I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the recent media attention gained by Wellington students; that Wellington is becoming the new Dunedin. I’m worried about how this is impacting on our reputation. As students, we’re getting a reputation that we party all the time, have streets that rival Dunedin’s Castle St., and we aren’t considerate of neighbours who live near us.
I think that this negative perception of student culture here is far from the truth. At high school in Auckland (yes, I’m a JAFA, pls don’t h8 me!), I didn’t dream about moving to Wellington for its drinking culture, rather because it’s a beautiful city that I want to call home.
Otago students have been under a lot of pressure lately (in light of reports about couch burnings and the recent balcony collapse—amongst other things) to change their behaviour. Their university, and the city council, are concerned about this reputation, and are taking invasive and punitive measures to address it.
One example is the installation of CCTV cameras in the student areas of the city. The university and city council say this is for the safety of those in the area. But the reality is that cameras give them evidence to target the individuals. You may think that’s fine, but consider this: you’re a good, law-abiding student who likes to party on a Friday night, being watched 24/7 by your university as you’re going to and from your flat, out for a coffee, or just having a few drinks. It’s a bit creepy having big brother watching you isn’t it? Even the Privacy Commissioner has raised concerns around the hush-hush of it all.
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If Wellington was the new Dunedin, measures like that would be the norm. Responding to the problem in a punitive is popular, because it looks like they’re getting the job done. But the reality is they’re not. If we delve deeper into the reputation of Vic students, we see a great bunch of future grads who are already contributing nearly a billion dollars to the local economy each year. But that doesn’t get a headline. Bad news, like binge-drinking and partying does.
Contrary to popular belief, we are not becoming the new Dunedin. We won’t tolerate punitive measures against us because we know it doesn’t solve the problem. At Vic, we have academics who know that restorative justice is the best way forward to target the problem. It might take time, it might be less visible, but it’s actually targeting and solving the real problem. It’s treating students like adults.