Feb 252007
Authors: Andy Nicewicz

The Bible says “love thy neighbor,” and wouldn’t it be nice if everyone followed this simple rule?

Unfortunately, this is often not the case, and some neighbors just can’t get along. It may be because of legitimate reasons. It may be in order “to keep up with the Joneses.”

It may be because of long-standing prejudices against a racial, ethnic, or social group. Or it may be because some people are just plain jerks. At any rate, in some cases a person just has it in for the guys living next door.

As many of you probably know, college students are often the recipients of such ill-will. And thanks to several town ordinances, college students are extremely vulnerable to such grudges.

I’m talking specifically about noise ordinances. This law says that “No person shall make, continue or cause to be made any unreasonable noise.”

Moreover, violators can be punished with a fine of up to $1,000 per roommate.

Now if you’re living in a house with a group of college students, more than likely you are going to have a party at one time or another. And if you do, first of all you better hope you have a good relationship with the neighbors. If you don’t, you could be one phone call away from a $1,000 ticket.

All your neighbor has to do is call the police with a complaint of a noise violation. When the police show up on the scene, it is totally up to their discretion what constitutes as “unreasonable noise.” So second of all, you better hope the police who come to check your home are cool.

If you have more than a few people over, I can pretty much guarantee you that there will be some noise emanating from your property, and all that’s separating you from that hefty fine is the accusation of a neighbor and the broad discretion of the police.

And that’s not right. Now I fully realize there needs to be noise ordinances because everyone deserves to live in a peaceful neighborhood. But “unreasonable noise” can constitute any noise that can be heard from beyond the originator’s property line, even if it’s far from being loud enough to keep someone awake at night.

And for cryin’ out loud, if there really is a noise problem, call your neighbor to turn it down before calling the cops!

But when your whole objective is to get “those punk kids” in trouble, for whatever reason, common courtesy probably isn’t a concern. The whole thing is reminiscent of Nazi Germany where one neighbor could call in the other for speaking out against the government, even if no such thing had been done.

I know that’s an extreme analogy, but when neighbors can call one another in and get them cited for something a vague as “unreasonable noise,” it creates an ideal environment for mistrust and coercion, a far cry from loving thy neighbor.

Oh, and don’t even get me started on the three-unrelated rule. Let’s just say if you are living in a house that violates this law, hopefully you’re neighbors aren’t into extortion.

Andy Nicewicz is a senior political science major. His column appears every Monday in the Collegian. Replies and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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