By ELISSA DEN HOED
On St. Patrick’s Day, fear and abhorrence gripped London, Ont. The cause was not a natural disaster or other unpreventable tragedy, but a celebration that got disastrously out of hand as about1,000 rioters, primarily
Fanshawe College students, created a fiery pandemonium that stopped police and firefighters from intervening for fear of being injured or killed.
University and college students are famous for several things. We are famous for endearing traits such as being broke and for cramming the night before an exam and yes, less endearingly, we are known for partying and drinking in excess – whether it’s always true or not. We are known for taking over entire neighbourhoods with student housing.
But no matter how much we take over, there will still be some neighbours for whom the neighbourhood is home – and not just for two semesters a year. They should never be concerned about their safety. What one group of students does, especially locally, influences how the public views us as a whole. Let’s face it: we already don’t have the greatest reputation for being good neighbours.
London residents, especially neighbours near the Fleming Drive area where the St. Patrick’s day incident occurred, such as the mother who hid in a basement with her six terrified children during the riot, are without a doubt scarred after this experience. The same can probably be said for the authorities, who, along with their vehicles, were pelted with bricks and beer bottles by the rioters, preventing firefighters from extinguishing the massive bonfire.
“They will pay,” London mayor Joe Fontana said, and police have made 13 arrests – it’s a start. But the damage has been done (literally, $100,000 worth including a fully-equipped CTV news van, as well as figuratively) and the public’s suspicion of post-secondary students has been further increased.
We can’t undo what’s been done. We’d like to think that a riot as serious as the one in London would never be caused by Conestoga students – but how can we know? The answer to that question is up to us – all of us. As students we have a responsibility to shape the way the rest of the population views us. For those of us who leave when school is out for the year, our neighbours might not remember us, but they will remember how we treated them and their properties. After a disgrace like this incidence, we need to practise being good neighbours, however fleeting our presence might be. It’s the least we can do.