The culture of intoxication in B schools – Drugs on campus

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If I call a Business School synonymous to stress, it would not be an exaggeration. Multiple activities, both curricular and extra-curricular that demand one’s attention, various subjects and ‘sacrosanct’ deadlines-all of them combine to form a cocktail of stress, anxiety and tension. In the closed community of a B-school the avenues of stress-busting are limited and the time to pursue them is even more limited. So the important question is, how do people deal with that kind of stress? The answer is simple: intoxication; from mild forms like cigarettes and alcohol to ‘drugs’ like weed and even chemical ones, everything is fair game. While I do not have ethical issues against any of this since I appreciate the fact that all adults have the right to do what they believe is right, what I do have an issue against is them becoming such a strong part of the culture that even non-participants are forced into it. Let me quote a few examples and then I will move on to further explain this.

IIM-C is not known only for the great finance companies that recruit from the campus or the numerous lakes enclosed in the campus that enhance its beauty, it is also known far and wide in the student community for its ganja nights. Ganja or what is more famously called weed is served freely during a designated night in the semester wherein everyone on campus-whether they are interested or not-are expected (read: forced) to imbibe. There is a particular official committee (comprising of the biggest imbibers on campus) who look after the organisation and the ‘event’ is so famous that students from other colleges and even alumni come to IIM-C for the same. All of this, right under the nose of the authorities and the teaching community.

Next are the wet-nights of XLRI. Designated nights spread across the year where liquor is served by a committee (yes, an official committee whose membership even stands as a CV point!) ensures that there is enough booze for the entire college at as low a price as possible; the same is funded by alumni and students both. The first wet-night of the season sees students (juniors) being forced by seniors to down vodka shots- even the most tenacious teetotalers have a hard time denying. This happens right under the nose of a religiously affiliated administration and a teaching community which is extremely rigid in many respects while being modern enough to allow mass dispensation of alcohol and the creation of a disco-like environment once in a while.

The stories in IIM-A, B and L are not much different. And this is the story of only alcohol and natural drugs. The abuse of cigarettes and chemical drugs is higher than one would imagine. Cigarettes are such an important requirement on the campus that over the course of development of these colleges, special shops have come up whose primary function is providing cigarettes, when most campuses falsely claim that they are a ‘Smoke-Free Campus’. It isn’t an uncommon sight to find students disposing a stub right outside the classroom and entering the so-called ‘temple of learning’. Just like the ‘aunties’ in grad colleges like IIT-Kharagpur or IIT-Delhi provide all kinds of chemical drugs, right from the cheapest to the costliest and from the mild to the dangerous, there are people in most B-schools who provide chemical drugs to students, at the very doorstep of the colleges in most cases. As far as alcohol is concerned, despite of student manuals and hostel guidelines mentioning ‘n’ number of times that keeping and consuming alcohol in rooms is prohibited, the sight of liquor stored in mini-refrigerators bought for this specific purpose (which by the way is again not allowed) is common; and so are drunken brawls and cases of harassment.

While most students are adults and the college administrations are not responsible for their actions in any way, what prompted me to write this article is the fact that most administrations are in denial of facts. The official status of cigarettes, alcohol and drugs is ‘prohibited’ but the same continues to happen in a twilight zone where the administration is perfectly aware (since holding mass events like these require the permission of the administration for use of infrastructure) but is unwilling to acknowledge the existence of any of these- most administration are behaving like Ostriches!

In my view, its time that B-school administrations come to accept substance abuse for what it is since recognition of a phenomenon is the first step in regulating it. It is only when IIM-C and XLRI accept that ganja and wet nights happen on their campuses and when most campuses accept that they are not ‘smoke-free zones’ that they can move onto regulating it for the welfare of the student community. Regulating the monopolistic pricing of cigarettes, ensuring medical assistance for over-consumption of alcohol and educating the student community on use of drugs (chemical and natural both) are just a few things that these administrations can do to touch all aspects of student life. But this can happen only if the administrations quit being orthodox and approach the issue with an open mind. Also, parents need to be roped in and made aware of what exactly is going on rather than projecting false pictures to them. The culture of intoxication is here to stay, the question is how do we make it safer? Or rather, are we interested in only saving face and hiding behind clichés or do we really want to do anything about it?