Unwelcome guests

When did periods of heightened social interaction like Orientation Week and homecoming evolve from times of celebration into times of tension and disapproval?

Surely I am not the only one who has noticed the increased police and bylaw presence around our campuses in recent years. Surely I am not the only one who has heard hyped-up tales of street parties turned ugly, resulting in drastic police action.

Surely I am not the only one wondering, “What the hell is going on?”

When did we become so dangerous?

Believe it or not, the town of Waterloo does not collectively detest our presence. Hard to believe? I would not be in the least bit surprised if you felt like an unwanted visitor.

Like any large group or sub-culture, we are subject to a certain amount of public criticism and stereotyping.

Most of us are aware of the over-simplified, hasty generalizations that are frequently made about the lifestyle of the university student.

Simply for being a student, some will assume that you drink too much, are lazy, loud, a party animal, unrealistic, inexperienced, spoiled and possess a sense of self-entitlement.

These stereotypes have been used frequently in the media in recent weeks with the homecomings of most Ontario universities having just taken place.

Sometimes it seems that the city of Waterloo thinks we are so destructive and dangerous that it is actively working to force students out of the houses surrounding the campus.

It is true that students like to party, and sometimes things can get out of hand, but could it be that we are also the victims of misplaced prejudice?

Our relationship with by-law and the police

The City of Waterloo’s web page states: “By-law Enforcement is committed to serve, protect and provide a desired quality of life for citizens and visitors to the City of Waterloo through education to raise awareness of community standards, and enforcement of City by-laws to ensure timely compliance with a professional, unbiased approach.”

Who should get to decide the standards of a community? If not the people living in it? Upwards of 40,000 students attend university in Waterloo.

We are a significant part of this community, especially in the area surrounding Laurier and UW. Yet we are made to feel like unwanted guests.

I doubt many of you would argue with me if I questioned by-law’s “unbiased approach” to the enforcement of these “community standards”.

At times it seems as though students are directly targeted in Waterloo and other communities that house Ontario universities.

These days, throwing a party in Waterloo has become an act of self-sacrifice. You are running the risk of being ticketed by by-law or hassled by police.

If you haven’t got a ticket for one thing or another in your time here, you definitely know someone who has.

During times of heightened by-law presence around campus, you could find yourself ticketed for something as simple as J-walking, littering, spitting in public, ringing a bell or honking a horn. Good thing they have these laws in place, otherwise
Waterloo would be positively unlivable.

I cannot help but feel that the spirit of the law is lost when someone is ticketed based on a technicality such as spitting, or having one foot on the sidewalk while holding a beer.

Ticketing for the sake of proving a point or punishing a student is not justice and only serves to antagonize the student body, which in turns increases levels of disdain and animosity for authority.

No wonder students feel unwelcome in this community.

No wonder we make little attempt to conform to “community” standars.

We are not made to feel like part of the community.

Does our generation’s definition of fun require the response it has garnered?
A lot of people seem to think so.

Perhaps because the media coverage of this year’s unsanctioned Queen’s homecoming made the student population look like a serious menace to every day society.

Headlines documenting the weekend evoke images of a crisis just barely averted, of a war waged and won against a terrible threat.

Granted, Queen’s homecoming has a pretty intense reputation. Each year the town is flooded with students from across Ontario.

Last year the numbers at the famous Aberdeen Street party reached an estimated 9,000 people, according the Globe and Mail. I doubt that you need to be reminded of the insanity that was Queen’s homecoming 2005, the year that a car was flipped and torched.

The threat of another drunken riot (an unsanctioned drunken riot at that) in Kingston on the 26th of September was enough to quadruple the number of police support at the Aberdeen Street party from 100 police officers to over 400. Clearly the fact that Queen’s officially cancelled the traditional fall festivities, replacing them with a spring barbeque did little to reassure the community.

A response such as this certainly makes the student population look dangerous if not unwelcome.

However, the number of arrests was significantly lower this year; the Globe and Mail reports the number of arrests made the Saturday night at about 60, compared to the 80 arrests made last year.

So the question to be asked is: Is it them, or is it us?

The answer probably lies somewhere in the middle. We are not as bad as they think we are. Certainly few, if any, of us enter into a weekend like homecoming with malicious intent. We simply want to have a good time and not be taken advantage of by those who have been entrusted with maintaining peace and order.

It seems, however, that certain self-interested groups are purposely perpetuating this “us vs. them” mentality. Surely a community cannot be made whole when 40,000 of its members are treated as if they were unwanted, troublesome and inherently bad.

Perhaps a little effort to be reasonable from both sides is all we need to avoid angry riots and ridiculous arrests.

Can’t we all just get along?

Avoiding the fuzz

  1. Do not, under any circumstance pee in public. If you really cannot wait until you reach your destination, make sure you have no I.D. on you, and try to keep it to the shadows.

  2. Do not take roadies with you from house to bar, or party to party. Sure, it might save you $4 on a beer at the bar, but it could also cost you $125 if a by-law or police officer sees you.

  3. Avoid leaving kegs in clear sight of the street. Police officers, for some reason, have issues with these silver bullets of joy. Getting busted for a kegger could result in tickets ranging from $300 for a noise violation to thousands of dollars for serving under-agers.

  4. Do not, I repeat, do not ring bells, honk horns or shout in Waterloo between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. According to by-law this is ticket worthy behaviour, and being a student, you have to extra careful, so be sure to knock.

  5. Do not get naked publicly, no matter how sexy you are.

  6. Make friends with the police officers who regularly patrol your neighbourhood. They will be less likely to look for reasons to ticket you once they realize you are not a rabid party animal.

  7. Avoid ridiculously public post-bar brawls, particularly on King Street. Police officers prey on large groups of students behaving like idiots.

  8. Sex in public is exciting, but public indecency can leave a pretty embarrassing err…stain on your record. Leave the exhibitionism to the pros.

  9. Driving under the influence is a life-ruiner. Don’t do it. Period. Ever. Call a cab, call Foot, take the bus, stay the night.

  10. Keep your wits about you. If you don’t draw attention to yourself, you wont be targeted.

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