Following the publication of an investigative piece by The University Times, Trinity College Dublin's Press Officer, Caoimhe Ní Lochlainn, has announced that the college will conduct an investigation into the alleged incidents contained within the article.
The article concerns activities allegedly engaged in by members of the Dublin University Boat Club (DUBC) during their annual Christmas Commons dinner. Sourcing quotes from several eye-witnesses to proceedings, and six current and former members of the Dublin University Boat Club, the article details incidents and rituals which those sources say have taken place over the last number of years.
The night is intended as both a celebration for current members and also as an initiation night for new members, or 'novices'. Emails obtained by The University Times show that, though people can be members of the club without attending these events, they are only considered to be a 'true part of DUBC by attending the Clubs Christmas Commons'.
The cost for those looking to attend the event is €50 and it is billed as a strictly black tie affair. It begins with a three course dinner in Trinity's dining hall, where it is billed as a night with 'flowing drink and much merriment'. However it is after this part of the evening has elapsed that attendees are allegedly forced to participate in a series of gruelling, and often humiliating hazing rituals.
Attendees from previous years assert that they were then brought to an adjacent section of the college where they were coerced into consuming large quantities of alcohol while senior members of the society brandished canes and bamboo sticks. In 2018, one participant says that they were lined up in the rain and told to drink cans before placing the empty cans on their heads to prove they'd finished them.
Current and former members of the society, that anonymously spoke to The University Times, say that it is after this period of drinking has concluded that some of the novices will be whipped. On a number of occasions it has seen the beginning of a race, which is supposed to take place through the streets of Dublin and the college, which involves some members having to strip to their underwear. Senior members of the society have, on certain years, apparently accompanied the runners and whipped them with bamboo and canes.
The duress experienced by students as a result of these rituals has been so severe on a number of years that members of the club say that it has caused numerous members over the years to leave.
Following these events, the students will typically then proceed to a house or apartment, occupied by someone associated with the club or rented specifically for the evening. In 2017 for example attendees were told by email that they should bring 'one toilet roll, a packet of biscuits and a leap card with a minimum of 7 euro on it' - as if it were the opening sequence to a particularly drab episode of Kenan & Kel. Though the toilet roll and biscuits were apparently simply to be given to senior members of the society, and not even for the purposes of being used on the evening, the Leap Card was necessary to ferry the students to the next location for the evening where further drinking would take place.
Though the events of each night, and the initiation rituals involved differed from year to year, it seems a constant that this section of the evening involves heavy drinking. Former and current members reported to the Trinity newspaper that, on some years, some students have had bottles of sherry taped to their hands which would only be removed when they had finished the contents. One former member said that by that point in the evening you don't really have a choice in participating or not as "there was lots of peer pressure.
Attendees are implored to keep the events of the night a secret and not to divulge any information regarding it, or share any photos or videos on social media. Indeed, attendees are asked to sign a contract pledging secrecy at the outset of the night. An email obtained by The University Times sent around to members following 2017's Christmas Commons implores those who attended to keep the evening's events secret.
However, the current captain of the boat club, William Doyle denied these allegations in a statement to The University Times. He said that novices were not coerced into stripping, being whipped or consuming unsafe quantities of alcohol. This came despite the fact that The University Times informed him that it had obtained group chats concerning 2018's event which showed evidence that attendees were whipped, not to mention the fact that a photograph from the event, taken on the steps of the dining hall, shows senior members posing with bamboo canes and sticks.
Mr. Doyle however claimed that 'any indication that any of these things happened at this year's Christmas Commons Dinner is false'.
He went on to say that "We are very pleased to part-take [sic] in the festive celebrations at the Dining Hall so excellently prepared by the TCD catering staff. It never fails to fuel our annual Yuletide Michaelmas races, so enthusiastically enjoyed by our oarspeople".
The college has said that it will be investigating these allegations however and has asked for anybody with information regarding these events to come forward and that all information provided will be treated in absolute confidence.
H/T: The University Times