A university student died from the “toxic effects” of drinking excessive alcohol on an “initiation-style” bar crawl, a coroner has ruled.
Newcastle University’s Ed Farmer died in hospital after suffering a cardiac arrest in December 2016.
The 20-year-old, from Leicester, had been on a night out organised by members of the Agricultural Society.
Mr Farmer’s family criticised the university over its stance towards initiation events.
Coroner Karen Dilks said there had been a lack of awareness of the “inherent risks” of binge drinking and Mr Farmer had died as a “direct effect” of consuming so much alcohol in a short period of time.
She said first-year students should be formally trained about the potentially fatal risks of alcohol.
Underwhelmed and frustrated
Speaking outside court, Mr Farmer’s father Jeremy said the inquest had been a “difficult and testing process”.
He said the family had been left “utterly underwhelmed and frustrated by the apparent inactivity of Newcastle University and its student union to get to the heart of the problem of student initiations”.
“Ed’s is not the first utterly needless and wasteful death to come about through this potentially fatal practice,” he said.
He added they had made the “most difficult decision” to agree to the release of CCTV footage showing Mr Farmer on the ground at a Metro station.
“We have made this decision trusting that these images can be used to bring home to students and universities the real dangers associated with the practice of initiations,” he said.
At one bar, the group had ordered about 100 triple vodkas and Mr Farmer was later carried to a student house, the inquest at Newcastle Civic Centre heard.
Some first-years had their heads shaved, were sprayed with paint used to mark stock, drank vodka from a pig’s head and bobbed for apples in a mixture of urine and alcohol.
Witnesses told the hearing they were aware initiation-style events had been banned because they were “dangerous and put a lot of pressure on people” but they were viewed as a “tradition”.
The university said it would be “reflecting carefully on all that we have learned at the inquest”.
Registrar Dr John Hogan said: “Following our disciplinary investigations, a number of students were found to be in breach of university rules and appropriate individual sanctions were imposed.
“The students’ union also took action against the society involved.”
The coroner said a copy of her report would be made available to the university and its students’ union, as well as to Universities UK, the Department for Education and the Department of Health.