The story about Irish students running amok in several college towns in California has certainly struck a chord with our readers.
One local headline summed it up for me 'The Irish are crazy and drink a lot" wrote Turbo News.
Talk about fulfilling a stereotype!
Both Santa Barbara and San Diego police have reported numerous incidents of drunken and violent behavior from Irish students over here for the summer.
What is most troubling is that these incidents, of wrecking apartments, vandalism and bad behavior seem to occur every year in these same towns.
The following quotes from the Irish Times make clear the extent of the problem.
"A spokesman for Santa Barbara’s sheriff department says this year a large number of complaints in Isla Vista again centre on the behaviour of some young visitors from Ireland who are travelling to the resort for “one big party”. He described the problems caused by Irish students as a “drain on the department” for about the last five years, which has resulted in the creation of a new arrest category for Irish students, in order to document the severity of the problem.
“Many of the arrests of young Irish people relate to vandalism, fighting and public drunkenness,” says the spokesman. “For example, we had a situation last week where three young Irish males were arrested after kicking in the door of an apartment. One of those men was caught wearing only a pair of briefs, and all of them were drunk. This is a common occurrence.”
If I go back into the Irish Voice newspaper archives we first reported this story five years ago.
Clearly the message is not getting through to these kids that they need to behave responsibly when they come to America.
Don't get me wrong, as a former JI student visa worker myself, I know the temptation to kick over the traces and have a great vacation is very real.
But there is a line between enjoying the summer break and acting like total idiots and doing the good name of the Irish serious harm.
I don't just blame the students however. The sponsoring body called Union of Students in Ireland Travel or USIT needs to do more.
They have adopted a 'see no evil' approach to these incidents and have refused to take any responsibility for the actions of the students they send here.
There needs to be a bootstrap approach to this problem where all students who receive one of these visas is told in no uncertain terms that they are expected to behave in a way that conforms to basic decency and respect for the host culture.
That means no vandalism, fights, thrashing apartments or mindless behavior.
It is pretty simple really. Those who conduct themselves in such a manner and are arrested should be named and shamed and told they will never get another American visa.
The vast majority of students who come here avoid trouble.
I have hired one myself this summer and currently have a nephew working in New York. Both have worked hard, loved the experience and are eager to spread the word about this great opportunity to experience America.
That is how it should be.
USIT needs to step up to the plate and help eliminate that tiny minority who give Irish students in general a bad name.
They need to do that now.
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