By Poppy Askham
Campaigners are calling for students to boycott Durham’s nightclubs on 26th October in protest of an alleged recent increase in reports of spiking incidents in the city.
The boycott has been organised in tandem with similar protests at over 30 campuses across the country as part of the ‘Night In’ campaign. The newly launched initiative seeks to increase clubgoers’ safety by encouraging club owners and the Government to instate more stringent security measures.
Durham Night In was launched in response to a spate of alleged drink spiking incidents since the start of term, including five cases involving students from University College and a further five from Hild Bede College.
“Spiking has become an epidemic. Never before have we heard so many students waking up with no memory of what had happened the night before”, Durham Night In stated.
“Right now no one is feeling safe in their city”, the Durham campaign’s principal organiser and current St Chad’s College JCR President, Hala Heenan told Palatinate. “It’s getting to the point where everyone knows at least someone who’s been spiked or someone who knows someone who’s been spiked.”
Heenan launched the campaign on 18th October, having seen a similar boycott advertised at Edinburgh University, and it quickly amassed student attention on social media.
The initiative aims to encourage clubs and bars to increase entry security, provide drink protection devices such as ‘spikeys’ and provide greater medical support for victims.
Heenan opted not to call the initiative a “girls’ night in” as students in other cities have; she explained: “I would prefer it be Durham Night In because I think spiking is something that affects both genders. It could affect anyone and it’s part of the campaign to get everyone involved in the boycott.”
On the night, Heenan hopes to organise a team to go into the city centre and discourage people from entering clubs. She is also urging student societies and sports clubs to encourage members to participate in the boycott.
Several colleges are intending to support the boycott by hosting alternative events in college bars, although Heenan noted that bar staff may require additional training on how to spot, prevent and respond to potential drink spiking incidents.
The boycott also comes amid student outcry at an anti-spiking campaign led by Durham University Student Wellbeing. In a tweet that has now been deleted, the Student Wellbeing team said: “Drink-spiking is dangerous and something that you can prevent from happening to you and your friends. #dontgetspiked Contact the police as soon as possible in a suspected case so an investigation can be conducted and others protected.”
Heenan told Palatinate: “I was equally as disgusted as everyone else by #dontgetspiked”. Instead of slogans, she called for the University to provide greater “active support specific to spiking” to help victims and those that care for them to deal with incidents’ long-lasting impact.
Heenan also recommended that specific sanctions related to drink-spiking be introduced by the University in order to act as a deterrent and give victims more impetus to come forward.
The University responded to Palatinate after the tweet was removed saying: “We appreciate the feedback on our recent post about drink safety. Students have reported concerns to us about drink spiking on nights out. We take this very seriously, and work with the police and others on guidance to help people be safe and report incidents. We also regularly train staff and student representatives on drug and alcohol awareness. We always aim to support our students and take opportunities to learn and improve our messaging on important topics like this.”
Furthermore, the University also explained that they did not create the ‘don’t get spiked’ message, rather that the message was originally from a local drug and alcohol recovery service.
Image: Adeline Zhao