Fight for your right to safety

Focusing on underage drinking in the Heights distracts from more important issues

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The beginning of classes at UB guarantees many inevitabilities: disoriented freshmen, confusion on the Stampede, a Labor Day weekend packed with especially fervent partying and an influx of local news features decrying underage drinking and waxing poetic on the woes of permanent residents in the University Heights.

Last fall, it was The Buffalo News (“University Heights residents share party concerns with UB officials”), Time Warner Cable Buffalo (“University Heights residents sound off on college parties”) and WGRZ Buffalo (“University Heights Neighbors Clashing with UB Students”).

This year, WIVB has taken up the topic with yet another article featuring depictions of underage drinking and general debauchery and quoting residents disgruntled by the noise and litter.

Though the problems caused by partying are popular fodder for local news sources, the far more serious issue of student safety in the Heights is largely ignored.

Underage drinking and loud music are a part of the college experience. Getting robbed at gunpoint or fleeing from an apartment infested with bedbugs should not be. And though the latter occurs just as frequently, students victimized by violence and housing violations don’t receive the same attention as those who are drunk and loud.

These lopsided priorities were on display in a WIVB article about the problem of partying in the Heights, one that featured Common Council Member Rasheed Wyatt. A first-time council member, Wyatt experienced the Labor Day party scene firsthand after venturing into the neighborhood this weekend.

Wyatt, displeased by the belligerence of students and the apathy of the Buffalo Police, plans to introduce legislation to take back the night from partiers running rampant. No word on plans to tackle burglaries (like the two that occurred in student’s homes over the weekend), assault (which has increased by 16 percent since 2007 as of 2013) or rape (increased by 50 percent).

Wyatt seemed taken aback that landlords of “party houses” in the Heights don’t respond to neighbors’ complaints. Perhaps he’d be less surprised if he were aware many landlords in the area can’t be found even in the cases of leaking sewage and gas leaks.

Nonetheless, Wyatt’s determination to improve the situation in the Heights is admirable – even if he cares more about noise violations and litter (but seriously, every student should be capable of using a trash can) than the safety of students. The University Heights needs all the attention it can get, even if it’s unlikely to ever be good news.

With every news article and television feature bemoaning the state of the neighborhood, it becomes increasingly difficult for UB to pretend that the Heights doesn’t exist – and that it’s not their problem.

Because it is UB’s problem.

It’s their students – many of whom are international students, paying higher tuition than their in-state compatriots – who are living in unsafe conditions. It’s their students who deserve protection.

A 24/7 “drunk bus” is a fantastic deterrent from drunk driving that allows UB to maintain some control and authority over its partying population, and it’s all fine and good that students can use school-supplied Porta Potties instead of crouching behind dumpsters. But UB needs to attend to the vulnerable students who remain in the Heights after all the fun’s been had.

It’s those students who deserve to have their voices heard in news articles. It’s students being assaulted and robbed who merit attention from the Buffalo Police. Students living in houses without water or heat, with unsafe wiring and unreliable landlords – this should be the story splashed across newspapers and generating debate online.

email: editorial@ubspectrum.com