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Cambridge Provides Babysitters for College Drunks

Who among us hasn’t wished for an “on-call sober person” at one time or another? Faced with an epidemic of alcoholism, one of England's most elite universities is calling in the reinforcements.

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Cambridge student contemplates his future.
Photo via thinkstockphotos

By Kirwan Gray

05/17/11

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This may be the ultimate in personal services when it comes to college recruiting. Excessive drinking has become such a rite of passage at St. John’s College in Cambridge that the British institution is trying to recruit “career volunteers” whose job will be to babysit students who go over the top during the upcoming summer season of garden parties. The college is home to Nobel Prize winners, ex-prime ministers—and a ready supply of “volunteers willing to stay sober in return for cash,” notes Murray Wardrop in The Telegraph. The idea is that a flock of “on-call sober persons” would be available at a moment’s notice to take a call from a club or lodge or party and show up for caregiver duties, the nature of which we shudder to imagine. Payment would come from a “drunk tax’ levied by the college on the inebriates in question. Rumor has it that students may be able to make as much as $160 a night babysitting young rich drunks. A St. John’s spokesperson told The Telegraph that “the risk of harm to them in that state is serious enough to make the College put clear procedures in place to ensure that they are properly cared for.”

The initiative comes just in time. According to St. John’s student Oscar Williams-Grut, an annual Cambridge drunk-fest called the May Ball is about to celebrate its 500th birthday, “and the committee is promising the greatest party ever hosted here. The administrators are probably worried about things getting out of hand.”

They should be. In a warm-up event to the May Ball earlier this month, more than a thousand plastered Cambridge students went berserk at a party in a public park, “with many getting drunk, stripping off, and vomiting in public.” Wonder what things are like at Oxford?

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