News Analysis – Damage Control

As the actions of students at an AgSoc event receive widespread condemnation, Kate Rothwell examines the possible repercussions of their behaviourThe news of the damage done to the Goat pub and the general disruption caused in the Goatstown area at an AgSoc event last week will no doubt make for disheartening reading for anyone who would expect more mature behaviour from their fellow students. The incident is certainly even more disappointing for the UCD School of Agriculture, Food Science and Veterinary Medicine. It is troubling enough to think that members of a society which is based in their faculty and made up mostly of their students have been linked to grave incidents of vandalism and disruptive drunken behaviour; the situation is made even more acutely embarrassing by the fact that members of this agricultural society have been accused of damaging a number of trees. Forestry is one of the main programme areas in the School, but it is not only lecturers in this subject who will have been both baffled and disheartened by the actions of a few thoughtless AgSoc members.It is relatively safe to assume that those who caused the damage at the Goat last week were a minority among the group. This always seems to be the case in such incidents – the ‘one or two people spoilt the fun for everyone’ lecture that we heard so often at school continues to be repeated at third level, and with good reason. A similar case of student misconduct was brought to our attention just a few weeks ago when reports of unruly behaviour on ‘Black Monday’ led to the cancellation of Dublin Bus services. The people who turn what is meant to be a fun night out into a regrettable incident are reinforcing a stereotype that the majority of students would prefer to disassociate themselves from – the clichéd image of a drunken ‘young adult’ who all too often loses their respect for others in a haze of alcohol-induced recklessness.AgSoc have since apologised to the proprietors of the Goat, but the damage in this instance involves more than the replacing of a windowpane and some pieces of furniture. The reputation of the society has been tarnished beyond repair, and this in turn affects the image of the entire UCD student population. Instances of such disruptive student behaviour in public venues decrease the chances of any other society being able to book similar events in the future. And who could blame the management of any club, pub or bar for being reluctant to allow a student event to take place on their property? The prospect of a very healthy bar tab for the night may be tempting, especially given the current economic climate, but the potential for damage must also be taken into account.A certain number of students do not seem to realise (or worse, do not seem to care) that when they damage something in a public venue, the price of its repair comes out of somebody else’s wages. When they smuggle beer glasses out of a pub, someone will have to pay to replace them. Students are very often quick to complain that they are short of money, but some do not seem to make the connection between someone else’s physical property and its monetary value – it is difficult to imagine that the students who broke a table and chairs in the Goat would be tolerant of anyone keying their car, smashing their bedroom window or stealing their iPod. The damage done at the Goat last week was not carried out on personal property however, but on the livelihood of the proprietors. Those responsible for the breakages may not appreciate the seriousness of their actions at present, but they may come to realise it should they be involved in the running of a business later on in their lives.Another worrying aspect of this story is that both the Gardaí and an ambulance were called to the event. These are essential services that could have been needed at the scene of any number of emergencies that night, and their presence at the society event could surely have been avoided, were it not for a needless over-consumption of alcohol.Students, like anyone else, have the right to go out and enjoy themselves. This right however, does not extend so far as to allow gross disrespect for the property, and indeed community, of others. One person’s careless actions can, and often do, as this unfortunate incident has proved, have a negative impact on a great number of people. All that it takes to prevent such occurrences is a little consideration, self-control and self-respect.