Complaint to HEA about ‘rowdy’ UL students

Anne Sheridan

Reporter:

Anne Sheridan

A RESIDENTS body in Castletroy has complained to the Higher Education Authority that students in the University of Limerick are turning the area into a “slum” and are treating the area as a “haven for privileged brats.”

A RESIDENTS body in Castletroy has complained to the Higher Education Authority that students in the University of Limerick are turning the area into a “slum” and are treating the area as a “haven for privileged brats.”

The Plassey Residents Association, a body for four residential estates in Castletroy, has written to the head of the HEA to complain that RAG week at the university is bringing the college into disrepute, and claims that anti-social behaviour, combined with a culture of binge drinking, is common throughout the year.

The two-page document has also been sent to each TD and councillor in Limerick, Professor Don Barry, the president of the University of Limerick, and each member of Governing Authority, the university’s highest decision making body.

In the letter, the association queries whether UL’s ranking in the world league table of universities could be attributed to the culture of binge drinking and the academic performances of its students.

“At present, the University of Limerick is rates on academic performance as the worst in Ireland...It is difficult to see how the UL students can perform to be best of their ability when a culture of binge drinking and an abuse of alcohol have been allowed to develop,” it states.

Joseph O’Shea, chairman of the association, said that given students are “heavily subsidised” by the taxpayer, “it is galling to see how some of these students are abusing this opportunity.”

However, they state that even banning RAG week - which has been renamed Charity Week - would not eliminate anti-social behaviour in the nearby estates throughout the rest of the academic year.

They complain that some students are “rowdy” and “destructive”, and on their way home from the pub “feel free to urinate and defecate in public”, as well as over-turning bins, throwing eggs at cars and houses, smashing bottles, and littering the area with takeaways, as well as used contraceptives.

The residents have also complained that during warmer weather, students in rented accommodation drag furniture onto the roofs of garages and lawns in front of their house to listen to loud music, making the neighbourhood “like a slum.”

“The behaviour of a significant minority of students makes a mockery of the university’s aspirations to have a strong sense of connection with their nearest neighbours. Unless the university is prepared to be known as ‘a neighbour from hell’, it should give this issue a very high priority,” the letter concludes.

In response to issues raised in this letter, a spokesperson for UL said that a number of initiatives were undertaken in order to minimise disruption to the local community during Charity Week, including additional patrols by An Garda Síochána.

The gardai provided daily reports to the university on incidents throughout the week. The spokesperson said there a number of on-the-spot fines were issued for public drinking and littering, but no arrests were made and no assaults reported during the week. Also, no matters arising from the week has been referred to its discipline processes.

“This is in marked contrast to the very serious difficulties experienced in communities adjacent to third level colleges in other cities,” said the spokesperson.

Finn McDuffie, communications officer with the students’ union at the university, said during Charity Week this year they employed a successful text system for residents if they wished to have rubbish removed from their area, or complain about noise.

Student patrols were also on hand to deal with these complaints, with students responding quickly to any complaints by residents.

Mr McDuffie said there were “some isolated incidents, but there’s always going to be a minority.” Furthermore, he said they “can’t control what private individuals do off-campus.”

Students’ union president Ruán Dillon McLoughlin said he was “surprised” as a number of residents had congratulated them on the organisation of the event, held two weeks ago. In fact, a number of residents made sandwiches for the student patrols to support their endeavours, he said.