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Online Only: Noise complaints at Beer Bike

By Ellen Liu     4/12/12 7:00pm

Rice University Police Department officers reported to several north colleges on the morning of Saturday, March 31, in response to noise complaint calls from residents in the nearby neighborhood. RUPD Captain Clemente Rodriguez said officers spoke to college leadership at Duncan College, Martel College and Jones College and asked them to turn the music down.

"The city of Houston has a noise ordinance," Rodriguez said. "Most of the complaints were from the early morning hours, and those are the times when the city wants to keep the noise down."

Duncan started playing music at 5:15 a.m., and Martel started at 5:30 a.m. According to Rodriguez, nearby residents complained to the Houston Police Department, and HPD transferred the calls to allow RUPD to deal with the issue.



According to Duncan Beer Bike Coordinator Matt Makansi, an RUPD officer came to Duncan around 6:30 a.m., and Makansi attempted to talk to the officer before commotion broke out. Neither the Duncan coordinators nor the Duncan chief justice had been informed that RUPD would be coming prior to the officer's arrival, Makansi noted.

"I asked what the problem was and what I could do to help with it, and he returned with a fairly hefty rant about the sound of our music," Makansi, a sophomore, said. "I asked if turning down the music at least halfway would help the situation ... explaining that this was the first time, I, as a coordinator, was hearing about the noise complaints and that we would gladly comply with RUPD's requests so long as they specified what they needed from us."

The officer's presence attracted the attention of several students, and a crowd of drunken, underage students began to yell at the officer. This in turn caused the officer to threaten to check for identification and arrest people for underage drinking, Makansi said.

"I once again tried to calmly ask him what solution would work best to appease everyone, explaining that my only goal was to ensure that RUPD and the neighborhood residents [were] happy," Makansi said.

Makansi said he told the officer that he would turn the music down and ensure that the volume stayed at a reasonable level, at which point the officer left.

According to Martel Beer Bike Coordinator Jordan Schermerhorn, a similar situation occurred at Martel. An RUPD officer arrived at 6 a.m. without prior contact with the Martel coordinators or the Martel chief justice. Schermerhorn, a senior, said she tried to communicate with the officer, but the officer was unresponsive.

"[The officer] didn't look at me and kept walking right past me," Schermerhorn said. "It felt like she was on a mission. She pulled the cord out of our stacks and started yelling at Martel. She said that there were people around in the neighborhood who were trying to sleep."

The officer then told Martel to turn down the music and said she would be unable to stop HPD from coming on to campus, Schermerhorn noted.

"I felt like they were threatening us with HPD if we didn't turn [the music] down, so we definitely tried to comply," Schermerhorn said.

An hour later, a second officer came to Martel, and like the first time, neither the Beer Bike coordinators nor the chief justice heard from RUPD in advance, Schermerhorn said.

The officer said that he needed to start checking IDs, and students immediately returned to their rooms, according to Schermerhorn.

"We had turned down the music, and we didn't turn it up, so we were very surprised to see the second officer come," Schermerhorn said.

According to Rodriguez, the officer reported back because complaints persisted.

"When we have follow-up complaints after we have already been out there, the officers have no choice but to go back to try and get compliance," Rodriguez said. "[The officers] did their best. They spoke to the coordinators to try to get the students to control [the noise]."

Although officers may have threatened to shut the party down, Rodriguez said that no referrals for Minors in Consumption were reported.

"Yes, [the officers] had to make repeat trips, but I think that was fair," Rodriguez said. "They were able to get compliance without further action."

Schermerhorn said she would have liked to see the situation handled differently.

"I've never been threatened by HPD on campus before," Schermerhorn said. "I think it represents a decay of the relationship between students and RUPD."

Schermerhorn said she was suprised by the officer's lack of effort to engage in conversation about the problem.

"I felt like there was a lack of respect for students and allowing them to handle the situation," Schermerhorn said.

Martel sophomore Luz Rocha witnessed the incident and said she didn't think the Martel party was that out of control.

"I honestly don't think the music was that loud," Rocha said. "I barely heard it from my room, which is why one of the reasons I woke up so late for Beer Bike. The Martel stacks are not the best, and I usually only hear them from the Martel quad."

Makansi echoed Schermerhorn's sentiments and said he thought RUPD should have communicated with the colleges better.

"An officer threatening to hand out [citations for Minor in Consumption] to half the college before we even knew why RUPD was upset seemed a bit overboard," Makansi said. "I would have appreciated an opportunity to fix the problem before intervention by RUPD occurred."

Makansi said he appreciated the work that RUPD does to keep the student body safe.

"Our intention was never to work against RUPD and to make their lives more difficult, but without proper communication, there is no way of fixing the problem, making everyone more upset," Makansi said.

Rodriguez said he hoped music could be kept at a lower level in future years.

"In the future, we want to make sure that the colleges realize that we want them to enjoy Beer Bike but also be respectful to neighbors," Rodriguez said.



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