Paris Bienert: Enough noise about the noise law

When the D.C. noise ordinance went into effect Feb. 1, it caused an uproar among students at universities across the District; petitions were created, Facebook groups formed, plans made to appeal the law.

The Disorderly Conduct Amendment Act of 2010 makes it “unlawful for a person to make an unreasonably loud noise between 10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. that is likely to annoy or disturb one or more other persons in their residences.”

GW students, as well as students from other D.C. universities, feel affronted by the law because it appears to target students. And it is not fair that the Metropolitan Police Department can now fine and incarcerate people because an angry resident, and the responding officer, might consider any noise to be “unreasonably loud.”

However, it is important that we maintain perspective when forming our views about the law. It is not as if it is illegal for us to go out into the city at night. This law does not prohibit us from going clubbing, partying or doing any other activity we already do. Maybe this law isn’t as much of an affront as we may think.

Besides, being outside between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. does not necessarily entail rowdy behavior, and yet the reactions this law has elicited from students suggest we’ve been stripped of our rights as university students. Yes, it is unfair that we can now be arrested or fined for being too loud at night, but regardless of the law, being loud and obnoxious on the streets at night was never okay anyway.

Some students are acting as if the noise ordinance is the most oppressive, unreasonable imposition we have ever encountered. It is true the law itself is flawed, but the idea of city officers having the authority to shut down rowdiness in their districts is neither novel nor crazy.

The only reason the Disorderly Conduct Amendment Act of 2010 should be repealed is because the restrictions it outlines are too vague and can be problematic for law enforcement.

Creating a consistent means of application for this law is impossible with the way it is currently worded. But students should also understand that rowdy behavior is rowdy behavior, which is never appreciated.

But the reasons behind implementing the law should be respected. We should keep in mind that as GW students, we represent ourselves and our University all the time, and we should therefore be conscious of the way we behave on and off campus, especially late at night around the city.

So if you find the D.C. noise ordinance unreasonable and ridiculous like many students do, by all means continue encouraging your friends to join the Facebook group against it, to sign the petition and to do whatever else it takes to get this law repealed. All I am suggesting is that you think about how much of an impact this law will actually have. Students should not be “unreasonably loud” at night, regardless of whether or not they could be arrested for it.

Paris Bienert, a freshman majoring in women’s studies, is a Hatchet columnist.

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