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USU to no longer fund alcohol for off-campus events

The USU's new alcohol funding policy takes effect in Week 1.

Glasses of champagne on trays. The USU will no longer fund its clubs and societies for alcohol purchases, unless made at USU licensed venues.

The University of Sydney Union (USU) has announced a big change: it will no longer provide funding for alcohol at club and society (C&S) events unless they are held at a licensed USU outlet.

Club executives were notified via email last Monday February 19 that beginning Semester 1, Week 1 the USU will only fund alcohol at C&S events held at USU licensed outlets.

This change has interesting implications for the USU and especially for the many clubs & societies under the program but what exactly are those implications?

What’s going on?

Many club executives and regular members were hazy about the details of the changes.

The simple breakdown is that in order to receive funding for alcohol at C&S events, the events would need to take place on campus at one of the USU’s outlets such as Manning or Hermann’s Bar.

This does not mean the USU will not fund off-campus events. USU President Courtney Thompson advised that cruises & balls will still be able to claim funding for events. Logistical and event costs could still be claimed for off-campus events.

However, this means that the cost of alcohol at those cruises, balls and other events like pub-crawls will now have to be absorbed by societies, and most likely, their members.

Why?

These changes were introduced following the release of the Broderick report, which highlighted a “direct link … between alcohol at social events and harassment occurring” Thompson noted.

The rationale is that this measure allows the USU to work within their own capacity to exercise their duty of care.

Thompson also mentioned that the USU is currently the only student union in Australia that subsidises alcohol at all.

President of the Sydney University Law Society, Ann Wen said the change was a good start to tackling the issues at hand.

“Drinking culture is it is a really important issue and I think it is good if they have any money from alcohol expanding into non-alcoholic costs. I can’t say how effective it will be … I think that there does need to be a bit of change. I think at least it’s good that we’re starting with some structural change.”

Don’t let me be the last to know

Sydney Arts Students Society President Lachlan Finch echoed support for the changes but also was concerned by the USUs methodology.

“I completely support the issue of what they’re doing. And I think it’s really great that they’re finding ways to make sure that Uni life is always really safe … My hesitation and I guess frustration comes from the fact that there was no consultation with any of the club execs and that we heard about it a couple weeks before the semester starts.”

Wen also advised there had been no prior consultation.

Thompson did not respond on whether clubs had been consulted but did advise “this was a decision made with students’ safety in mind. But we also want to make sure students have fun and can enjoy the program – which is why it is not a complete ban or revoking of funding.”

The debating dilemma

One of the biggest questions around the new changes was whether it would impact on the USUs debating program.

As its own program, debating, as well as revues, do not fall under the clubs and societies banner – so the question remained of whether this change would impact those groups.

Thompson confirmed however that “the policy will also apply to programs such as debating and revues.”

“There are still specifics that need to be worked out as a one-fits-all solution is rarely the case” Thompson said.

“So we are going to be working with the clubs and societies going forward to come to solutions that work for us all.”

The changes will take effect as of March 5.