A glass of wine in a seminar, two or three after a meeting whats the problem? We are injury ourselves, bit by bit
So here we are, hurtling towards the end of January, the month of self-flagellation and resolutions to do things better. How many of us declared that this year no, frankly! this year will be the one in which we finally lose the extra weight and save some money?
But what about the academy itself? Universities could certainly is beneficial for a health check and a good look at their finances, but they should also consider a third popular resolution: to drink less. We know the damaging effect that booze can have on our students, but what about us faculty members?
Its no secret that academics drink a lot. Evening seminars, book launches, special lecturings all are invariably accompanied by booze; commonly after the event, often beforehand and sometimes even during the proceedings. At the richer universities, one can easily get by without ever getting a round in, thanks to the near-endless river of free wine( it always seems to be wine) during the week.
Other workplaces and I write as someone who took several years out to work in those famously restrained industries, media and publishing generally save it for the Christmas party, closing a deal, or an occasion of note, such as a good fiscal one-quarter or payday.
But in academia, alcohol is ever-present. We dont merely partake at night: Ive been to many seminars starting at 5pm, offering wine from the start. If you want to take part fully in the research culture of a university talks, seminars, events, panels its hard to avoid drinking while doing so.
There are plenty of benefits to having drinkings at these events, of course. As a PhD student, I find it much easier to approach big-name profs during relaxed wine receptions than in front of hostile audiences at meetings. Striking up a dialogue seems far less intimidating when each and every one of us has a glass in hand, seemingly on a level playing field despite the difference in our career advance. Without this psychological prop, I worry that I might fall into the category of pushy PhD rather than genuinely curious new entrant to the field.
Booze is the reward at the end of a long day of papers you can feel the prickle of anticipation as the caterers clatter and jingle-jangle in the background of a mediocre presentation. For some this is a social pleasure, but others seem urgently in need of a fix, like smokers merely off a train, cigarette in hand before they get to the ticket roadblocks.
We know that young people, including students, are drinking less than they used to. But at the same time older, middle-class drinkers are accidentally eating too much, one relaxing glass of wine at a time.
Im not suggesting that academia forces-out people into alcoholism. But since starting my alumnu analyses at a Russell Group institution, Ive been struck by the effects of the regular small amounts that add up to more than Id like to think. I actually lost weight during the early days of my PhD, thanks to the two glasses of wine and a handful of crisp menu offered at these functions.
There are many problems in academia, including stress, long hours, isolation, bully and a variety of mental health issues. Drinking too much can exacerbate these and have lasting negative effects.
Then theres the personal and professional fallout. When beverage plays important roles in departmental socialising, theres a clear risk of favouritism among those who share a tipple on a regular basis.
Early career researchers who wish to drink less frequently maybe for personal reasons, perhaps because socialising is one of the first things to go in the publish-or-perish culture of many universities can find themselves out of the loop, socially and otherwise, as the lines between personal and professional become blurred.
Most of us drink at manageable levels, merely a couple of glasses at a time. The problem is that we do it so often. But why is there so much alcohol in academia? And why isnt there the same amount in other, similarly stressful sectors?
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