In defence of Brantford locals

It’s hard not to notice that us Laurier Brantford students have a certain opinion of anybody in this city who isn’t also a student.

You see it everywhere, from Facebook groups to student feeback published in Laurier Brantford Dean Leo Groarke’s book to elsewhere on this newspaper page – references to the “Brantford locals”, the allegedly less-than-desirable people who occupied the downtown before we showed up.

These references are tinged with a mixture of resentment and disgust – they’re on our turf, we don’t want them here, and besides, the whole reason there’s a Laurier Brantford in the first place is so downtown Brantford can get revitalized and those people find somewhere to move off to, so why don’t they move off already?

Problem: it’s not that simple. This isn’t Waterloo, or London, or any other city where the university has its own designated campus, and students only have to mingle with non-students when they’re nowhere near school property. This is Brantford, where the university was designed from the beginning to share its campus with the rest of the city – Laurier buildings mixed in with restaurants, shops, banks, and whatever else finds its way to the core.

Even if the current crop of “Brantford locals” is somehow driven out of the downtown thanks to our passive-aggressive hostility, they’ll just be replaced with others, because that was the plan all along. There will always be non-students ahead of you in line at Williams, or taking that last parking spot beside Victoria Park, or taking a smoke break outside Market Square. Laurier Brantford was meant to enhance the downtown, not replace it.

Besides, it’s ridiculous to look at one person sitting outside GRH and assume that all “Brantford locals” fit the same pattern. Believe it or not, the majority of Brantford citizens are perfectly normal people who could have grown up on the same street you did and not seemed out of place. And those people who do sit outside GRH or the meth clinic? I bet your city has just as many, only you don’t think of them because they’ve been there forever and you’re used to them.

It’s also important to consider that Brantford is a smaller city than what many of us are used to – and the stereotypes about people from smaller cities being friendlier is completely true. You might take a stranger saying hello to be creepy – especially if that stranger is by himself and doesn’t look like the sort of person you normally associate with – but in their mind, maybe they’re just trying to be good neighbours, reaching out to students because students won’t reach out to them.

Yes, they notice that. The rest of Brantford is starting to realize that us students have no interest in anything outside our campus bubble – and worse, that we aren’t the perfect little angels they were hoping for. It’s not just students who are the victims of downtown crime, and it’s not just non-students who commit said crime.

This is a step in the right direction, believe it or not. Students aren’t as innocent as people would like to think, and at least one of the incidents this fall was the result of a consensual fight between students and non-students. It’s not the first time a student was at least partially responsible for their injuries, and it’s hard to believe it’ll be the last. It’s better for all concerned if this reality is accepted rather than ignored in favour of remaining oblivious to the true behaviour of some students and continuing to blame all problems on those who were here before us.

We’re at the beginning of a new year and a new decade. When you’re struggling to come up with resolutions for 2010, consider trying to change your perspective of Brantford. Realize that as much as you might not like them, the “Brantford locals” aren’t going anywhere and we will always be sharing downtown with non-students. Then take it a step further, and realize that you don’t have a good reason for disliking non-students – they were here first, giving them a reason to dislike us, and yet they don’t, so why do we resent them?

Finally, realize that it’s not a case of us versus them. Non-students aren’t looking to get Laurier Brantford closed down, nor should we be trying to drive them away. This campus was founded on the idea that Laurier and Brantford could help each other. Instead, students are starting to restore downtown’s poor reputation – but now because of our actions. Let’s stop acting like we’ve been given free reign to do whatever we want in the core, and start being good neighbours.

RE: In defence of Brantford locals

Over the past few semesters I have become increasingly offended by the use of the “local” label used for Brantford residents. It took me awhile, but after getting to know a significantly large amount of people in the downtown community, I’ve realized that these people are hidden gems. We might joke about how the producers of “Silent Hill” only needed to add fog to get the creepy ghost town feel, but how did it happen? The residents, the architecture, and the legends of Brantford constantly whisper the secrets of its history, of its identity, of its struggle. One of the highlights of my week is the hotdog program run by Why Not City Missions on Thursday nights in the back alley by Lawyers Hall where a bunch of our favourite “locals” will hang out with food and hot chocolate. These people are not all the same. They’re not all sketchy. And most of them are completely harmless, hilarious, and cool. I wish that the reciprocal stigmas that seem to be held by Laurier students and downtown residents would evaporate. My favourite part of this campus is the diverse community, but it takes work from both sides, and so far, Laurier, we’re failing.

Rebecca Vandekemp
3rd Year Concurrent Education

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