Professor draws ire for saying students will have to work hard and avoid drinking

Published November 10, 2017

UK’s Cambridge University physical sciences professor came under fire this week from mental health campaigners and students after he suggested undergraduates will have to work hard and abstain from drinking to pass the course.

Eugene Terentjev draw the fury of students and mental health activists after sending out an email last week to first-year natural sciences undergraduates at Cambridge, telling them the course will be difficult and thus they should refrain from drinking and other social activities if they wish to succeed, according to an email leaked to student-run publication Varsity.

“Physical sciences is a VERY hard subject, which will require ALL of your attention and your FULL brain capacity (and for a large fraction of you, even that will not be quite enough),” Terentjev wrote to the students.

“You can ONLY do well (ie achieve your potential, which rightly or wrongly several people here assumed you have) if you are completely focused, and learn to enjoy the course. People who just TAKE the course, but enjoy their social life, can easily survive in many subjects — but not in this one.”

“Remember that you are NOT at any other uni, where students do drink a lot and do have what they regard as a ‘good time’".

- Professor Eugene Terentjev

He added: “Remember that you are NOT at any other uni, where students do drink a lot and do have what they regard as a ‘good time’ — and you are NOT on a course, as some Cambridge courses sadly are, where such a behaviour pattern is possible or acceptable.”

The professor’s comments caused an uproar among activists and students, who called his email “extremely damaging” and neither “appropriate nor acceptable”, with one other university vice-chancellor accusing Terentjev of “frightening impressionable undergraduates”, the London Times reported.

A mental health campaign at the university, Student Minds Cambridge, said the message sent by the professor “could be extremely damaging to the mental well-being of the students concerned, and potentially others as well,” the Times reported.

Anthony Seldon, vice-chancellor of Buckingham University, said the professor message scaremongers the students rather than helping them to learn to live a balanced lifestyle. “Frightening impressionable undergraduates into believing that work alone is all-important is irresponsible, unkind and wrong-headed,” he told the newspaper.

The university’s student union welfare officer, Micha Frazer-Carroll, also criticized the content of the email, claiming it criticized “the very premise of having a social life, or any sort of life, outside of study.”

“The university believes that all first-year students in all disciplines, having undergone the thorough admissions process that Cambridge requires, have the capacity to succeed academically,” a spokesperson for the University told the Times.

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