UL approves rollout of “community engagement” plan to tackle anti-social behaviour in estates

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Oct 2016 University of Limerick Campus General Views. Picture: Alan Place

by David Raleigh

A RESIDENTS group formed near the University of Limerick (UL) has asked it to establish a more stringent code of conduct to try to curb years of street parties, destruction of property, drug use, and anti-social behaviour in the Castletroy area.

Ann Sheahan, group spokesperson for residents living at College Court, Elm Park, Hazelwood, Milford Grange, and Oaklawns, said it has sought clarity from UL as to when an “off campus code of conduct will be drafted and in place”.

“This is a priority for us, and we believe UL is the organisation with the most potential and opportunity to influence their students,” Ms Sheahan said.

UL told the Limerick Post last September it was funding garda patrols in these estates to help keep local residents “safe” following a number of violent incidents, and large numbers attending social gatherings. A UL spokesperson this week said “the garda patrols ended after around five weeks at the start of October”.

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UL funded similar garda patrols in the area last March after a massive street party flouted Covid-19 public health guidelines. A number of people were arrested following the party and charged with alleged drugs and public order offences.

The Castletroy residents’ group has asked UL to introduce five key measures in response to years of unrest in the estates due to students partying, including:

  • A UL code of conduct, to bring it “in line” with a code of conduct at University College Cork, which clearly and transparently includes the wider community outside of the University.
  • Appropriate sanctions for negative behaviour and the clear transparent pathway shared residents, as to how it is being dealt with. Sanctions in UCC include fines to students (€75 to €5,000), sanctions, suspensions and expulsions for breaches of the University Code of Behaviour.
  • A time-frame for the recruitment of an independent person to oversee off campus code of conduct that will liaise with the residents, UL, the gardaí, and Limerick City and County Council.
  • An independent impact study of the effect of the overflow of student population into the neighbouring community.
  • Monthly meetings with UL.

The residents’ group expressed a “cautious optimism” to proposals outlined by UL to pilot a post of Student Community Engagement Officer, which it said was announced by a UL representative at a community liaison meeting that took place last Monday.

The meeting was attended by the residents group, local gardaí, officials from Limerick City and County Council, politicians, off-campus landlords, and representatives from UL’s student union.

“At this meeting a senior UL representative gave the University’s commitment to the piloting a new post of Student Community Engagement Officer. This dedicated post would be responsible for engaging with the community on all issues of concern, relating to UL students renting houses of multiple occupancy for the academic year,” the residents group said.

“This post appears to be based on the UCC model and is expected to be filled in December of 2021. A commitment was also given to make the complaints process more accessible to residents,” it added.

The group expressed its “appreciation to An Garda Síochána and Limerick City and County Council operational and enforcement teams for their ongoing work in the area since the return of UL students for the academic year”.

When asked for a response, a UL spokesperson said: “UL has approved the rollout of a community liaison framework that would engage with the community and student body living in off-campus accommodation and directly address reported incidents of anti-social behaviour.”

“The nominated representatives of residents groups from estates in the immediate vicinity of the campus have been informed of this Community Engagement process, which is similar to the one at UCC.”

“The proposed post of Student Community Engagement Liaison Officer will act as a dedicated contact point for the receipt and processing of individual complaints. The policy framework that underpins the post does provide a mechanism for resolution and UL continues to work closely with An Garda Síochána.”

“UL’s Code of Conduct already covers off-campus behaviour and appropriate sanctions applied via a formal complaints process under the complaints, discipline and vetting unit.”

The spokesperson added: “UL cannot be a responder to off-campus incidents, which are the jurisdiction of An Garda Síochána and other relevant agencies. Any student who has been officially reported, investigated and found to have broken the UL Code of Conduct will face sanction. The University takes any behaviour that disrupts the campus and local community very seriously.”