Can you please leave students alone?

"We're not all lazy layabouts."
guy on fence

Dom

Dom is a final year student at the University of Leeds. He is a massive music fan and spends most of his time looking out for new bands and going to gigs. He loves eating out and occasionally swims.

“Bloody students!” If I had a penny for every time I heard that well… you know the rest. It really gets me going when I hear somebody whingeing about the student population in their hometown.

They always seem to level the same accusations at students: “Bloody tax-dodging hippies.” Well firstly, many students I know have to take on part-time jobs while at university, meaning they are eligible to be taxed on their wages. So, students do actually contribute to the Government’s coffers, thank you very much. In terms of all students being hippies, it seems to be a rather lazy criticism very much founded on stereotype alone. I do know the odd student who likes the occasional joint, and I know some students who have very left-wing views, but to tar every student with the same brush is stupid. The student body is such a diverse mix; you could get a floppy-haired polo player sitting next to the student union’s drum and bass DJ.

Students are often portrayed as carefree, decadent libertines with money to burn. However we are not all aspiring to be Sebastian Flyte from Brideshead Revisited. Many students juggle a number of commitments alongside their university studies, whether it’s running ‘The Cheese Society’ or working at the local supermarket. Most also struggle to make ends meet due to the high cost of tuition fees and accommodation.

Another common criticism levelled at students is that they contribute little to the local community, preferring to puke up on the streets rather than get stuck in with the locals. But this is very much a generalisation, as plenty of students are actively involved in their local area, with vast numbers of students offering their time through structured volunteering programmes in the UK. Among these include a number of my own friends who have volunteered as assistants in local schools and homeless shelters, not only to boost their CV’s, but out of a genuine sense of altruism.

Some students see contributing to the community as carrying out the odd drunken prank; most of us have stolen a traffic cone on the way home from a night out, but not gone further than that. It’s only a handful of idiots who give students a bad name. It’s also true that it’s not only students who go out creating mischief. I’m sure the local youngsters get up to trouble after a few drinks as well! Wouldn’t it be better to concentrate on reducing the muggings, beatings and rapes that go on within Britain’s cities rather than the light-hearted misbehaviour students indulge in? The teenager with a knife poses much more of a threat than a well-oiled student.

It’s about time the perception of students changed. The responsibility to alter this perception lies not only with the students, but also with universities as a whole. It would be nice to get people to stop forming opinions based on stereotypes, but it will never happen. The best way forward is for more people to be aware of what being a student is actually like in the 21st century. Surely there are plenty more pressing things for people to be moaning about, like climate change or knife crime. Like it or not, students contribute to the diversity of a city, making it a vibrant and exciting place to live. Students are on the whole are a harmless, well-meaning bunch. So leave us alone please!

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Updated on 29-Sep-2015