The uncouth youth


In light of recent outbreaks of virulent anti-social behaviour, Sisi Rabenstein investigates the frequency and relevance of these malicious acts in student life.

Man has often been called the noble savage, however in recent weeks the ‘noble’ has come into question for UCD students, with more and more organisations voicing their displeasure with the seemingly unmitigated violent behaviour.

These incidents of anti-social behaviour are not new to our UCD campus. The ‘wanton vandalism’, as described by Vice-President for Students Martin Butler, of Belgrove Residence in supposed celebration of the end of the summer exams during the weekend of May 16th-18th was totally unprecedented.

Before that, wireless routers had been stolen from Merville Residence in September 2007 and it was not completely uncommon to see uprooted traffic bollards around campus. However, it is recent behviour that has outside companies worried.

On the first day of the second semester, 19th January, three students were arrested after vandalising the main Dublin Bus terminal outside Quinn School of Business. On top of this, Dublin Bus’ temporary cancellation of the route 10 service after 8.30pm and complaints from numerous taxi companies, have many students worried.

Students’ Union (SU) President, Aodhán Ó Deá has stated his concern over the apparent “big difference this year, compared to other years. People [are] being rowdier than usual in bus shelters and with taxi drivers.”

With statements like this becoming more and more frequent, from those whose job it is to support students, one has to wonder why this aggressive and vindictive behaviour takes root and why it has come to prominence now. What is it that causes educated and social people to revert from Homo Sapiens to a state being more similar to Homo Erectus?

When explaining group behaviour like this one must make a distinction between individual mentality-lead parties, influenced by peer-pressure and malicious intent leading to one person instigating a show of malevolent behaviour. A strong personality can inflict a near facist hold on others in their sphere of influence or the ever damnable many can cause us to perform mindless acts of violence.

“Viewing all students as violent and unruly rather than identifying the small few, that tarnish the many”

Most people affected by these types of behaviour are students, which offers hope that this isn’t a paradigm shift in youth behaviour and there is a way back from this period of unrest in a person’s life. A number of students have been affected by incidences of others kicking doors in, shouting obscenities, throwing potatoes out windows, waking up other students on campus and removing housemate’s posessions from their room and litering them around campus. The main reasons listed as explanation are drink and boredom, but a whole host of other factors come into play.

Some describe the escalation of events leading to them doing something out of character as inescapable. These people are lead by the acceptance of lesser crimes, for example, if someone were to ridicule another and have their friends laugh, they would then be encouraged to throw things at the same person, especially in the presence of a mobile phone camera.

The number of students who joined together to pelt others with snowballs at the start of the month remains at the back of people’s minds, making it easier to understand older people who suffer from ‘ephebiphobia’, the fear of youths or teenagers. How could they not be terrified of large groups of people, supposedly educated and accomplished, who would throw snowballs enough to hurt others and force them to the ground?

Aside from personalities, drink and boredom, the desensitisation arguement, so prominent across the pond is also relevant. The idea that the more exposed to violence, sex and adult ideology we become, the more acceptable these once taboo themes seem. Posters advertising the ‘Lingerie Ball’ and the ‘Mardi Gras’ celebrations are but two examples.

The ‘Mardi Gras’ poster’s tagline: ‘How far will you go for the beads?’ makes you wonder, just how far is possible? Ordinary students appear capable of acts which most would consider anti-societal, cruel and unparalelled, so what can be done? The increase in security control on campus, is being met at every turn with outrage; measures are being taken to combat the intent to put up gates around the student residences and students view the security guards as against them rather than working for their safety.

One student detailed their worry that UCD will become a ‘nanny micro-society’ where students will be judged as a whole, completely ignoring the vibrant and eccentric differences between each individual, viewing all students as violent and unruly rather than identifying the small few, that tarnish the many.

But if an increase in security will not make the campus safer from vandalism, aggression and stupidity, what can be done to combat the incomprehensible actions of those suffering from boredom, alcohol abuse and lack of identity, that are over-stimulated by ‘smut’ in the media?

One well established way is to give students something to be proud of, something they have worked hard for and to re-establish their sense of identity, associated with UCD. In other words, let them build their own common area and increase the sense of UCD sheltering societies’ creativity and achievements.

It is said that football is a gentleman’s game played by thug’s and rugby is a thug’s game played by gentlemen, so then paint by numbers vandalism must be a thug’s game played by bored, drunk and goaded students. Let’s hope this game doesn’t gain such a fanbase.