Angry reactions to anti-student mood in Jesmond
Younger people have reacted with anger to what they perceived as an anti-student mood at JesmondLocal’s ‘Common Ground’ event.
The Jesmond debate, which some students found “hostile”, took place at the Royal Grammar School on January 24th and centred on the behaviour of students in the area.
During the debate, the panel and public considered a range of options to improve the current situation, which included increased funding from universities and more support from permanent residents for students moving to live in Jesmond.
The event revealed the mounting anger among permanent residents at students after the first semester saw as many as 505 witnessed events of anti-social behaviour.
Throughout the debate, the audience shared their experiences of living with students and called for toughened sanctions. JesmondLocal revealed this week that 722 fines have been handed out by Newcastle University for anti-social behaviour since 2014.
Fiona Cunningham, a history and sociology student, said: “To be honest, the environment got so hostile I don’t think many students who were there would want to talk about it anymore.
“Every time a student talked the residents were bristling, interrupting them, muttering stuff under their breath. It was pretty disrespectful for a bunch of people wanting to complain about feeling disrespected.”
Cunningham said that the audience failed to realise that students “benefit just as much from clean streets” and “sense of community”.
Asked if the debate affected her, Cunningham said: “I won’t be changing my behaviour, but I wasn’t binge drinking and yelling at people to begin with. It’s absolutely a minority of students.”
Mark Sleightholm, a former Newcastle University student, said that “the non-students were pretty hostile towards the few students who dared to speak”, pointing to laughter in the audience at the suggestion “that they should make more of an effort to improve relations”.
“The only rude and inconsiderate people at the meeting were the non-student residents,” he said.
Sleightholm said that “students were being used as a scapegoat for all the mess and anti-social behaviour in Jesmond”, which he dismissed as “ridiculous”.
“I think it was a shame that the discussion didn’t turn to landlords, who are ultimately responsible for bringing so many students into Jesmond.”
Stella Postlethwaite, Labour councillor for North Jesmond, said she did not feel the debate was anti-student: “We weren’t talking about all students and we weren’t talking about every aspect of what they bring to Jesmond. There are certainly really positive things we could say about students living in Jesmond.
“A lot of comments might have been difficult for students who’ve never witnessed that behaviour themselves sitting in the audience and don’t necessarily relate to that and, maybe, feel like we were talking about them – that wasn’t what was happening.”
Arlene Ainsley, Labour councillor for South Jesmond, said: “What was not brought up so much was the positive impact of students.
“Having said that, there is a very small minority of students who do make life an absolute misery for residents, which is not acceptable at all.”