STUDENTS of University College Cork (UCC) have paid almost €11,000 in fines as part of a new crackdown on antisocial behaviour.
The new approach, involving university authorities and students themselves, has also seen the number of complaints from the public about antisocial behaviour linked to UCC’s Rag Week and Fresher’s Week events drop over the last two years.
The news emerged during a meeting of the Cork City joint policing committee (JPC) where details of UCC’s Campus Watch scheme were outlined.
Gary Mulcahy, UCC student services and community relations officer, briefed JPC members on how his office has been working with students to address the problem of student-related anti-social behaviour in and around the university precinct since 2018.
He said a 10-point “standards of conduct” charter was introduced for students, including that the university is not brought into disrepute and that they show respect for local residents and members of the public.
A “three-strikes” resolutions process was introduced for students accused of alleged breaches of those standards:
Stage one, an informal resolutions process, provides for a warning or a €50 charitable contribution.
Stage two is a formal resolution process and includes a fine of up to €1,000.
But stage three, the final stage, deals with students on their “third strike”, or with the more serious alleged breaches, and involves decisions made by senior academics. The outcome can include fines of up to €5,000 or expulsion from the university.
It has also involved talks with incoming students on the dangers around drug and alcohol use, the impact of convictions on their ability to travel or apply for visas, the fines for drinking on the streets, and their responsibilities around the management of house parties.
Mr Mulcahy said a total of €11,600 has been paid in fines or charitable donations by students who have been dealt with through the resolutions process.
And he said complaints about antisocial behaviour around Rag week dropped from 37 in 2018 to 25 in 2019 — a 33% decrease — while complaints around Fresher’s Week dropped 60%, from 49 in 2017 before the disciplinary process was introduced to 20 in 2018 just a month after Campus Watch was introduced.
Mr Mulcahy said university authorities are listening to the concerns of the public, and they are taking a hardline and action on the issue.
However, he emphasised that the number of students involved in such antisocial behaviour represents less than 1% of UCC’s overall 25,000-strong student body: “But they are the ones we can see. We also aim to highlight the good the overwhelming majority of the others are doing.” Sinn Féin TD Donnchadh Ó Laoighaire welcomed the progress but described activity around the so-called Christmas Day drinking binge, especially around Bandon Road last November, as “pandemonium”.
“I would ask UCC to focus additional resources on this period,” he said.
Independent councillor Thomas Maloney also welcomed the crackdown, and added: “Cork Institute of Technology could take a leaf out of UCC’s book.”
This story originally appeared in the Irish Examiner