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Dead rats and urine: Inside the worst university initiation scandals of all time

Students who take part in toxic initiations could be jailed for torture


Despite many universities and student unions banning initiations, it’s no secret that they still happen across campuses in the UK. Initiations involve societies or sports clubs “welcoming” new freshers to the club by forcing them to drink insane amounts of alcohol and often making them do disgusting acts.

University initiation scandals have caused the tragic deaths of four UK students in the last decade and, as of 2021, students who take part in toxic initiations could be jailed for torture.

Universities UK, the body that represents higher education institutions across the UK, wrote to university leaders in 2021 to remind them of the legal repercussions of hosting initiations. It said: “Following this incident and the investigation into it, a report by the head of security (an ex-police officer) raised the point that false imprisonment carries a maximum jail sentence of 15 years and torture has a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

“The defence of, ‘But I’m a student’ would also not stand up in court if matters went that far. Behaviours such as problem initiations will only serve to exacerbate the poor mental health of many students, risking both their future participation in sport and also their place at university.”

But there has been a wide range of grim initiations on uni campuses across the UK over the years. From apple-bobbing with dead rats and being forced to eat maggots and dog food to sliding around in excrement, here is a rundown of the most appalling university initiation scandals of all time.

Students had to ‘watch porn sitting on newspapers’

Last year, a university society initiation allegedly involved students having to watch porn whilst sitting on newspapers.

A viral TikTok video shows an interviewer approaching two students at an event. They ask: “What’s the weirdest initiation you’ve ever heard of?”

The students allege: “They had to watch porn and sit on a newspaper. And whoever’s was wettest had to eat it for -” before the video beeps and cuts off the end of the sentence.

Freshers were forced to eat dog food, maggots and raw onions in a hockey initiation – Loughborough

The students allege: “They had to watch porn and sit on a newspaper. And whoever’s was wettest had to eat it for -” before the video beeps and cuts off the end of the sentence.

Freshers were forced to eat dog food, maggots and raw onions in a hockey initiation – Loughborough

In 2019, Loughborough Women’s Hockey freshers were allegedly made to eat dead maggots, dog food and were egged by the older students during an initiation, The Tab revealed at the time.

During the night of the initiation, every girl “vommed at least once”, were tricked into almost eating a live centipede and one girl became so cold that she was given a foil hypothermia blanket.

Freshers were told to brush their teeth with garlic paste and transfer out-of-date soup to each other using their mouths, messages and notes from students present alleged.

A student was ‘basically immobilised’ after they were allegedly set on fire during an initiation – Cambridge

Last year at Cambridge, a student was allegedly set on fire during an initiation ceremony, leaving him “basically immobilised” from burns on his legs.

The incident happened last year when a first year was forced to with put out a lit toilet roll tucked into his shorts by running into the wind, student newspaper Varsity reported.

The alleged incident took place during an initiation ceremony for the Clare Rugby and Boating Society, which was one of the first drinking societies set up in the UK.

Members of a hockey club were allegedly made to have drinks that had been mixed with dog food, gold fish and raw eggs – York

In 2010, it was reported that members of the University of York Hockey Club were forced to have drinks that had been mixed with dog food and live goldfish.

The SU gave the club a £200 fine after finding out about their ceremony, which was said to be “too shocking to be shown” by the student paper, York Vision.

The paper said they had seen hundreds of photos showing a “disgusting concoction of dog food, anchovies, gold fish and raw eggs blended together into drinks that students were forced to down as quickly as possible.”

Freshers at a rugby club were reportedly made to apple bob with a dead rat in a barrel of cider – Manchester

In 2017, it was reported that freshers at Manchester’s rugby club were allegedly made to apple bob with a dead rat in a barrel of cider, whilst people drank from the same barrel

The same initiation also allegedly saw chillies rubbed on freshers’ genitals, wrestling in vomit and sliding through human excrement. A sheet was placed down and any person who needed to vomit or use the toilet throughout the night had to do it on the sheet and at the end of the night everyone had to slide down it.

They were allegedly forced to drink copious amounts of alcohol, and said it’s “obligatory to throw up”.

A student was allegedly urinated on at a rugby social – Durham

A male first year student at The University of Durham was allegedly urinated on at a social in 2021.

One student who was at the social in question told The Tab “it was just an accident, to be honest” and that “it’s just a social. It’s fine.”

Rugby players were allegedly forced to rub hot sauce on their genitals – Edinburgh

In 2021, an Edinburgh Rugby team was banned from the league after an initiation which allegedly saw freshers forced to rub hot sauce on their genitals.

The initiation occurred over the course of five hours and allegedly included players being forced to rub hot sauce on their genitals, have vomit poured over their heads, eat cat food, drink excessively, and enter a river.

Although none of the players were Edinburgh Uni students, they did play in a league hosted by the Students’ Union.

Students were made to dress up as dogs and wear condoms on their feet – Swansea

At Swansea University Rugby Club, freshers were reportedly forced to dress up as dogs on the club’s first social in 2018. First years whose trainers judged were “shit” were forced to wear condoms instead of rugby socks at the next training session.

Freshers forced to kiss a dead eel – Exeter

At Exeter in 2014, freshers from the Football Club were allegedly forced to drink pints out of their shoes and kiss a dead conger eel which they named Colin.

A group of older students enforced punishments on the first years if they spilled their drinks, pressuring some of the freshers to drink out of their shoes.

Students were made to naked wrestle and complete a 1,000 pint challenge – Cardiff

In 2018, a Cardiff University Rugby initiation involved naked sumo wrestling whilst being showered in pints, kissing a dead pig’s head and a 1,000 pint challenge where the team had to drink 1,000 pints before leaving to go to the SU.

Staff where the club held the socials described the arrival of the team as a “tsunami” and also placed buckets on all of the tables as they began to expect projectile vomiting as a standard element of the night.

Students forced to play naked rugby with a live chicken – Edinburgh

A student at Edinburgh told The Telegraph that he had given up playing rugby at university after he refused to play a game of rugby naked in Edinburgh city centre at midnight with a live chicken as the ball during an initiation.

Freshers made to crawl on the floor, scantily clad in women’s fancy dress – Warwick

In 2014, Warwick University’s Rugby Club was given a suspended sentence and made to go to consent classes after being found guilty of being drunk and disorderly.

During the initiation, freshers were allegedly made to crawl on wet ground, scantily clad in women’s fancy dress. The club was found guilty of being drunk and disorderly, using abusive language and a failure to follow health and safety regulations.

The club involved faced a one year ban and closure, and restrictions from SU events.

Students were forced to drink each other’s vomit – Swansea

In 2012, freshers at Swansea University’s Football Club were allegedly forced to “drink each other’s vomit”, roll around in vomit and urine and drink alcohol shots through tampons.

A fresher involved at the time told student newspaper The Waterfront: “We had to down a can of beer, a bottle of wine, then throw up into a bucket, swap buckets then drink each other’s sick. loseLs in each had to suck a fart out of each other’s arses.”

Freshers had cooking oil poured into their eyes – Durham

According to The Times, an initiation for Durham University’s Hockey Club involved freshers having cooking oil poured into their eyes.

Freshers were allegedly forced to attend five initiation “stations” where they were made to drink alcohol and dive into a paddling pool. One student was taken home where he blacked out and vomited.

Have you been part of a university initiation, or have a story you think we should know about? Get in touch in confidence by emailing emily@thetab.com

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