senior lecturer in computing
‘London Met is a university with between 25,000 and 30,000 students and comprises 13 buildings which have many canteens and social areas with no alcohol licence. ‘There are only two student bars for the whole campus. Do we therefore need additional alcohol-free spaces? Not really. Four of the five union sabbatical officers here are Muslim: none are in favour of an alcohol ban on campus, and no student union candidates promoted alcohol-free zones as part of their student union election campaign. My audience (as a lecturer) is predominantly male and, I would say, predominantly Muslim. This has never been an issue among my students. Are there issues with the library opening times? Yes. But with alcohol? No. ‘And now the EDL and BNP have hopped on this Islamaphobia bandwagon. Online discussion boards are full of people attacking Muslim students for supposedly trying to restrict our freedoms. ‘When it was pointed out that not all Muslims are teetotal, Malcolm Gillies responded that Islamic teachings are clear on the topic. His concentration on the literal interpretation of religious writings, rather than modern thought or practice, is problematic. For example, there are negative comments on homosexuality in the main texts of most religions – such as those in the Bible, Qur’an and Talmud. Surely he wouldn’t suggest our university adopts negative positions [on these issues] in supposed deference to those students who follow those major faiths?’