Uni: excitement and opportunity

The colleges and flats have been filling as students flood back to Dunedin and the University of Otago.

The city, almost overnight, becomes more vibrant and busier. A new year of potential excitement and opportunity begins.

There are the freshers embarking on adventure and what may well be the time of their lives - an interlude unencumbered with mortgages and children and the responsibilities of full-time employment.

They are thrown together from around New Zealand into colleges where they will, in all likelihood, make lifelong contacts and friends.

Most will be in their late teens and most will be away from home for the first time.

For many, the anticipation will be mixed with apprehension, as they make their place in the world.

Dunedin welcomes them as fellow residents to our place.

Dunedin is a beautiful centre of character and charm, a city with firm foundations and lots going on in business, the arts, sport.

As everyone knows, Dunedin would be the poorer economically, culturally and recreationally without the 20,000 students from the university and those from the polytechnic.

Parents, meanwhile, have dropped off their loved ones, also with a mix of thoughts and a gulp of worry.

Their chicks are flying the nest and will have to learn.

Will they survive the temptations unscathed? What will they get up to?

Can they cope with the competitive courses, the new experiences, the freedom?

No doubt, parents sometimes feel it might be best not to know everything that might go on.

Then there are the second-years. For some, this is a time to break free of the college controls, to flat with the like-minded and, maybe, to party if that is their inclination.

While who can argue with having some fun, there are times when this goes too far.

Students from year one are warned by the authorities the worst behaviour will not be tolerated.

Couch burning or wanton damage can quickly lead to expulsion, as has occurred.

The university proctor and deputy proctor can also fine students up to $500 and impose up to 40 hours' community work and up to $5000 in reparation.

Police have also warned students and others in the student quarter they could expect to be charged if they break the law, and this includes lighting fires in public places.

The very names Hyde St and Castle St are suggestive of parties and trouble, and a lid needs to be kept on behaviour.

While more than 1000 revellers were in Hyde St on Saturday night, police reported the partying was good natured.

The amount of broken glass, however, was unnecessary and uncalled for.

It is also acknowledged that when trouble occurs in North Dunedin it is sometimes not students responsible, but others drawn in and looking for trouble.

But alcohol has a lot to answer for, bringing out male bravado and stupidity.

Our culture of binge drinking is damaging and dangerous and university students are among the heavy drinkers.

Although there is nothing new in this, it is becoming less acceptable.

The university has done a reasonable job endeavouring to balance independence for students and curbing the excesses.

It is also aware the campus atmosphere, including parties, attracts many students; trouble and the drinking reputation puts parents off Otago.

The teenagers move into their 20s and become ''mature'' students.

The focus turns more than ever to the purpose of their university education: study.

Rules are tighter these days and failing students simply do not get back in.

High grades are often required not just to break into some courses but also to win that first graduate job.

First-year students were welcomed last night by the Mayor, Vice-chancellor and the Prime Minister.

They are a privileged group with considerable taxpayer support and that is worth remembering.

They can, nonetheless, revel in the opportunities and excitement of Orientation and then their university years, while taking cognisance that actions have consequences, that fun is fine, but stupid behaviour is not.

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