Integration with the local community starts at home

It’s up to individual students to make an effort to combat the general public’s negative opinion of our community

Cartoon: Sarah Jilani

Cartoon: Sarah Jilani

The information coming to light about how York is viewed by the local community is somewhat shocking, but let’s get one thing straight: people not liking students isn’t a new thing.

While it’s been interesting over the past week to look at how the council, local politicians, and general public seem to differ in their opinions of us, don’t be misled. For decades there’s been a Yorkshire man somewhere “oo ech-ing” about all the “ruddy students” under his breath, and that’s certainly not about to change any time soon.

And it’s easy to see why. More often than not, I think it’s fair to say that in all groups of society, it is the badly behaved minority who leave a lasting impression.

Students are no exception to this. Indeed, while there are hundreds of YUSU volunteers involved in valuable and largely unrecognised projects in the local community, nothing quite sticks in the mind like a small pool of studenty vomit on your doorstep.

It’s the easy option to sit here all doe-eyed, and to pretend that “we are golden” – that all students make house proud, charming neighbours who spend their time gaily reciting Wordsworth to each other, re-glossing their white picket fences, and silently studying late into the night by candelight.

But if we’re honest with ourselves, that just isn’t true in the majority of cases, is it? And we do need to confront this issue head on, because it’s not going away any time soon. Like it or not, some people in York don’t worship the ground we walk on, and it’s more productive, convenient, and just generally healthy if we can change this negative opinion of us.

Which, of course, is easier said then done. People are quick to place blame on YUSU, campaigns committee or the University, and yes, they could certainly be doing more to raise the positive profile of York students. But then, couldn’t you?

The general consensus at the moment seems to be a sort of ‘why don’t you LIKE me!’ type explosion a la Friends, which is basically completely useless. Repeatedly telling people how great we are and how much, in theory, they should love us, isn’t really a great plan. If anything, it comes across as pretty obnoxious.

There’s always been a huge focus on integrating different groups of students on campus, but our relations with the rest of the city beyond commercial interest seem too often overlooked. We need to start relating with our neighbours and the rest of the community on an individual level.

Although Ziggy’s on a Wednesday might suggest otherwise, we aren’t all socially inept degenerates. In fact, we aren’t half bad. What we are bad at, however, is communicating, and I’d even suggest that at times we’re as guilty of stereotyping our neighbors as they are of us.

I’m not saying we should all transform ourselves into Stepford Wives. There’s no need to start baking cherry pies and replacing all your practicals with neighbourhood watch stints, but perhaps a little more effort on our part wouldn’t go amiss.

In reality, it’s difficult to gauge what the general opinion of York students is. Local politicians tell you what you want to hear, and in general an honest opinion is hard to come by. But a bit more of an active effort, on both sides, is surely a step in the right direction.

The issue of York students and their relationship with the local community has quickly spiralled into hysteria, which isn’t at all helpful. A little more understanding, tolerance, and engagement from everyone is surely the simplest, most direct way to address a rapidly destructive issue.

One comment

  1. 20 Oct ’10 at 5:15 pm

    Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they

    Who cares whether they like us?

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