Medics’ Portrayal of Portswood Causes Controversy

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The medical students of Southampton have again hit the press, this time with their adaptation of Jay Z’s ‘Empire State of Mind’. The video, released on YouTube two days ago, is already close to hitting 10,000 views. No doubt popular with viewers, it remains to be seen how impressed locals are with its less than flattering portrayal of their home town. Portswood Info, a community news service, has questioned whether it can be interpreted as ‘biting satire’, or simply ‘disgustingly awful’.

 

Comments on the youtube video show the divide in opinion over the video, which has raised money for two charities. It has done nothing to mend the ‘town-and-gown’ divide which exists between Southampton locals and its student population.

With serial criminals as neighbours, a flasher wandering around and the smell of the rubbish strikes still lingering, it is not surprising that many student residents are less than impressed with Portswood life.

However, the video does not shy from the part students play towards Portswood’s more negative aspects. Happy recounts of acting ‘like a sex pester’ at Jesters, wandering ‘off to Manzils, yeah I’m off my head’, accompanied by a girl in the video being sick on the street, show how a large student presence, and their behaviour, contributes to Portswood’s notoriety.  Students have been long blamed for contributing to Portswood’s problems, especially regarding anti-social behaviour, usually involving alcohol.

A local claiming be living on Alma Road appears less than impressed with his comment describing students as ‘rah pricks’, and warns that his ‘7 iron will meet your face’ if any students touch his bins whilst drunk. Another comment kindly tells the ‘posh twats’ to leave.

Referring to Portswood as a ‘Pole ghetto’ may prove to have been a mistake, with one comment describing the writers as ‘racist idiots’, and several comments condemning this particular lyric. It is unclear whether the Polish community will take offence to the lyrics, but if so relations between locals and students are likely to become even more strained.

 

The medics of Southampton University have already been in the press this year, after two of them were allegedly caught participating in oral sex on hospital grounds. The University has since issued a statement denying that anything happened. It is unclear  as of yet if the video will raise objections within the local community beyond YouTube comments.

 

The view count alone shows the medics have been highly successful in tapping into Southampton students’ love-hate relationship with the area, its high crime rate, anti-social behaviour and cheap alcohol.

 

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Discussion14 Comments

  1. avatar

    Well, I wonder what the Vice Chancellor will have to say about these students bringing the University into disrepute.

    Portswood and Highfield is a lovely area, and it serves a broad ranging community, therefore there is a range of shops. There are some very good shops, and as with any high street, there are some which may be less interesting to some. There is a good range of cafes, takeaways, pubs and other shops, and students are lucky to have such a handy and wonderful selection of shops to hand. Students should realise that their spending habits help to create the local retail environment, and that many of the cafes, takeaways and pubs do well because of the custom they bring.

    One of the biggest problems Portswood has is from drunken loutish students dropping litter, vomiting, and staggering about the place making large amounts of noise late at night, shouting all the way home deliberately trying to wake up the residents.

    It would be nice to see some local police presence around in the evenings to tackle the anti social behaviour from some students.

    Now, this is not the behaviour of all students, just that of a loutish minority, but it would be good to see the Students Union perhaps setting up patrols to discourage anti social behaviour. The students should realise that loutish behaviour could end up with them being named and shamed, and perhaps fined by the university.

    As regards the smell of rubbish, well most residents took their refuse to the recycling centre during the strike. It was obvious where some student houses were, with rubbish spilling over the streets at the end of term. I remember pointing out some of the rubbish spilling out into the street to some departing students (who had cars which could have taken their rubbish away) who said they didnt care about cleaning it up, as they are moving out.

    I am strongly in favour of the university, and it having a good relationship with the community. Students need to leave the area a better place than it was when they found it, and they may find the environment more to their liking.

    I shudder to think that some of the people in this video may want to be doctors….

  2. avatar

    Unfortunately this article neglects to show the overwhelming popularity of the video and that most of the comments left on the YouTube website are positive. Instead it has chosen to inflame the hate by just quoting the small minority of people who are very much in their right to have their own negative opinion of the video.

    Let us not forget the three most important things here 1) that these diverse range of students from many different backgrounds have raised thousands of pounds for The Cardiomyopathy Association and The Society of St James over the past five days. 2) The video is in the entertainment section of the website, it was a video conceived in jest and satire, and no offence was meant to anyone. 3) It is Christmas!!!!

    As a Portswood resident myself I agree with Mr C’s comment below that the University is a strong establishment important to our area and the strong relationship we, the community, have with its students is so important. Moreover without them, the money taken away from the area would leave us all in a worse place together.

    I love Porstwood. Let’s remind ourselves it is a strong minded person who can have a laugh at themselves. Good luck to all you becoming Doctors and carry on the good work.

    A response to a hate message which asked these poor students to die:
    “You mad son? this was made by as sarcastic joke by a bunch of selfless people who’ve spent a whole tonne of time to make…. [those] who would realised it was a joke laugh and give up their money for a worthy cause. Stop sitting on youtube and slagging people off….”

    A message from a local resident:
    “This is hilarious. Been a resident for my whole life and this is brilliant. I think some people need to get a sense of humour. Not all students are bad and not all are posh either! Well, not now they let anybody in to the universities! I think the majority of the grumpy bastards who are moaning about students are just jealous….”

    Mr C
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    Of course the video will be popular amongst some students who are happy to be abusive to some of the more unfortunate, differently able, or those of different race within our community. When many of these students are just here for a short time, they do not see Southampton as their home. For those that take the trouble to find out, Southampton is a very nice place to live.

    Before youtube, this sort of sketch would be done at the Medics Review, in private, for a closed university community, and the audience it was aimed at would have had a laugh, and it would all be OK.

    However, it crosses a line when this is posted on a public website, and is inevitably picked up by locals, and sits permanently out there anytime someone does a web search. Just think, any time a child living in the area searches for Portswood on google, what is going to come up? How does that make you feel? More importantly what is that child going to think? More care should have been taken to poke fun affectionately. Some of the lines are lazy, and get their comic hit by just being rude and abusive, the “Frankie Boyle school of comedy” if you like. It would have been better if the lines about Portswood being “shitty” and referring it to being a polish ghetto were not included, as they are abusive and not even true.

    The examples of student anti-social behaviour in the video are also tasteless, as local residents have to put up with this sort of nonsense from students for real from day to day. It just isnt funny. Its even worse to see students revelling in the lack of consideration for others shown by some of their fellow students.

    It is crazy to talk of Portswood being a Polish ghetto, yes there are a few Polish shops, and there are some Polish people living in the area, I havent had anything but occasional and positive experiences. Why the intolerance? Why the racism? Do any of these young people know of the Polish airmen who fought alongside the RAF in the Battle of Britain? Polish pilots were among the most experienced in the Battle. The 147 Polish pilots claimed 201 aircraft shot down. 303 Sqn claimed the highest number of kills of all Allied squadrons engaged in the Battle of Britain. They helped defend Britain in her darkest hours.

    Perhaps these students should take a look at the Hippocratic Oath: “Whatever houses I may visit, I will come for the benefit of the sick, remaining free of all intentional injustice, of all mischief”

    How about medical ethics: “Treating the patient as an individual is an important principle. Dignity and respect for the patient are considered by the GMC to be of great importance and a whole section is devoted to it in their handbook.”

    I think these students have some growing up to do before they embody the values of physicians.

    Charlotte
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    The medical students are not mocking ill patients, or ‘happy to be abusive to some of the more […] differently able’ as you have said. I have watched the video several times and cannot find any evidence for this whatsoever, and think your comment here was completely without basis.

    To say that these students should take a look at the Hippocratic Oath is a complete over reaction to a tongue-in-cheek video poking fun at their own university town. They were not making an objective judgment of the town, but a humorous music video about it. As Karen points about above, the video has had support from residents: “This is hilarious. Been a resident for my whole life and this is brilliant. I think some people need to get a sense of humour.”

    Yes, the ‘pole ghetto’ comment may have been an error, yet saying that the medical students involved are ‘happy to be abusive […] those of different race in our community’ is blowing the two word comment far out of proportion. The comment may have been an error of judgment, yet the previous lyrics of the song gave the context about Portswood having problems, yet being obviously satirical. It is obvious that the video is not blaming Polish people for how Portswood is viewed. There is a large Polish community, several Polish shops, and although the lyric was the most risqué, the use of the word ‘ghetto’ is clearly a joke. Although Portswood undeniably has its problems, the video is satire, and no one watching the video would actually think Portswood was a ghetto.

    In regards to you saying students are only here for a short time, yes, we are. Portswood or surrounding areas are not our hometowns, but they are where we live, and students do have very strong links to their university towns.

    Again, I cannot stress enough that the video was satirical, making humorous remarks on aspects of Portswood. Not all the comments were insulting at all: Chicoland, Tariq Manzils and other places mentioned are all loved by the vast majority of students. To have brought this argument to the point of saying the medics are not fit to swear the Hippocratic Oath is completely unnecessary and uncalled for.

  3. avatar
    Charlotte Harwood

    My assumption that that the great majority of people would share my understanding of the video’s satire, led to the focus of this article being focused solely on the aggressive, negative comments on YouTube. At the time of the article’s publication, there were many congratulations to the medics under the video, yet the ones my article focused upon were the most passionate, interesting and eye-catching were the ones regarding students as ‘rah’, ‘classist’ and stuck-up people, whose only contribution to Portswood was noise late at night and the rearrangement of dustbins.

    To those who were involved in the creation of the video, I must apologise for making this article fit into neither the categories of news nor opinion. The article focused, as I said, on only one of the aspects of the comments, which I felt, and still do feel, warranted an article on its own. My error was not ensuring that the Wessex Scene had a more comprehensive coverage, as many residents too see the humour in this video.

    Personally, I found the video highly amusing and to be quite obviously satirical. And this is the key word which I cannot stress enough… Satirical! Students nationwide are criticised for living up to the stereotype of binge drinking, one night stands and cheap take away food. Those who believe that medical students – who all have extremely high grades for a very challenging course – would be allowed to spend all of their time puking outside bars, are sorely mistaken.

    I agree with Mr. C’s comment that is just a ‘loutish minority’ who cause such disturbance, and it is an issue that the Medics, intentionally or not, have brought to the fore. In response to Mr. C’s comments, I do believe that the medical students who participated in the video were well aware of students’ contribution to the problems of Portswood, the aim being primarily to satirise, and exaggerate aspects of the students involvement with the area.

    My comments on the future of the medical profession was intended tongue-in-cheek. Quite clearly having sex with Solent freshers on the roadside is not a post-Jesters activity of which students routinely participate in! If they were truly as loutish as the video portrays, I doubt they would have had the organisational skills to craft a video of this form, or be accepted onto a medical degree. The video does clearly indicate students throwing up publicly after a Jesticle too many, wandering along Portswood late at night drunk and behaving inappropriately. However, satirising a situation and romanticising it is not the same.

    Furthermore, the video focuses its humour on a wide range of subjects. For example, the students love of curry and takeaway food. Anyone can agree that these are not the healthiest nor most glamourous, and in saying so is not being horrendously offensive to Portswood residents, but mocking student diets. Waitrose is expensive, yet students still spend far too much money there. The moral? Students make cliche, unwise financial decisions. The joke is about student life in Portswood, not a raging attack on other residents.

    It also cannot be ignored that Portswood does have severe issues which are NOT caused by students. A high burglary rate, several violent attacks recently, a as of yet harmless yet undesirable flasher: these are all issues in which students have only ever, if ever, been victims of, not perpetrators.

    Due to the high content of swear words in the negative residents comments – which were clearly highly aggressive- they have been removed for the time being. The result is that the article has been rendered to a skeleton of what it previously was, the main subject of it being. The issue will be discussed with representatives from both Union and University later today, and after that I shall amend the article so it no longer is nonsensical, and apologise to readers in the meantime.

    VP Welfare and Communities
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    Hi there

    My name’s Frankie Fry and I’m VP Welfare and Communities for SUSU.
    I just wanted to respond to a few points that have been made. I appreciate some of the issues that have been raised here and I’d just like to reassure you that as a Union we are working hard with the different community groups and local residents’ associations to address these.

    The Communities aspect of my role is new this year and this reflects how seriously we take our community relations. I frequently attend residents’ associations and try my best to attend all those that surround the University to respond to and try to deal with any issues residents may be facing.

    For example during the industrial strike action I organised a bin collection where we collected students rubbish and took it to the refuse centre. For the past few years we have run Recycling on Your Doorstep, where we organise extra bin collections and collect unwanted goods from students that can be recycled and pass this on to local charities (this year The British Heart Foundation).

    Last year we created the Ssh! (Southampton Street Harmony) Campaign in response to residents’ concerns about noise following our club nights at The Union. This campaign introduced a number of new initiatives such as a Duty Manager being introduced to all of our events. The Duty Manager can be contacted for the duration of all of our events (including in halls of residence) about any noise issues connected to these events or other issues associated with this. Their telephone number is: 07412 068 331.

    We also have a marshalling scheme where marshals are based near Glen Eyre Halls of Residence, on Church Lane and surrounding the Students’ Union to remind students to keep the noise down.

    Looking on a much wider level we are creating a Community Strategy, part of which focuses on local residents and our relationship with them. I’m in fact holding a meeting with local residents tonight to start the discussions to form this Community Strategy.

    I appreciate that there will always be issues, but we are trying to our best to solve these. If you want to speak to me further about this please do not hesitate to contact me on vpwelfare@susu.org

    Mr C
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    There will always be a large number of people who are prepared to laugh at humour others find cruel.

    That does not mean that cruel humour can never be used, but more care is needed when selecting the audience, particularly if it may reflect badly on the students, themselves, their fellow students, their department, and the University. Releasing such videos into the wild is perhaps inadvisable.

    I also point out that any locals would pick up on the clear reference to “some woman singing strange” in Waitrose. This is a valued and happy member of staff who expresses her happiness through singing, and you will find if you discuss it with them that the other Waitrose staff are very protective when others seek to single her out or poke fun at her (it does happen). Yes she behaves a little differently through her singing to many of us, but she always brings a smile to people’s faces.

    You will find that any city has its crime problems, and Southampton is lucky to be safer than most. But when you recognise that students can be victims of crime, it seems foolish in the extreme to post a video such as this on youtube. It doesnt take much to see that the video reinforces negative “us vs them” stereotypes between the students and some parts of the local community, which some of the locals may not react well to, as you highlighted in your article. You should also look at the opportunity this gave a lot of other students to post even more insulting comments on the video about the Portswood area on youtube. While these follow up comments are not the direct responsibility of the students in the video, it again creates a forum for very negative discussion which can inflame local opinion against the students which are a valued part of the community. This discussion inevitably gets linked back to the university because of who posted the original video.

    Its all very well to say this is satire, indeed I found large parts of it funny. It is unfortunate that some of it went beyond that into absusive, inflammatory, and racist language. That is the issue. Those problems undermine the whole, the funny parts do not excuse the rest.

    There was no need to call Portswood shitty, no need to call it a concrete dump, no need to call it a Polish ghetto. There was no need to have a student throwing up in the street, or simulating sex acts on the street, etc

    If you compare this derivative video to the original Newport parody of the song “New York State of Mind”, the Newport song was yes “street” in its tone, but also positive, affectionate, and about sticking together. I loved the Newport parody when it first came out, and looked forward to watching this one when I found it. I was very disappointed to see some of the unnecessarily nasty and inappropriate lyrics in the Portswood version. Considering how the Newport version of the song quickly reached a national audience, and was discussed on television and in the press, this again suggests that the students should really have looked before they leapt on this occasion.

    The fact that this has any connection with charity makes not the faintest bit of difference to the offence this causes to some local residents (many of us who are students ourselves, are previous students, or who work at the university), who dont want to see our home town or areas of it defined on the web by the puerile antics of a few current students who should have known better.

    Perhaps the university needs some sort of guidelines with sanctions in place for its students for use of social networks, as some employers would have to protect the employer from reputational damage which could be unwittingly caused by its staff.

    The tensions this sort of video creates are not just felt by students. The sort of locals who may go round looking for students to pick on are just as likely to pick on anyone they think looks like a student, which could be any one of our teenage sixth formers who live in the area for example.

    As regards the Shh! campaign (it was mentioned above by Frankie), maybe it would be good at key “party” times of year, ie beginning and end of term, end of exams, etc, to have some marshalling in Portswood itself, as the number of groups of students who pass through late at night singing at the tops of their voices is no joke. It is clear from what they sing that this is nothing to do with being a bit tipsy and having a singalong. This is mindless shouting in the early hours with the sole aim of waking up the local residents. It would also be good to see the local police and community support officers being involved with the Shh! campaign, and cautioning the worst offenders. There seems to be a lot of communication about students locking up their bikes, and closing their windows, but not much about keeping the noise down!

    Mr C
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    It is also worth mentioning that Highfield is part of Portswood, and Highfield Church’s original name is Christ Church, Portswood. The University main campus is located in part of the Highfield area of Portswood.

    Portswood High Street serves the entire surrounding area, and there is a reason Waitrose is located here.

    Within half a mile of Waitrose, and backing onto the Portswood high street are some of the highest valued properties in Southampton.

    I don’t think many of the locals there will appreciate these students dragging down the tone of the area with their videos.

    Of course, nearby there are some noisier, more run down streets, with more anti-social behaviour, late night noise problems and littering, but I wonder who the majority of residents are who live in these streets? Could they perhaps be largely students?

    Perhaps it would be good to see the Medics Review raising money for and getting together some student volunteer work parties to help improve those aspects in the Portswood and Bevois Valley areas which they have satirised, as it seems to be a subject so close to their hearts? Clearing vomit from the streets, clearing litter, collecting the used condoms left in people’s front gardens by amorous students, etc. Perhaps they could fund a Portswood in Bloom project next year, and take some pride in where they live?

    The most satirical aspect of the video was the girl saying in the video how “Portswood is a pity, you are really shitty”. The irony drips from the line when it is a student singing it.

  4. avatar

    Also Miss Harwood, you have not helped matters with some of your own comments, which also seem to be unreasonable slurs on the residents living round and about the University.

    “With serial criminals as neighbours….the smell of the rubbish strikes still lingering… it is not surprising that many student residents are less than impressed with Portswood life…. Portswood’s notoriety…”

    Having lived in Southampton all my life I do not recognise your description of this area. Surely you are not naive enough to believe that all other local residents are serial criminals? Of course not, so why label us all so casually? Many of the university staff live in the area near the unversity, whether PhD students, post docs, lecturers, and professors. Any area of course will have some people with criminal records, and I imagine neither of us actually know who these are or where precisely they live. Cities tend to have crime rates above the national average, for obvious reasons, but most residents are lucky enough not to have issues, as serious crime is still not that frequent in Portswood (there are other areas in the city with far higher crime rates). Of course, there will be more problems in places where large amounts of alcohol are consumed, and so again for obvious reasons, some students will end up being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
    A lot of problems can be avoided by picking where to drink, and how much to drink, and by not being too boisterous, but some people of course will be unlucky, however well they behave.

    Portswood is not a “notorious” area. It just ends up inevitably as a focus for the Wessex Scene as many students live there, and because of its proximity to the main campus.

    Chloe
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    Some of us actually do have serial criminals for neighbours, or at least have crime on our doorstep. If you live on Gordon Ave, you will have had your own road shut off earlier this year due to a stabbing; if you’re walking through Portswood you may have been sexually harassed by a serial sex pest/flasher; if you live on Belmont Road, Alma Road, Gordon Ave or one of several other roads, you may be aware that sex trafficking is taking place in the vicinity – earlier this year a dispatches documentary on channel four exposed several local Portswood streets as housing illegally trafficked sex working women.

    We love Portswood for what it is – a bit of a dump, but an endearing dump nonetheless. I think you’re getting a little over-excited, Mr.C; how much we drink and where we do so has little to do with sex trafficking and stabbing going on under our noses. And yes, it’s a city, shit happens in a city, I know I know. It just seems that a lot of shit tends to heap in a rather small space and perhaps the medics are just sensible and choose to laugh rather than cry?

    Mr C
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    Chloe,
    A little over dramatic. You make it sound as if noone can walk down the street without suffering a multitude of offences against the person, which is obviously utter nonsense.

    Whenever I have walked through Portswood, the only thing I have needed to avoid was treading in a pile of vomit. The reality is that local residents are much more likely to suffer from the anti social behaviour of students than students are likely to be the victim of any crime. Serious crime is still very unusual, and even where it does happen students are more often not the victims.

    Local police do respond to problems. Anything raised by Dispatches will have already been resolved many months ago.

    If you are aware of any specific additional problems with trafficking and drugs since, report them to the police and they will no doubt also be resolved.

    The point I was making was that the portrayal of Portswood of a dump is entirely unreasonable, and certain students’ time would be better spent studying rather than drinking excessively and vomiting over the pavement.

    Mr C
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    The crime students are most likely to suffer from is theft, which is why Police were going door to door before Christmas warning students who had poorly secured sheds containing bikes, who had left windows open, and who left their laptops unattended around the campus. They even left Christmas cards for the students who were out advising them to keep their property secure.

    While any such theft is not the fault of the students, it is good the police are taking a proactive approach to helping to minimise the crime which local students are most likely to suffer from, by making the students do what they can to protect themselves.
    It makes sense for students on the main student housing roads not to leave valuables in any student property that will be left unattended over the Christmas holidays.

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