R U partying?

Left:  The City of Saints is more famous for the partying habits of its university student population.   Right: One of the establishments in Grahamstown restocks it's liquor supply during Orientation week,  which is one of the biggest partying events in the year.
The City of Saints is famous for the unsaintly behaviour of its university student population.

By Wynona Latham & Gorata Chengeta

Partying and drinking are synonymous with Rhodes University. With many of the clubs and pubs in Grahamstown being located near each other in the centre of the town, the drinking culture of Rhodes students is certainly more visible than that of other universities. Over the years, there has been some debate about whether or not the reputation of Rhodes as a partying school reflects reality.

Do students agree that Rhodes is a party school?

Several first-year students were asked what their experience of the social scene at Rhodes has been so far:

Senior students also shared their views on whether the University lived up to its party reputation.

Ed Butler describes the party scene at Rhodes as being ‘hectic’. The Honours student says, “I’ve seen aspects of it that lived up to the stories I heard before I got here.”

Terrence Moyo, a Pharmacy student, says that although he prefers his books, the party scene is enticing and inviting. “From what I’ve heard, it’s a lot of fun,” he says.

“I’m not used to being in a place where each shop has its own store – a separate store – for just the liquor”, Moyo adds.

Aviwe Menze, a second year Commerce student, says the party life style at Rhodes fits the phrase “work hard, play hard”.

One of the establishments in Grahamstown restocks it's liquor supply during Orientation week. Orientation Week is one of the biggest partying events in the year.
One of the establishments in Grahamstown restocks its liquor supply during Orientation week. Orientation Week is one of the biggest partying events in the year.

Sustainable partying

The Vice-Chancellor of Rhodes University, Dr. Sizwe Mabidzela, recently wrote that, twenty years after apartheid, universities are still faced with economic divisions. In South Africa, the issue of class divides permeates through many segments of society, and Rhodes is no exception.

The issue of economic disparities at tertiary institutions also affects the party culture, as it can potentially create divisions between the rich students and the less privileged students. With the party culture being so prevalent at Rhodes, we found out what this means for students who don’t follow the party lifestyle.

Is partying a luxury?

The popularity of partying seems to overshadow the fact that the partying lifestyle is not possible for many Rhodes students, especially those who depend on financial aid.

Menze says, “Being on financial aid meant that I had to consider my priorities carefully, and so I had forgotten about going to the balls and whatever interesting things that happened around campus that needed a ticket for one to go through.”

Zolani Bethela, a 2nd year Social Sciences student says he enjoys going out partying. However, for Bethela, going out and drinking more than once a month is not affordable.

“It is expensive for me, as someone who comes from the location. If you compare [the prices], it is very expensive this side, more than the locations” he says.

Moyo says it is not economical to go out partying too often and that students need to consider the impacts such a lifestyle will have on their pockets.

“Sometimes you just need to cut down a little and maybe think for the future – anything could happen,” he says.

Financial literacy resources, to help students manage their spending effectively, are available at the Counselling Centre.

Butler, an Honours student, says drinking has become less affordable during his time at Rhodes as the price of alcohol has increased since his first year.

He adds, “I suppose it also depends on your background. It’s going to be more affordable for certain people, depending where you come from.”

Despite agreeing that there can be financial challenges for some students which hinder their participation in partying, Butler and Bethela agree that there is a lot more to Rhodes than drinking.

Bethela, who lives in residence, enjoys watching movies in his free time. He says that watching rugby and playing board games in residence are good alternatives to going out.

Butler says,  “I feel like nobody’s discriminated against ‘cause they don’t want to drink. There are a lot of people who don’t do it or just don’t agree with drinking.”

“Each to their own. Everyone’s got to respect each other,” says Butler.

Menze, reflecting on her experience in her first year, says “I’d like to say I felt excluded but that probably was just me. I’m sure if I had a credit card somewhere hidden in my purse things could have been easier.”