Students warned of balcony complaints

More than a year after mounting cameras to monitor City Hall balconies, the University is warning students they could lose access if noise and smoking complaints persist.

University Police Chief Kevin Hay said the department received three noise complaints from students about other residents this year for rowdy balcony behavior.

In response, signs were posted throughout the residence hall and house staff sent out emails threatening to revoke balcony access.

A student was caught smoking a cigarette on a balcony, which Hay said contributed to the crackdown on balcony usage in the junior and senior residence hall. Smoking is “not allowed in residence halls for both health and safety reasons,” he said, adding that one student this academic year was reported to the Dean of Students office for smoking on a balcony.

One resident also reported finding a “broken, glass smoking device” on the balcony, expected to have fallen from a floor above.

The University also threatened to ban balcony use last year, after neighbors reported finding broken glass bottles on their property – thrown by students off their City Hall balconies. In August 2011, UPD installed three surveillance cameras to watch the terraces. UPD has not received any injury or disorderly conduct complaints from Foggy Bottom residents neighboring City Hall so far this academic year, Hay said.

“We believe the cameras serve as a good deterrent,” Hay said. He did not respond when asked if the cameras were effective in catching balcony incidents, but added that incident numbers fluctuate from year to year.

“The decision to put up the signs was a proactive measure by the University, based upon complaints brought to the attention of housing staff,” Hay said.

Vernon Williams, a Center for Student Engagement staff member, said most residents behave appropriately and that the University is “not venturing down the road” of restricting balcony access.

“In previous years, similar signs have been helpful in drawing awareness to community issues,” he said.

Senior Joshua Perkins, who lives in a City Hall room with balcony access, said he does not understand why the University would threaten balcony privileges for every resident as a result of few individuals’ actions.

“Even though [the University] installed these cameras, instead of confronting one or two people, they’re taking route to close balconies to everyone,” Perkins said. “It seems pretty draconian to be honest.”

He added that the policies are a “bit hazy” pertaining to smoking since smoking is not stated as prohibited on balconies, according to the University’s housing website.

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