An annual event at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, is Bermuda Shorts Day. According to the student newspaper, its purpose is simple: “For those wanting to get the full BSD experience, we recommend drinking from sun-up until you decide to stop drinking due to lack of vertical stability. In short: when you can’t stand anymore.” This year it ended in a tragedy which prompted Maria Irizar to write to the University President, Dr Elizabeth Cannon.

Dear President Cannon,

My name is Maria Irizar and I am currently an undergraduate student at the University of Calgary.  I’m writing to share my concern about the University of Calgary’s legendary event: Bermuda Shorts Day. Early this morning I received an email from the University of Calgary, and I was deeply distressed to hear of the five stabbing murders that took place in Brentwood, during a party that I assumed was the aftermath of BSD.

As a freshman student, last year I was shocked by the university’s initiative of BSD (the only celebration event that is sanctioned by the University of Calgary) where students are given the opportunity to “celebrate their successes, blow off some steam after a hard-working term and party one last time before heading into exams.”

Not knowing exactly what this meant, I went to campus to deliver an English presentation accompanied by two peers in the Education Block. To my horror, as soon as I stepped into the building I could smell alcohol, and it was clear that four out of five people that I encountered had had a bit too much to drink, to the point that they did not know what they were doing – throwing up, urinating in public, and such. To top this off, one of my peers presented himself in such a state that he could not deliver the presentation with us.

This academic year, after carefully thinking it over, I decided not to be present at campus for BSD. I figured that I did not have to put up with this social disorder, but if my peers wanted to, I’d respect their choice.  However, the incident of this year has made me realize that I cannot simply ignore this and pretend that nothing is happening, when five young people were killed in a party that was probably just a continuation of U of C’s BSD event. 

BSD is the University of Calgary’s way of giving its students the chance to party as hard as they can in a very unhealthy manner. According to statistics;

“Every year, 599,000 [US] students between the ages of 18 and 24 are unintentionally injured under the influence of alcohol, while more than 696,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking.” (Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs)

“Drinking negatively affects college students’ academic performance, social relationships and health. Frequent drinkers are 21 times more likely than non drinkers to miss classes, fall behind in schoolwork, engage in vandalism, be injured or hurt, engage in unplanned sexual activity, get in trouble with campus police, or drive a car after drinking. (Harvard University School of Public Health College Alcohol Study)

Despite all this, the University itself is mindlessly handing over drinks to its students, harming not just their academic performance, but most importantly their integrity as human beings. We just have to take a look at the recent BSD, which turned a young man, with his whole life ahead of him, into a delinquent.

I am a student caller in the student calling program, and my primarily role is to connect our alumni to the university, informing them of the many aims and initiatives that the University of Calgary has. This includes the Eyes High Campaign, which describes itself as “the University of Calgary’s new strategic direction, a bold and ambitious vision to become one of Canada’s top five research universities, grounded in innovative learning and teaching and being fully integrated with the community of Calgary, by the university’s 50th anniversary in 2016.” Several times I’ve told our alumni that we are striving to “prepare future leaders for the complexities of this dynamic and rapidly evolving industry

There seems to be a discrepancy here. On one hand we are seeking to make the “future leaders” of society, but on the other, we are promoting alcohol intoxication among our “potential leaders,” leading to inappropriate behavior and impaired judgment, and death knocking at our campus doors. Can the University truly have its eyes high?

As a student I cannot remain indifferent, and see my university attempt to diminish the harm that BSD has. I urge you to do your part, to allow the University of Calgary to be able to truly lift its eyes high, by encouraging healthy, responsible behavior and discontinuing the BSD event in future years. Thank you.


Maria Irizar

Maria Irizar is studying science at the University of Calgary, in Alberta.