Cambridge drinking society ‘set student on fire’ as he ‘put lit toilet roll in shorts’ in initiation

Cambridge University drinking society ‘set student on fire who was hospitalised after being made to run with lit toilet roll tucked into his shorts in initiation ceremony’

  • Cambridge drinking societies have annual ‘initiations’ with alcohol-fuelled tasks
  • A student at Clare was ‘set on fire’ after being doused in flammable liquid 
  • None of the students involved have reportedly been disciplined by the College
  • The fresher had to be rushed to hospital with burns that ‘immobilised’ him 

A Cambridge University drinking society has gone unpunished after its members ‘set a fresher on fire’ during its annual hazing event, MailOnline understands.

The Clare College drinking society, The Crabs, reportedly covered a fresher in flammable liquid before he was told to tuck a toilet roll that was on fire into his shorts and run into the wind in January.

But the ‘routine’ initiation went badly wrong and the student was ‘set on fire’, so had to be urgently hospitalised with severe burns that left him ‘immobilised’, student newspaper Varsity reports.

The undergraduate student suffered bad burns to his inner thighs in the dangerous prank, but Varsity revealed today that none of the students in the drinking society have been disciplined.

The Clare College drinking society, The Crabs, covered a fresher in flammable liquid before he was told to tuck a toilet roll that was on fire into his shorts and run into the wind

The Clare College drinking society, The Crabs, covered a fresher in flammable liquid before he was told to tuck a toilet roll that was on fire into his shorts and run into the wind

Students described the incident as 'inevitable' given the society's 'previous behaviour'

Students described the incident as ‘inevitable’ given the society’s ‘previous behaviour’

Instead, all the participants bar the injured student have been encouraged to donate £50 to burns charities. 

Varsity reported: ‘The news spread quickly around Clare. One student said that most of their peers were not surprised by the incident, which was seen as inevitable based on the previous activities of the society.’

Clare College was approached for comment by MailOnline, but declined to speak to our reporter.

Drinking societies are controversial at Cambridge as well as other universities across the country.

Cambridge societies have been repeatedly over safety concerns and allegations that they entrench privilege within the university.

In October, the master of Downing College, Alan Bookbinder, condemned the college drinking society over ‘illicit’ invitations sent to several female students.

He said in an email that the group targeted ‘women they deem attractive, inducing them to drink in excess’, and treated them ‘in a misogynistic and predatory way’.

He insisted that a ‘group dedicated to drinking in excess is not acceptable’.

In 2018, a Facebook page for Cambridge students posted hundreds of accounts of inappropriate behaviour allegedly perpetrated by drinking society members, including sexual misconduct, bullying and classism.

Allegations included male members of drinking societies confiscating the keys and phones of ‘attractive fresher girls’.

Another male member of a society allegedly said female students would be ‘going home in wheelchairs’ after an event.

After the furore, a third of drinking societies at Cambridge committed to creating a code of conduct.

The drinking society at Trinity Hall, The Crescents, was forced to disband in the same year over a scandalous video which showed one of its members speaking to a packed pub and joking about students at Cambridge who ‘couldn’t afford’ swimming lessons. 

The student standing on a table in front of a crowd of members, said: ‘So, what is the single biggest problem facing the Crescents in the modern age? … Rhetorical, don’t answer that, it’s inclusivity. So, that leads me on quite nicely as to why I should swim in the [Emmanuel College] pond.’

‘Full disclaimer,’ he continues. ‘I can’t swim very well, almost as if I’ve never had the money to pay for swimming lessons … I have, but I dislike it, it’s just snot-nosed kids putting their verrucas in the f*****g pool.’

Drinking societies are known for their controversy around Cambridge and the UK as a whole

Drinking societies are known for their controversy around Cambridge and the UK as a whole

Cambridge students gather for the annual 'C-Sunday' festivities, which see undergraduates celebrate before the start of their exams

Cambridge students gather for the annual ‘C-Sunday’ festivities, which see undergraduates celebrate before the start of their exams

College drinking societies, often marked out by their trademark outfits such as cowboy hats and coloured ties, gather to take part in alcohol-fuelled events

College drinking societies, often marked out by their trademark outfits such as cowboy hats and coloured ties, gather to take part in alcohol-fuelled events

Drinking society members and other university students wheel in trolleys of booze for a day of excess drinking

Drinking society members and other university students wheel in trolleys of booze for a day of excess drinking

Someone interjects with a remark about a ‘Dad bod’, to which he replies ‘I’m coming onto that’. Again, he reiterates: ‘I swim like someone who’s never had the money to go swimming.’

There has also been a series of scandals concerning the university’s ‘Caesarian Sunday’, an annual day before the exam season where students gather to drink to excess.

There have been multiple incidents of students being airlifted or rushed in an ambulance to hospital as members of drinking societies typically wake up in the early hours of the morning to drink to excess throughout the day. 

The Clare Rugby and Boating Society was one of the first drinking societies set up at Cambridge, according to Varsity.

It was established in 1930 by Paul Mellon, an American undergraduate who came to Cambridge from Yale University.

In 2019, Universities UK, the umbrella group for vice-chancellors, launched a clampdown on societies that permitted ‘dangerous’ initiation ceremonies due to the hazards of heavy drinking.

It said institutions must be prepared to fine or throw out clubs that persistently allow risky or coercive behaviour among members.

They should also be clearer to students about the sanctions they face for bullying and inappropriate antics during these ceremonies, which are often alcohol-fuelled, UUK warned.

This followed the tragic death of Newcastle University first-year student Ed Farmer in December 2016.

The 20-year-old went into cardiac arrest due to the ‘toxic effects’ of excessive alcohol after an ‘initiation-style’ pub crawl organised by the institution’s agriculture society.

The inquest in October 2018 heard that participants drank vodka from a pig’s head and bobbed apples into a bucket mixed with urine and alcohol.

Clare College has been contacted for comment. 

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