It’s about time for a summit meeting of city and University of Guelph officials to discuss how to curtail student off-campus drunkenness, its growing effect on the city’s downtown and student lodging areas.
Sometime ago the University closed the campus pubs and drinking establishments on weekends forcing students to patronize the more than 33 bars and clubs in downtown Guelph.
Recently the University suspended its rugby team for two games due to unidentified behaviour they refused to reveal. Rumour has it that it involved excessive drinking and hazing, (a practice banned by the University) but it still occurs.
Then there is the pending lawsuit by a student who was thrown over a railing in downtown Guelph, suffering brain damage. A drunken varsity football player subsequently received a four-year sentence for aggravated assault.
That lawsuit did not include the University but did include the City of Guelph.
This and other incidents of drunkenness in the downtown area this past weekend resulted in 109 charges by police including 32 public intoxication charges, 18 for public urination and 48 noise complaints. There were 78 alcohol related offenses.
If those stats don’t indicate a problem, compare them to other university cities such as Kingston, London and Kitchener-Waterloo.
The city is to be commended for pulling together a task force of provincial, and city authorities to tackle a serious downtown problem that has been going on ever since the University closed the campus pubs on the weekends.
When push comes to shove, the University must take action to channel its young students to stop using Guelph as a party town and a toilet. While the University cannot entirely control human behaviour, there are steps that will contain the problem.
One: If a student is charged with an offense by Guelph police, they are suspended by the University until a trial or plea is conducted.
Two: Reopen the campus pubs on weekends. Privatize and police the operations with strict controls on consumption and proof of age.
Three: Set up a series of drug-abuse workshops to assist students to understand the consequences of excessive consumption of alcohol and other drugs.
Four: The city should continue its crackdown on excessive drinking by anyone in the downtown area, regardless if they are students or not.
For those of us who live here, this seasonal 19,000 influx of students is welcome and appreciated. The ugly under side, however is not appreciated.
If Council wants to develop housing downtown, as it should, to make the core of the city family friendly, then it has to clean up this problem.
Who wouldn’t want to stroll downtown in safety at any time to appreciate the opportunities there and its commercial benefits?
It will never happen as long as the present situation exists.