Professor Hugh Brady, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bristol, has made clear his view of student behaviour that causes disturbance to residents.
“I appreciate that student noise and parties are a continued frustration to you and your neighbours,” he writes in a letter to me, “and I can assure you that I do not find anti-social behaviour amongst our students to be acceptable … the university has always, and will continue, to take these issues very seriously.”
Prof. Brady replied to me after I wrote complaining about the contents of two articles run by the student newspaper Epigram that relied heavily on comments by an unidentified university “spokesperson”. Amongst other things, I pointed out that the spokesperson had seemingly omitted to point out to Epigram that the activity at the centre of the issue—loud parties and other noisy behaviour—breaches university rules, students’ tenancy agreements and the law of the land.
I said in my letter: “The absence of any mention of that fact will, I think, worry anyone in the community who reads these articles.” I also suggested that “no student reading this would conclude that their university wants them to change their ways.”
My letter also disputed the front-page headline of Epigram’s print edition—“Uni condemns The Noise Pages for privacy breaches”—and broader aspects of the articles’ focus on privacy.
Prof. Brady said: “Epigram is an independent news publication – affiliated and supported by our students’ union. The university does not control its content.”
I wrote separately to Epigram, which has now offered to print a clarification of the headline in its next edition.
The online versions of the Epigram articles can be seen here and here. (The first article’s online version has a different headline to the one used in the print version.) My letter to Prof. Brady can be seen here. His full reply is here.
Much of the focus of the Epigram articles was on my use of house numbers in incident reports—even though I had already removed them (for reasons I explained to subscribers in my January bulletin). There is also plenty of nonsense about "sensitive information"—see my comments quoted in the second article. That article also quoted Cotham councillor Anthony Negus and the Redland & Cotham Amenities Society.
Comment: You may wonder, dear reader, why I think such a straightforwardly obvious statement by Prof. Brady is headline-worthy. Let’s just say I have long been sceptical of whether the University of Bristol is as determined to tackle noisy behaviour as it claims to be. Those doubts were reinforced by the comments of the unidentified university “spokesperson” whose remarks were given prominence by Epigram. It wasn’t just what was said but also what wasn’t.
The spokesperson is quoted as criticising the Noise Pages’ contribution to “community cohesion”, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the biggest threat to cohesion is student behaviour. And how can it be, one wonders, that the university spoke to its student body through the medium of the student newspaper without at some point nailing a central fact: The behaviour at the core of this discussion is against university rules, students’ tenancy agreements and the law.
I am therefore glad that Prof. Brady has provided an unequivocal statement. It’s bad enough that the student body refuses to face up to the impact of anti-social behaviour on the community. But if the university itself loses focus, the chances of progress are slim. I hope that, in future, any “university spokesperson” invited to comment on any aspect of this issue will not forget to reiterate Prof. Brady’s admonition in clear and unmistakable terms. AW