Even as the Metropolitan Police Department denies it is unfairly cracking down on off-campus nightlife, students affected by a harsher D.C. noise law have ramped up opposition to the measure, which went into effect last week.
MPD has made calls to Burleith resident Jenny Devine’s (COL ’11) home three times over the past three Fridays. During each visit, there have been four to five people in her house, but there has been no sign of alcohol or partying.
Last Friday, her neighbors called the police after Devine and her friends had ordered pizza at 2 a.m. The policeman explained that the next time he was called to her house, he would have to arrest someone.
“I really don’t think you’re going to see anyone else [other than students] being arrested. It’s not that I’m angry,” Devine said. “I’m just frustrated we can’t have an adult conversation.”
According to Gwendolyn Crump, acting director of MPD communications, however, college students are not the only ones targeted for noise violations.
“I can tell you that noise complaints are an issue in neighborhoods throughout the District that are not near a university,” Crump said.
But individual students and the Georgetown University Student Association do not believe MPD and the D.C. Council, which passed the law, is acting entirely in good faith.
In a bill passed Sunday, GUSA condemned the ordinance for its severe punishments — up to 90 days in jail and a $500 fine — and suggested that it was meant to target D.C. college students.
The GUSA Senate intends to send a letter to the D.C. Council and the MPD; a draft of the message will be made public by this weekend.
GUSA Senate speaker Adam Mortillaro (COL ’12) has been in touch with the student body presidents of American University, Catholic University and Howard University so they can coordinate efforts against the ordinance. The schools’ executives, including University President John J. DeGioia, plan to meet next week in order to draft a joint letter to the D.C. Council and MPD.
Mortillaro met with several university officials on Tuesday, including Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Jeanne Lord, Director of Student Affairs Anne Koester and Director of Student Programs Erika Cohen-Derr. According to Mortillaro, the administrators were receptive to GUSA’s concerns.
“We’re all waiting to see what this weekend and the upcoming few weeks mean in terms of implementation, but GUSA has taken the appropriate steps to immediately bring the matter to court should things go south,” Mortillaro said.
University spokesperson Julie Bataille said that the administration understands students’ take on the amendment and is working to ensure that MPD upholds the interests of both students and neighbors.
“My understanding is that this is to be implemented city-wide and was not intended to specifically target students. University officials will continue to work cooperatively with MPD on issues related to the safety of our students and the fair enforcement of this law in particular,” Bataille said in an email.
GUSA plans on having a town hall meeting in the near future in order to gather more student input.
Students from other D.C. schools face similar problems, saying that the amendment discriminates against college students.
“[The noise ordinance] is just ridiculously vague and will impact students more than anyone else,” said Joe Pacheco, a sophomore at the George Washington University, said. “Why does the city favor one group of people over another, especially one that constitutes a large proportion of the population, pumps ridiculous amounts of money into the city’s economy and in a lot of cases constitutes a large contingent of the city’s highly educated workforce? It’s thinly veiled ageism.”
For Devine, whose home has been visited by MPD recently, neighborhood antagonism seems to play a role. Though complaints and animosity from the neighbors began last semester, Devine says that neighbors have practically refused to speak with her and her roommates.
Devine believes that part of the conflict stems from the local movement against the university’s 2010 Campus Plan, which will go before the D.C. Zoning Commission in April. Recently, the Citizens Association of Georgetown instructed residents to call MPD instead of the Student Neighborhood Assistance Program, a university-run off-campus monitoring service.
“People are caught up in the heat of the moment with everything that’s going on,” Devine said.
Hoya Staff Writer Mariah Byrne contributed to this report.