New dawn for RU freshers
Tomorrow (Saturday 3 February) marks the start of Orientation week, or O-Week as it’s generally called around Rhodes University. Hundreds of new students will descend our little town joining Rhodes either as first years, continuing students relocating from elsewhere, or postgraduate students reading towards Honours, Masters or PhD qualifications. It’s our job as permanent residents to make these transient or diasporic students welcome.
Half of them will be in residence on the Rhodes campus, and the university has a time-tasted support structure to help them cope.
However, the other half of the student body will be in digs, the name given to granny flats or fully fledged homes that students share. Property owners who let out rooms, flats or entire houses have a responsibility to be fair and above all, honest with their potential tenants. If your house has damp or there is a one of the windows is draughty, fix the the problem or tell the students that this is the case. Students are often accused of trashing digs on their way to three or four years of endless partying. However, little is made of the rather dismal condition in which many houses let out to Rhodes students are.
Students will also be rather anxious to do the pub crawl, some of them for the first time in their lives. Occasionally, their noises will get out of hand, and as “adults” we have a responsibility to call them to order, or even call the authorities if matters get out of hand.
We should however, also remember that the 7000-strong Rhodes University population is the pillar on which much of the economy of Grahamstown is built. We all benefit when students are happy (even if some of their happiness might be fuelled by over-indulgence, especially of alcohol). Let those who encounter students in everyday life make them feel welcome and only get stern when noise levels make it impossible to get a restful night.
Finally, the businesses that benefit from student budgets must be feeling rather good right now. The only caution is to be mindful of usurious fees. A case in point is that housing is very expensive in Grahamstown partly because so many students have to stay in digs, with houses near Rhodes fetching considerably more than what they were actually worth. It’s a free country, we know. But it’s also pride before a fall.
Our responsibility as townsfolk is to make living in Grahamstown a memorable experience for these young people. Through their stories and the stories of their parents, the majority of whom do not even live in the Eastern Cape, we generate more social capital.