D.C. College Students Raise Their Voices over Noise Law

Article excerpt


D.C. college students are raising a ruckus over changes in a city law requiring them to pipe down.

The amendment to the city's noise-reduction law, which took effect Feb. 1, is too vague and the punishments too severe, according to Ben Marcus, chairman of the D.C. Student Alliance, a group comprising 15 area schools.

"The idea that you can go to jail for being too loud .. does not seem to be proportional to what the person is being convicted

of "said Mr Marcus, a University of the District of Columbia senior."It doesn't appear from the outside that the city did any research on what other cities do about noise issues."

The amendment, passed in January by the D.C. Council, bans the making of an "unreasonably loud noise between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.

that is likely to annoy or disturb one or more other persons in their residences." Violators face a maximum penalty of a $500 fine or 90 days in jail.

Supporters say the law represents a slight tweak on the previous noise statute, but the change has been the source of considerable consternation on campuses across the city. The headline for one letter to the editor at Georgetown University's The Hoya student newspaper read: Vague Noise Law Spells Doom for Student Rights.

The D.C. College Democrats issued a statement warning that the revised ordinance creates a subjective standard that is sure to hurt D.C. students, who lack the significant representation that they deserve in the greater D.C. community.

Mr. Marcus hand-delivered a letter last month to Mayor Vincent C. Gray requesting a meeting with alliance members, but no date has been set. The letter was signed by student leaders from six D.C. schools in the alliance: UDC and American, Catholic, Howard, Georgetown and George Washington universities.

The alliance also has reached out to D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier and is seeking a meeting with police department officials.

We are really after clarification of what the intentions were and if there are alternatives to what they have put in place, Mr. Marcus said. We are looking for a solid test that police officers can use at the scene to determine whether someone is breaking the law.

Many residents living near the schools say the more specific statute is needed because students in off-campus housing are often unreasonably loud.

I have from time to time had to phone in complaints, and a great many people in west Georgetown and Burleith have had that experience, said Ron Lewis, chairman of the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E. …