Then towards the end of my presentation, as I was ready to humbly receive the thunderous applause that was sure to follow, one tiny lecturer sitting in the very last row raised her hand timidly, obviously afraid of offending this distinguished speaker. I, ever the warm and generous medic, puffed some more air into my already inflated chest, and was about to gracefully accept her question--
I blinked. Surely it was an involuntary release of air from her nervous throat. I decided to forgive her poor frazzled nerves and answered gracefully, "Yes?"
"Eh, I heard you Cambridge medics ah, all drunkards you know."
Why, the poor thing was so humbled by my greatness, she didn't know what she was rambling on about. Ever the masterful conversationalist, I asked "Excuse me?"
"I read in the newspapers one, you Cambridge people got lot of discipline problems one. Always get caught for being drunk and doing stupid stupid things."
Fortunately for me, I knew what she was on about. About a week earlier, the New Straits Times had reprinted this article from the Daily Mail, accompanied by a picture of two male undergraduates dressed in Edwardian clothes, sprawled on a pavement in what can only be described as an obscene position. I immediately wrote in with a less-than-polite reply, which of course was not published, but the damage was done. All those newspaper adverts, all that trumpeting by all those competing colleges plugging their successful Cambridge entrants for all they were worth, all those years of work by the media to promote Cambridge's image as a top-notch university, and along comes some article that reduces all Cambridge undergrads everywhere to gay drunkards playing footsie on some vomit-stained pavement. Ah, the power of the media. Those who are in the media KNOW that blatant hyperbole is an art and should be developed at all costs:
After all, the hallowed quadrangles of Cambridge University are meant to house the hard-working and quietly studious.
Yet newly-released college disciplinary records reveal as never before the extraordinary extent of student hi-jinx and debauchery.
This sensational accusation is followed by examples including:
St Catharine's College has taken action over "breach of etiquette at formal hall", although it is unclear what actually happened.
A student at Clare College had to write an apology after being caught impersonating another member of the college.
A female student at Newnham "failed to exhibit due diligence in her studies" while a 25-year-old postgraduate at Hughes Hall failed an exam, but was acquitted of any offence due to extenuating circumstances.
My word. Such serious offences! Such barbaric behaviour! They should all be executed.
The truth is, drunken behaviour has become part of British university culture. Drunken offences happen at EVERY university in Britain, not just Cambridge. This, of course, is helped along by the recent introduction of 24-hour drinking laws. But of course, Cambridge sells, and I strongly doubt that an article titled 'Hull University reveals shameful saga of drunken students behaving badly' would have attracted nearly as many readers or sold nearly as many papers.
So we have gowns and old buildings and funny traditions. So does this other place . It comes with the package of being one of the oldest universities in the world. You expect students here to wear long thick robes, put on glasses thicker than a Malaysian maths textbook and walk around from library to library carrying textbooks the size of Montana? Go talk to H.G. Wells.