Risks and rewards to being a student

Dunedin is welcoming back the many thousands of students who bring with them a vibrancy the city enjoys for nine or 10 months each year.

Proud parents are this week dropping their children either at halls of residence or flats.

There will be apprehension and excitement from both parents and the new students as they arrive in the city.

The University of Otago and the Otago Polytechnic are an integral part of Dunedin's economy. The students alone pump millions of dollars into the economy through daily activities as mundane as supermarket shopping.

The Government's policy of providing the first year of tertiary study free this year for those who have not completed a year of study previously is likely to have made Dunedin an attractive option for people just wanting to have a go at studying.

In time, the tertiary institutions will be able to reveal the true cost of increased enrolments. But for now, there will be a general acceptance of people turning up to study when perhaps they could have taken on a career or an apprenticeship.

The danger is some of the new students are arriving in Dunedin for a good time, not a long time. No doubt some of the uncertain arrivals, buoyed by a fee-free year, will be attracted to study hard and find the rewards compensate their hard work.

Others will be attracted to the party atmosphere around Orientation Week - an attraction to the party life which may continue on through the year.

Liquor bans have been implemented around parts of North Dunedin in an effort to curb the excesses of past years. The University of Otago has clamped down firmly on bad behaviour, even to the extent of removing some offenders from the campus.

Students are being urged to be considerate to others, respect the community and look out for each other. There are common-sense rules included in the Code of Student Conduct and the Otago University Students Association has programmes to help keep students safe.

The university shares North Dunedin with other residents, businesses, schools and early childhood facilities and students are being urged to think before they smash glass or have a rowdy party.

Importantly, students should not be afraid to speak up, or intervene, if a friend is about to do something stupid. The university says it has a responsibility to keep all students safe, both in and out of the classroom but it is not the fun police. Keeping possessions safe in a flat is also essential. Keep doors locked, watch for strangers turning up at a party and walking away with valuables.

Temptation will start soon for the new arrivals with a large concert on at Forsyth Barr Stadium this weekend. Some young people, away from home for the first time, will likely drink to excess, putting themselves and others at risk.

Personal safety is a major problem for both young women and men. Bad behaviour will not be encouraged or rewarded.

Students contribute such a vast amount to Dunedin socially, economically and through their lasting support of the city when they move on to their careers.

Some Otago alumnae go on to become global names, but still retain their love for the university and city.

Sports teams, cultural groups and the arts benefit greatly from the input of talented students into their specific areas of interest.

As the year starts, students will need to think carefully about the consequences of their actions. No-one wants to curtail the traditional life of students but the days of excess need to be in the past.

The tertiary institutions have an added responsibility to keep their students safe but students, who are young adults, need to follow the rules. Making a bad decision may affect the rest of a student's life - career ambitions and travel plans.

Enjoy Dunedin, do not destroy it.

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