Fears Of ‘crazy’ Freshers’ Parties In UK As Cooped Up Students Return To Campus
British universities struggled over the summer to create social distancing schedules and to make their campuses safe for students in the time of Covid. However, upon the arrival of thousands of students this month, vice-chancellors now face a greater challenge: persuading young people who feel that they have been isolated for too long to follow the rules and avoid partying.
As Boris Johnson introduced the rule of six, which makes it illegal to gather together in groups of greater than six people in England from 14 September, invitations for unofficial freshers’ parties continue to spread across social media in places such as London, Northampton, and Gloucester. One Facebook invitation for a freshmen’s house party next Friday profanely said, “Everyone deserves to have a fucking crazy beginning of their school year. If you’re uptight about social distancing/masks, then don’t come.”
At the same time, local residents have warned that house parties are already occurring even before term has commenced. With the latest government figures showing that Covid infection rates are rapidly spreading among young people, some residents are calling on universities to take stricter action in policing students’ activities.
Prof Steve West, Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West of England in Bristol, remarked: “Universities have been working tirelessly to mitigate risks as much as possible, but when it comes down to it, our biggest obstacle is that human behaviour overrides everything else. There must be trust involved, trusting students to do the right thing. However, this trust will need to be reinforced regularly.” West has launched a campaign clarifying the new social distancing regulations to students, parents, and staff and asking neighbours to report students engaging in suspect behaviour.
But he conceded that persuading students not to party would be difficult: “finger-wagging won’t work.” He added that while Covid may not appear to affect young people, it could seriously impact parents and grandparents of the infected. This message is echoing through universities across the UK, and the government has recently stated that it wants undisciplined students to be disciplined. A number of universities are having students sign up for a new Covid “community pledge” or “code of responsibility.”
Smita Jamdar, head of education at the law firm Shakespeare Martineau, notes that primarily, universities use these codes to help students avoid punishment. She stated: “The idea of making them sign these agreements is more about securing a psychological commitment than a necessary legal step.” She added, “there is only so much that universities can do to control behaviour. Just because a student is part of a university does not mean they give up the freedoms that we enjoy as individuals. Universities are not prisons, and they cannot treat students like inmates.”
A student from the prestigious University of the Arts London is calling on universities to suspend culprits who are breaking the coronavirus guidelines. Although universities have reopened, students are gathering in groups and organising large parties, which is against the rule. The student is calling for strict action against those who are disregarding the rules as it can cause the virus to spread. The university has confirmed that a party held has been stopped and the viral invite on Facebook has been removed. Reports of another massive unofficial freshers’ party named, "Demon Time Midlands", are currently circulating on social media to involve students from 20 universities for the week. Moreover, similar events called "Go Crazy Midlands" are scheduled in Northampton for the week before. However, many residents are worried about the increasing house parties, and people living in high-risk areas feeling exposed to the virus while carrying out essential activities, such as shopping. Dr Dominique Thompson, who is a medical expert said in a statement reminding students that their actions affect everyone around them, and universities should repeatedly remind students to help others by being kind. Furthermore, students also need to comply with rules to avoid putting themselves and others in danger.