To start things off, I should make it clear that I in no way want to put everyone’s Raisin experience into one box and condemn it as a tradition. In fact, I think its one of the best aspects of university life in St Andrews. However, I believe it is important to acknowledge that, for some, Raisin and the subsequent relationship with your academic families as the year goes on can be very disappointing.
Let’s start with Raisin itself. Whilst some parents are great and remain really responsible, many ultimately use it as an excuse to exploit their children’s alcohol tolerance levels. Is it really ethical to take advantage of their naivety and imbibe them with dangerous levels of alcohol? I enjoy drinking as much of the next person, but having to do twelve shots in as many minutes in a game of Stairway to Heaven is undeniably unsafe.
Freshers often feel pressured to make sure they have a great Raisin, and given that this is essentially synonymous with drinking lots of booze, they’re unlikely to refuse whatever their parents pour down their throats. Furthermore, no one wants to be labelled “the boring one” if they refuse vodka at 7 am. Forcing alcohol on people who won’t say no is massively irresponsible and though it’s seen as just fun and games, many parents should be ashamed of themselves.
One of the perpetual results of drinking too much is increased sexual promiscuity. We’ve all been there; a house party at the age of 16 and suddenly the quiet guy from your English class is looking very attractive. A few years later in a club and you and your friends make games out of who can get with the most people. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, as long as you’re staying safe, having fun, and most importantly, have the capacity to make decisions about your actions. Parents are the ones getting their kids so incredibly drunk every Raisin, and as such they have a responsibility to look after them and make sure they don’t do things they’ll regret the next morning.
So, why did I witness several “fathers” taking advantage of their inebriated daughters at house parties on my Raisin Sunday? Forget the implications of academic incest, knowingly taking advantage of someone you should be looking after, who you have a duty of care over, is objectively morally reprehensible, yet happens far too frequently during Raisin celebrations.
Even for those of us whose Raisins weren’t tainted with alcohol poising and borderline sexual assault, what happens after Raisin is over can be really upsetting. Academic parents are typically portrayed as being mentors, older students who can guide you through your first year. In reality, how many of them actually stay in contact with their kids once Raisin is over? I remember being really shocked on my Raisin when an academic aunt told her one of her friends had spent the rest of first year being blanked by her mother in the street; yet ultimately, that’s exactly what happened to me and several of my friends. For many parents, I’d argue, Raisin is about one weekend of exploiting first years and then forgetting about them.
At Manchester University, academic parents within the medical school have to go through an application process, are paired with the children by the university, and have to attend mandatory training on how best to utilise their role as parent. They have to take it seriously, and as a result, first years are guaranteed academic parents who continue to care for and mentor them even beyond first year. Academic families and the traditions of Raisin can be fun, but they could be so much better, and I think it’s time it stopped being left to chance and started being taken seriously.