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UB students need to take responsibility for Heights, but there are other issues to deal with

Media attention has focused on drinking, but what about housing and crime?

town_vs_gown

Amid the furor concerning University Heights and the student population, responsibility has to be shouldered. We have to be willing to make the changes necessary to ensure that debauchery and disturbances do not become the norm.

The situation will calm down as the semester progresses. That the first weekend of the semester was rambunctious and destructive shouldn’t really surprise anyone. Yet media attention has brought the issue to a forefront.

The Buffalo News article published this weekend documenting opening weekend in the Heights has everyone talking about the town/gown conflict in the neighborhood. While a thorough documentation of the events of opening weekend and the issue, there were many holes that we, as an editorial staff, felt missed the real story.

First of all, none of these issues are new. Extremely similar articles can be found online from local Buffalo media about opening weekend’s party problems in the area dating years back. The attention always seems to eventually go away.

It’s also concerning that no students were interviewed for the piece, with the reporter instead using drunken shouting she overheard as the only student “voice” in the piece. A quote from a Buffalo Police E-District Chief about the safety risk of hundreds students cramped into century-old houses is completely glossed over. If the reporter had taken the time to interview students, perhaps she would have learned about another set of issues in the Heights, like absentee landlordism and crime – crime more serious than underage drinking that is.

The houses students are partying in are often unsafe – with problems like bedbugs, black mold, asbestos and lack of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Usually the landlord is nowhere is be found to fix these problems. Students have reported being mugged and robbed while living there.

Despite The Spectrum bringing these issues to light in the past, aside from work being done by Off-Campus Student Services, UB still has a mainly hands-off approach to the Heights.

Is it just us, or are there issues the ones that are more concerning than some loud parties?

The click-bait nature of the article aside, the facts reported are true. The burden for such activity rests on students, Buffalo Police as well as the University.

Students, especially under-age students, are going to drink. Can anyone deny that by now? Prohibition doesn’t work. Abstinence education doesn’t work. While authority for lowering the drinking age rests at a higher level than we can change, we can work to make drinking less of a taboo problem that is openly condemned yet culturally condoned.

The problems of excessive and out-of-control partying are widespread. Other colleges in Western New York have had problems as well, with SUNY Fredonia’s Fred Fest being shut down last year due to the spiraling party scene. Solutions will have to be produced at a comprehensive, higher level. Yet responsibility for the conversation rests at a local level. UB has to address the concerns, and some action would be better than none.

Possible solutions vary wildly.

Some say increased police presence is the answer. But students will still find a way, whether it’s moving parties off the main streets police are looking for or keeping students out of the front lawn to avoid attention.

The UB’s Stampede’s 24-hour service that transports students into the area has been called into question as well. Blaming the buses for transporting students is wrong for two reasons: students will still party regardless of where they are and buses prevent drinking and driving.

But the students must too accept their part. Buffalo is our home away from home for four years. Some of us may even choose to make it permanently home after college. We should not be so crass as to destroy our host in selfish pursuit of a good time. Go out, have fun. No one can stop you from being reckless if you so choose. Yet the fun should be tempered with the responsibility of being part of the community.

This is all true. But we should remember what the real issues are in the Heights when thinking of ways to improve the neighborhood we’d all like to see thrive.

The editorial board can be reached at editorial@ubspectrum.com.


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