In a recent article by the Newcastle Tab it was reported Newcastle University students have been fined over £27,000 for throwing house parties over the last three years. These fines were given out to students who were responsible for “significant disturbance to members of the public or damage to public property”. While these fines are common among many UK universities, this article led many students to question whether they are productive or even fair.
There have been several instances over the years where Newcastle students have been criticised for anti-social behaviour. In February last year members of the Union Rugby Club were fined for throwing a party after local residents complained, and the year before it was reported by The Chronicle that a Jesmond party had “spiral[ed] out of control”. This article quoted a Jesmond resident who believed “rowdy students” were a “long-term problem” in the area and that they “ruin the lives” of permanent residents.
While the university has acknowledged that only a minority of students behave this way, the publicity surrounding these incidences seems to worsen the public’s apprehension towards the student population. Steps have been taken to address this issue, such as NUSU’s and Keep Jesmond Clean’s collaboration that aimed to “improve the relationship between residents and students” by cleaning up the area. However, there is still a long way to go before locals fully embrace the student population, as shown by an article published on Jesmond Local last November that reported that “Permanent Jesmond residents are unhappy with student discounts”.
When asked about the issue, NUSU’s President Raff Marioni argues that fining students for house parties is not the right way to address the issue.
“I’ve never respected fines as a method of punishment, as it creates an unfair divide among students who are able to pay them and those who can’t.” He argues. “I would prefer alternative methods, and I think students should be made more aware of the ramifications of potential anti-social behaviour and what they need to do to prevent being punished.
“At the end of the day, parties will always happen, it’s just about making sure they’re set up as safely as possible and the circumstances of neighbours are taken into account and respect is shown. I think there’s a discussion to be had about whether something like community service would be fairer than fines, because the Uni seemed to be obsessed with the latter.”