Southside's Late-Night Noise Problem

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Remember when you were kids, and how the really obnoxious kids in third grade retorted "it's a free country" when they were told to stop doing something stupid? You don't do that anymore, right? Nowadays, we know better; when asked to define a right's boundaries, be it gun ownership or free speech, we Cal students generally draw the line at encroaching upon the rights of others. Nevertheless, the "free country" excuse has taken a new form-specifically, "it's a college town", which currently remains the all-purpose response of the student community as a whole to Berkeley's late-night noise problem.

Before anyone is tempted to play the "free country" / "college campus" card-I'm a student too, and I know how you feel. We've probably all heard someone grumble about a raging party that was shut down by a noise complaint, or had the misfortune of our evening cut short by one. Each time, we are compelled to feel disgruntled; we're just college kids enjoying our fleeting youth, so why can't the old folks and townies just deal?

Here's something not many of us know: more than one in four Cal undergrads report having their sleep or study disrupted by other students' drinking (38 percent). Furthermore, some of us have jobs that require us to wake up at high school hours (6 a.m. or earlier); others simply have circadian rhythms that are tuned to an earlier sleep/wake routine. For the students that do stay up late, some-believe it or not-are actually studying diligently, not surfing Wikipedia or flipping through videos. This varies, but the fact remains that not every student, let alone Berkeley resident, is awake and receptive to keg-stand cheers and roaming celebrations at two in the morning.

For long-term residents-those who are in it for the long haul and not just four short years-the strain has been especially devastating. One neighbor wrote that, due to more students staying in town during the summer and spring holidays, the three weeks between Christmas and spring semester "are the only days during the whole year that I sleep in my own bed, and not on the couch ... They are the only days I go to bed at 10pm and wake at 6am, rather than go to bed at 3am and wake at 6am." Clearly, some basic rights are in violation.

What can students do about all this?

If you're bothered by late-night noise, SPEAK UP! Talk to the problem neighbors and the landlord, or contact the Student Conduct Office or police. Being the spoiler is never fun, but your silence only encourages the problem.

Hosts and guests can start by respecting the City of Berkeley's designated Quiet Hours-10pm to 7am. If you're moving into a new place, touch base with the neighbors and ask about how soundproof the walls are; if yours are paper-thin, find someone else to host get-togethers.

Extreme partiers should be giving the frat/house party-Kip's-Blake's circuit a rest anyway; how about dressing up and hitting the town in San Francisco for a change?

Finally, to reach the long-term goal of redefining Southside's reputation, students need to stop associating being "social" with limitless drinking and noise when advertising housing.

This year, as many will agree, is a year for change, a chance to tackle long-standing problems of the past. Local residents have struggled with late-night noise for a long time, and especially in the past six years. When they are forced to only sleep three hours a night, and even Cal students are making trips home due to the lack of peace and quiet, the noise becomes our problem as well. This spring, some of us will prepare to leave a place that felt like home for the past four years; others will be just starting to find their niche in the social web. Whatever the case, we need to reach a more realistic consensus on the needs of our community-student and local alike-and firmly establish that not everyone is down for staying up.


Max Niu is a PartySafe program intern. Reply at [email protected]

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