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Why we should boycott businesses which exploit students

In the early hours of the morning on February 1, a 19-year-old student from Coventry University tragically lost his life, after taking what was suspected to be MDMA during a drum and bass event at The Assembly nightclub in Leamington Spa. Shockwaves were felt amongst university students across the nation, especially in light of the poor treatment of those attending the club, which have since emerged. The incident is symptomatic of a wider issue – the  negligent way in which businesses treat students.

Those in attendance reported how the club was packed out beyond capacity, and how allegedly, staff refused to provide tap water, instead charging £5 for bottled water. Spokespersons for The Assembly have since put out a statement reiterating a zero-tolerance drug policy, but there is a case to be made for the club anticipating drug use, especially at a DNB event, and perhaps acting in a way to make a greater profit. Undoubtedly, the testimonies of those in attendance regarding the hostile behaviour of staff highlight a clear disregard for the safety of club-goers. Certainly, this serves to reflect how rife student exploitation is by local businesses in student dominated areas.

This serves to reflect how rife student exploitation is by local businesses in student dominated areas

It is widely recognised that the majority of students at Warwick look to Leamington when searching for off-campus student housing, with the area being a hub of social activity whilst still being only 20 minutes away from the university on public transport. Yet, the task of securing a property within a typical student budget proves to be harder each year. Charges from both private landlords and estate agents may total thousands for holding fees, deposits and rent – this is particularly difficult for students who lack experience with dealing with such businesses and often have limited financial resources. 

Even for students who do not choose to live in Leamington, other student areas such as Canley and Coventry encounter similar pitfalls, especially with students from Coventry University also looking in these areas. Faced with limited options and time pressure to secure a decent property, students often settle for these prices and contracts. Unlike in halls of residence, students often have to pay rent for properties even when they are not staying there for long periods of time during holidays. 

So why are students choosing to settle for obviously exploitative practises by businesses? Well, as discussed, there are already a limited number of options available, but additionally the mindset of student life can also play a factor. Our time as students for the majority of us only last a few years, and the perceived hassle of combatting these issues may seem like a waste of this already limited time. However, I would argue that dealing with these ‘real world’ problems now as students would better equip us for standing up against these businesses post-university. 

As a student collective, who contribute so much to the local economy and businesses off and on campus, we are responsible for using our powers to set an ethical standard

We have already seen petitions being launched within the university regarding issues such as protesting the sub-standard on campus mental health services, yet this same desire does not take hold in tackling off campus issues also faced by students. As a student collective, who contribute so much to the local economy and businesses off and on campus, we are responsible for using our powers to set an ethical standard. Such neglectful businesses must realise their mistakes, especially in response to such tragic consequences of their practises. 

By taking the initiative to boycott harmful businesses, and continuing to petition and protest against both on and off campus bodies, and using our social agency as a greater student collective, we will be able to make strides towards fostering a more welcoming and safe environment for our fellow students, present and future. In regard to the incident at The Assembly, the coverage this event garnered nationally has sparked outrage, especially amongst students; it is vital that we direct this energy towards reshaping the landscapes we inhabit. This could ensure such a tragedy does not happen again.

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