Substance Abuse – Tackling the Real Problems of Selly Oak

As a Birmingham resident for almost two years now, I can’t help but find that not enough is done to tackle recreational drug use in the city. Although the problem exists in Edgbaston as well as a number of other areas of Birmingham, I am going to talk mainly about Selly Oak, where I currently reside and where a large number of our students live. It is an issue that, I find, has often been overlooked and swept under the carpet rather than being prioritised. For all the highs that can be offered with these substances, there is potential for serious, long-term, negative impacts on your health. In Selly Oak, illegal, recreational drug use is discreet, but widespread. Access to drugs is unbelievably easy and not enough is done to tackle this in our community.

Cannabis use, in particular is quite popular with a lot of students of Edgbaston and Selly Oak, as well as some permanent residents of Selly Oak. But other drugs such as cocaine, ketamine, MCAT, and MDMA are also just a phone-call away. And if that number is engaged? Well there’s about ten other numbers you can try. I guess this blog-post is really a call-to-action for local MPs Steve McCabe and Gisela Stuart, as well as local Councillors, the West Midlands Police, and the University of Birmingham Guild of Students to work together and seriously tackle the issue. Matters such as recycling, burglary, and even poor broadband service are generally prioritised in Selly Oak, and understandably so, but why not drugs?

The negative ramifications that drug use can cause are serious and sometimes irreversible. Whether that be damages to your mental health, your physical health, or even just the increased likelihood of bad things happening when you’re intoxicated, in the long term, substance abuse just isn’t worth it. And financially, take it from an economist, none of this stuff is actually worth the prices that they are sold at; the reason they are priced so high is because they are illegal. The money would be better spent on clothes, books, or even food rather than blindly investing money with questionable characters. A lot of extremist groups and terrorist groups are known to be funded by narcotic drugs trade – another reason right there to tackle the issue.

A lot of people take drugs though in Selly Oak, even people you wouldn’t normally suspect, and it is a very tough problem to tackle, of course it is. However, I am only going to suggest one method for these community powers-at-be to use, and that is to educate students about the negative effects of drugs. In my view, education is often a remedy to a lot of the world’s problems and I think education in this situation could do a great deal of good. Ideally, I would like there to be termly anti-drugs campaign weeks at the University as well as public information campaigns in Selly Oak. A lot of people won’t pay attention, sure, that is to be expected, but even if one or two people are turned away from substance abuse, it would be worth it. As it is now, there simply isn’t enough being done.

This isn’t an exaggeration or an over-dramatisation of the issue, it’s real and it’s happening. I want to make it clear, however, that this isn’t any kind of moral judgement on my behalf, no one is perfect, and I am certainly no angel myself. It is a serious issue in Selly Oak though, and I am positive that the problem is replicated in other areas of Birmingham. In schools, children are educated about these sorts of issues, and rightly so, but at University, where students are most exposed to the problem, there is next to nothing in terms of education and campaigning. Substance abuse can have short-term, medium-term, and long-term negative effects on individuals, and I guess I hope that the local council hopefuls, our Parliament representatives, and our upcoming Guild of Students Officer Team prioritise this issue in the coming years. Even if helps just one person.

By Areeq Chowdhury, Secretary-elect.


Going too far on multiple fronts

Birmingham University successfully obtained a high court injunction to ban 'occupation-style' protests. Photograph: Martin Bache/Alamy

This isn’t exactly fresh news but it may not surprise you that the University of Birmingham have never been one for true free speech. Now it seems they’ve taken it one step too far with the recent high-court injunction banning all occupation style protests on the entirety of campus.

This is a move that has been described as “aggressive and censorious” as criticisms have been voiced by Liberty, Amnesty International, the NUS, University of Birmingham Liberal Democrat’s Chair, Will Mieville-Hawkins and the University of Birmingham’s apparently sole UKIP member, Dave Glenwright (that’s right, this s**t just got real).

Now, there are without a doubt members of BULS who don’t support the aims of many of those in occupations throughout campus. There are many more who don’t agree with methods used by those occupying (occupying a shed at North Gate, really?). But I’m sure many BULS members will oppose the University’s crack down on free speech and expression.

Putting this aside, it turns out the University of Birmingham’s Vice-Chancellor (VC), David Eastwood, has awarded himself yet another obscene pay rise from £392k to £419k a year…plus all the added bonuses (free chauffeur, house, etc). That’s right, while lecturers, cleaners and lower management staff are having a real-term cut in pay and having drastic changes to their pension plans  forced upon them. It seems our VC seems it acceptable to award himself the largest VC salary in the country.

Now you may say he deserves it, which is something I got into a debate with a BUCF member around six months ago. This may or may not be true (though I personally doubt it) but if you believe the VC deserves a substantial pay rise because of the “good work he does”, then you have to apply the same rule for lower paid staff on campus. And personally I believe the cleaners, the lecturers and the lower management have also done a good job and deserve the same rewards.

So David Eastwood and University of Birmingham higher management, take a long hard think. Because this time, you’ve taken it too far.


No confidence

This is just a quick post before bed (IMF, economists and the wider economy tomorrow, don’t worry). But unless I have been completely mislead, the Universities Minister, David Willetts has suffered a motion of ‘No confidence’ against him in Guild Council today.

Oh no! Not the University of Birmingham Guild of Students (ever so slightly sarcastically) you might say. But, do not underestimate the power of collective action. Moves against Willetts are happening all over the county with even his former University tutor following suit. So here we have it, a year into the Tory-lead Coalition and already two Ministers of suffered votes of ‘No confidence’ from influential organisations (correct me if I’m wrong on that particular point) with Willetts soon to follow.

It seems Vince Cable was right, the Coalition is clearly being too Moaist.




As I guess most people who read this blog wont pay much attention to our Tory opposites, BUCF who had their AGM yesterday.

The full results are as follows:

President: Rosie Anne Hatch

Vice-President: Emily Hidditch

Secretary: Christopher James

Treasurer: Edward Trafford

Publicity Officer: Owen V. Williams

Apart from Owen, this a completely brand new committee in the sense that none of them had had previous committee experience (not saying that’s a good or bad thing at all as the current BULS was in a similar position when we started back in January). On behalf of BULS I congratulate the new committee as we look forward to working with them particularly with the potential return of the inter-partisan pub crawl and BULS vs. the Coalition football match in the new academic year.


Bring it

I don’t often blog on events, never mind upcoming ones. But, given this is literally a complete and utter first, I thought I’d just like to mention that the University of Birmingham will play host to its first ever Inter Partisan Pub Crawl. That’s right, BULS will be pitted against BUCF, UBLDY (Lib Dem Youth) and Take back Parliament Society (well it is a Lib Dem organised event after all). The event can be found here ( We will be meeting at Joe’s for 8pm.

If you want to psyche yourself up for the big occasion, here’s a little inspiration:

Don’t forget to wear your finest red as BULS fights for pride as the new political society for students.


Hold on a minute

Anyone who knows me knows that I have (at least until recently) taken very little interest in regards to the inner workings of the Guild and Guild Council. But unfortunately, becoming Vice-Chair of a prominent student society means that you kind of have to take an interest. Consequently, I have come across two totally obscene motions for Guild Council this Tuesday.

Before I get onto them, anyone who knows me well enough knows that I don’t take a particular side on the whole Israel-Palestine conflict, I’m equally not a friend of Israel as I’m not a Friend of Palestine. Consequently, I’m very glad the Guild of Students has a motion to renew its policy on not having a position on the whole conflict, so before I become quite peed off, there’s a note of positivism.

The first is a motion to fund £600 of Guild money to send off 3 delegates to attend a Holocaust Education Trust trip to Auschwitz each year. Now don’t get me wrong, the Holocaust is an event in history that should never be forgotten, it signifies the very essence of contempt and hatred for other races and different people literally on an industrial scale. I also humbly attended the Holocaust memorial day in January which I give much credit to Joseph Moses for organising. But consequently, why are we not paying for delegates to go to Rwanda, Armenia, Assyria, Greece, Dersim and Burundi? They are just as equally as significant are they not? This is not to mention £600 at a time when the Guild budget will probably be cut, that means, not only services at the Guild will be cut but also wider Societies will loose out. Yes, the Holocaust is important and should be remembered, but shouldn’t every other in genocide in turn?

The second and far more worrying motion is one that is without a doubt, a knee-jerk reaction to the events last January with Mike  Prynser. This was something that was raised a huge amount at the last Campaigning and Political Mini-Forum in which myself and Oli Cosentino attended. Effectively, if a speaker is approved by the Guild and the University itself (including our very own Vice-Chancellor, David Eastwood) with the full background checks by the respective society, the Guild and University, but, then essentially gos hay-wire (so to speak), the respective society will take the blame. Now, don’t forget, background checks are made sufficiently and they prove to be ok it is given the total go ahead. But, if something does go wrong, consequently, through no fault of its own, the society will be the scapegoat. This will mean a major loss of trust between societies and the wider Guild if this goes through.

I urge Guild Councillors to vote against these two particular motions!