Controversial Nuisance Ordinance to be Voted On Tonight
The State College Borough Council will vote tonight on a proposed nuisance ordinance that, if passed, would allow police to hold hosts responsible for the actions of their guests, even after the guests have left the party’s original location. The meeting is at 7:30 in the municipal building.
The ordinance is thought by many to unfairly target Penn State students. UPUA President Gavin Keirans addressed the proposal in a guest column published today in The Daily Collegian.
The document’s nebulous classifications of violations, as well as saying that the host is now responsible for individual actions after leaving a party is a step too far.
Police would be able to levy fines on hosts if their guests are charged with any of the following:
- Excessive, unnecessary, or unreasonable noise
- Public disturbances, brawls, fights, quarrels, or indecent or obscene conduct
- Public urination or defecation
- Unlawful deposit of trash or littering
- Sale or possession of controlled substances
- Indecent exposure
There’s little ambiguity as to the purpose of the legislation: to reduce the risk the drinking culture in State College presents to the borough and to account for additional expenses incurred when dealing with those risks. While I’m sure the current proposal would indeed generate revenue for the borough ($600 per party would add up quickly), it hardly seems like an elegant approach to moderating State College’s drinking culture.
Keirans elaborated in his column on why he thinks the nuisance ordinance is the wrong way to change the drinking culture at Penn State.
What is clear is that full time residents are tired of excessive partying that goes on within the borough and the aftermath of Sunday morning clean-ups.
I want to put a magnifying glass on specific issues of concern and partner to eliminate them.
An ordinance aimed primarily against the student population is a hasty move that will break the bonds that some students have been working diligently to build.
Borough officials should partner with proactive measures like the new Interfraternity Council social policy, the Off Campus Student Union LIONWalk, and University Park Undergraduate Association extended busing service.
What do you think is the right way to approach the problematic drinking culture at Penn State? Is it borough nuisance ordinances, UPUA-sponsored bus loops, or IFC-mandated bouncers? AlcoholEdu? Let’s hear it in the comments.
21 Responses to “Controversial Nuisance Ordinance to be Voted On Tonight”
Hey…that picture is one of our former pledges. ‘She’ is now transgendered, so you might want to send her an email for permission to use her image. She used to call me ‘Sir’.
Answer: Yes, to all of them. In most college communities that have done a good job of balancing these issues, all of the topics you have listed (as well as others, like medical amnesty) have been part of the solution.
Keirans’ comments, as well as many found on the CDT, criticize the law for something it does not do. These nuisance laws make hosts responsible for incidents on immediately neighboring public or private properties. As it says: “An event or gathering that results in one or more of the following illegal activities at or within one hundred (100) feet of a Premise.” Police cannot chase people all over town, and the specific laws that have to be violated have long been applied in many settings. They are not unclear or nebulous if one understands the terms used in state and local law. Nearly identical laws have been passed in more than two dozen communities and been upheld by multiple state appeals courts.
Keirans further shows his failure to understand the issues when he criticizes the fact that it is not applied to bars. The borough cannot do so, because state nuisance laws already regulate those businesses and preempt local regulation.
Students offered no viable alternative to the nusiance proposal at the public hearing on this. These ordinances are part of an effective approach to holding party hosts responsible for the situations they create.
Matthew, you’re first few sentences are simply unintelligible. Have you even read the nuisance ordinance? Have you researched the other communities that have it?
I would argue that the faux pas is on the other foot. Students did nothing the last five years, as this problem grew. When a public hearing was held to consider the ordinance, not a single student leader offered a single constructive solution to address the problem in ways other than this ordinance nor made a suggestion for amendment to the ordinance. Absent any real effort by students to offer constructive alternatives, and with a significant share of evidence that shows these are effective, what do you expect elected officials to do? Ignore the problem for another five years?
This ordinance makes it clear that there are expectations in this community about responsible hosting. Students can live up to those expectations or not.
Give me a break about these poor, defenseless students who are deprived of their rights. It has no basis in reality and little understanding of American law.
Your responses seem highly biased in comparison to those offered by Matthew. As a student, I do see a problem with public drunkeness, but having a nuisance ordinance is not the way to stop it.
One solution, offter public restrooms that are open late night. Unlike these “mature” adults that choose to live in the surrounding areas, most students do not have access to a car. Hence, many of them choose to walk to social functions, which can many times be 1-2 miles away. Late at night and early in the morning, the only real public restroom available is McDonalds. Even consuming one or two alcoholic beverages can give a person the extreme urge to urinate, reguardless of the level of intoxication.
In the past, I myself recieved a citation for drinking underage. What was I doing? I was walking home to my dorm, not disturbing a single person. Cops already have enough power to fine people for the most menial of things.
The larger the party, the less drunk people usually get. These regulations will serve no purpose other than a source of money for the borough. Small parties are much more likely to result in highly entoxicated persons than the frat parties everyone seems to be complaining about. In the past semester, I have attended about 7 parties at my Fraternity, and about the same number of parties at apartments. Out of those instances, I only got buzzed at my own fraternity. At the apartments, however, I had a tendency to drink more. Fraternities offter a more social scene that, while alcohol is present, offers the ‘partier’ to do other than drink. Apartments do not offer djs, dancefloors, alternative beverages/snacks, and a plan in case something goes wrong. In a time where Fraternities are being blamed for everything, they should really be endorsed.
You seem to want to compare the ordinance to other towns. One example-bloomsburg. Having gone there several times to party and socialize, it really hasn’t had that great of an impact. Frats got in trouble for minor violations, so slowly those parties died. Then the parties moved into apartments, where instead of an organization getting screwed, individual people are getting screwed.
Concerning the ifc regulations, while I do agree with some of the posted rules, I disagree with some as well. Bouncers will only weaken the one link Penn State has to somewhat control the parties. Costing about $150 each night a social function is had, this will put an unecessary strain on the smaller fraternities who often have more control over their parties than the larger ones. If IFC instead was able to just enforce their rules that had previously been in place, there would be no need for the changes. The rules would work if they were enforced. At my fraternity, we have strictly enforced guest lists, sober people at each entrance, and sober bar tenders that limit peoples alcohol consumption. Because of our personal methods, that go by the present standing rules of IFC, we have had no intervention with the police, complaints from neighbors, and no violations with ifc. In my personal opinion, the new ifc rules punish a large number of people for only a few peoples mistakes.
If you want us students to stop the drinking culture, give us another option. Looking around, there really isn’t much else(in state college) when we live in a society that has to be constantly entertained.
Those are not rhetorical questions. I’ve read both the local ordinance and ordinances in about 6 other communities. I’ve carried on an extended email exchange with leaders in 3 of those areas to learn more about what they have done. I’ve reviewed documents that have examined the impact of these ordinances on the local communities. My questions are real. How much have you really studied this issue?
The ordinance does not say anything at all specific to students. It focuses on party hosts, as do all these ordinances.
Contrary to your impression, social host and party host laws that have recognized third-party civil and criminal liability have a long tradition in American history and law. If you create a nuisance that extends to immediately neighboring properties, you are responsible for your guests’ actions.
Why should businesses that did not create the need for facilities assume the costs? If YOU host the party, YOU are responsible for providing adequate facilities. Don’t force taxpayers or local businesses to clean up the mess you bring to the neighborhood.
The IFC has taken steps to address its party situations. We’ll see how that works out. A nuisance gathering or party ordinance has been part of an effective solution to house and apartment parties, as well as fraternity parties, elsewhere–not just Bloomsburg, but many others. It makes it clear that there are reasonable expectations for responsible host behavior, gives them guidelines and steps they can take to prevent being a nusiance, and penalties for those who do not act responsibly.
Again, you are clearly uninformed on the IFC regulations. Smaller functions held by smaller fraternaties do NOT have to have bouncers. They simply have to pay a small registration fee to Greek Life. I have no doubt that some fraternaties have acted very responsibly. I’ve written and spoken elsewhere about how both rewards and penalties need to provide much stronger incentives for Greek organizations. And certainly, enforcement of existing regulations would help with that. But, these aren’t mutually exclusive alternatives. Enforcement and new rules go hand in hand as part of an effective approach.
And you’ll get no argument from me that the University and Borough need to do a much better job on alternatives. But those are only part of the solution. Every community that has done a good job with this, does ALL of these things, as I’ve said. The problem in SC and PSU is that almost NONE of the effective solutions that other communities have used have been done in close to a decade. IFC, Old Main, Greek Life, the Borough, faculty, and more have all let this situation deteriorate to what we have now.
Quite the opposite. I am very well informed of all the new policies, much moreso than the average greek.
“Socials greater than 50 persons (exception if only 2 organizations are meeting) must register as a party.”
Based off this, if a fraternity hosted a dated function, almost every fraternity would require bouncers for such events. This regulation does not count for socials, as it shouldn’t, but “parties” vary greatly and shouldn’t be regulated merely by the number of guests, reguardless of fraternity.
Because every business in state college benefits from the presence of college students. State College is the name of the town, so don’t attempt to reduce the role of the college students. A large portion of the taxes payed in this area are from college students, so therefore it is their right to benefit from such taxes.
You use the term “effective” when describing other towns with similar rules. What defines this? To me such regulations are like a weed killer that only kills the top part of a plant. The roots will still be there, and gradually the same situations will arise.
In addition, my initial comment is not an ad hom attack. I simply do not understand what you are trying to say. Every property borders other properties, so your apartment is in no way unique. The nuisance ordinance covers illegal actions that occur at a property or in a narrow 100 foot zone immediately surrounding a property, by guests when the property owner has actively organized the event. That’s a reasonable expectation for a host, student or not.
The ordinance does not target businesses because they are already covered by state law. It’s got nothing to do with bar owners being able to fight. The state law preempts local law. And the landlord isn’t inviting 100 close personal friends over; the party host is.
Dennis Shea, Matt. Not hard to find me. The initials are a tribute to a friend and a way of avoiding spam.
No, a large portion of the taxes in State College Borough are not paid by students. Local governments are primarily funded by property taxes (students are not large landowners in the Borough) and earned income tax on residents (students pay this only if they declare State College as their primary residence–most do not–or if they are a nonresident and their local municipal government does not have an earned income tax–which is rare). While students represent 70 percent of residents, they pay less than 50 percent of local taxes.
What I describe as effective is not a nuisance ordinance as a stand alone policy, but as part of a comprehensive effort to address dangerous and destructive drinking. Those places that have been effective have done all or almost all of the things mentioned–reform of Greek life, nuisance ordinances, education, and more. And the effects are quite significant. In Fort Collins, Co, noise violations dropped 67%, disorderly conduct dropped 37%, minor possession dropped 15%, open alcohol dropped 35%, assaults dropped 13%. At Lehigh, underage violations dropped 53% and campus crime dropped 41 percent. University of Nebraska began their effort with a binge drinking rate identical to PSU. Since then, their rate has dropped by 13 percent, while ours has increased. Their disorderly house citations (what they call their nuisance party ordinance) has dropped by more than 30% since its implementation. In measures of harms caused by alcohol, they are below the national averages now in every respect. You can go down through the list–Syracuse, Bowling Green, Bloomsburg, etc.–on almost every measure communities that have taken a comprehensive approach, including a nuisance ordinance, have had a positive impact.
You are absolutely correct that the ordinance is only part of the package. And the effort to deal with it is an ongoing management issue, not a problem to be solved. I think students need to step back and understand how the nuisance ordinance contributes a part of the solution, as well as look for creative ways to work alone and together to address it.
First, even a fraternity that is half the size of the average fraternity and holds a bouncer required social every weekend of Fall and Spring semester would have to increase its annual dues by less than $100 per member. Second, those that can demonstate the effectiveness of their own risk management practices can apply for an exemption after the 9 month trial period. I think fraternities like the one you mention ought to be rewarded far more than they are now by the system. They ought to have preferential rush, greater access to University support, and more. Right now there’s little to no benefit to positive behavior and little regular and consistent punishment of poor behavior. The IFC social policy adds a new mechanism to give greater benefits to those that manage well, and greater control to those that cannot or will not do so.
For adults, $100 may not seem like much, but for the average college student it is. For my personal fraternity, it would impose an increase of about $75 for each brother. As it currently stands, that is a 70% increase in our social dues. For the larger, richer fraternities, this is no issue, but for the smaller ones it is.
I do agree that the ones that follow the rules should recieve more of a reward. By following the ifc rules currently in place, it has caused us to have low rush numbers. Rushes come in and see us following the rules and deem it ‘lame’. Suspentions mean nothing for the frats that get them. Just means they have to hide their social functions a bit better, or just host them upstairs.
They may not be paid directly by the students, but the students do indirectly pay the majority of the taxes. Thier rent goes to the landlords who pay property taxes. The income people recieve that is taxes is largely due to the fact that college students do a lot of buying. Take away the college, and there would be no income to pay taxes on.
My definition of effective is a little different than what your first paragraph describes. The majority of the percentages you gave are related to a decrease in public drunkeness, not a decrease in drinking. After I recieved my first and only underage, I changed my strategies to avoid cops, not my drinking habits. In other colleges, the situation is similar. Friends at the colleges listed havent decreased their drinking, they have just changed their ways of drinking.
There are multiple goals of these policies. Reducing dangerous and destructive drinking is one. But, reducing the impact of drinking on the rest of the community is another. I haven’t cited all statistics in all cases, but most of them do show that they have at least kept drinking level or reduced it. At Penn State, which has taken few of these actions, has seen a dramatic increase in drinking. Many of these measure DO reduce the negative effects of dangerous and destructive drinking on the rest of the community, even if they do not significantly reduce student drinking. Reducing student drinking will take a number of other measures, in addition to these.
The incidence of taxes can be complex, but according the the borough leaders who have looked at the numbers, my assessment is correct.
Average discretionary spending by college students was recently estimated to be $8,400, so a $100 increase would require less than a 2 per cent reduction in spending on clothes, cell phones, and yes, maybe alcohol, where the average student is now estimated to spend nearly a $1,000 annually.
Won’t get any disagreement from me that IFC, Greek Life and others need to take real action on those fraternities that will not be responsible.
[...] in the fall when everyone was really worked up about the proposed Nuisance Ordinance? For those of you who don’t remember, this piece of legislation proposed to hold party hosts [...]
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