Though loud music and red cups are Football Saturday staples, fraternity members say they are being punished for taking part in these traditions and they’re tired of it.
Hoping to curb what it sees as a rise in noise and trash violations issued to fraternities on game days, a small group of representatives from the Michigan Student Assembly and the Interfraternity Council met with Ann Arbor Police Department Deputy Chief John Seto in MSA Chambers Friday.
“What we want to do is come out, as a group, from this meeting with some ideas, some helpful hints, that we can put together… for students to best follow the law (and) to best avoid getting violations,” Brendan Friedman, chair of the Greek Relations Select Committee, said at the meeting.
Seto said noise violations are generally the result of complaints from neighbors — including religious institutions that hold services on Saturdays — but that officers can issue a ticket proactively, especially in the case of a dangerously large pregame party.
“Crowd size is a big issue,” he said, adding that the fights and unrestricted alcohol use that tend to occur with large crowd sizes are “not acceptable.”
But students at the meeting expressed a desire for more specifics as to how to avoid receiving tickets.
Peri Silverman, vice chair of the Greek Relations Select Committee, said committee members have often felt that police officers failed to give them adequate explanations for why they were ticketed in the past.
“People aren’t able to gauge the situation,” she said.
According to Title IX, Chapter 119 of the Ann Arbor City Code, residents can be ticketed for a noise violation if any music or noise can be heard beyond the property line. However, Seto said enforcement of the ordinance is up to an officer’s discretion.
“You’re not going to get a ticket every time,” he said.
In September 2009, several houses on the 900 block of South State Street received a letter from a City of Ann Arbor attorney, who warned students that their landlords would be sued if they continued to litter, cause excessive noise and supply alcohol to minors on Football Saturdays.
Seto said there has been an improvement in student behavior since past game days, when the size of parties near the intersection of South State Street and East Hoover Avenue had presented serious safety concerns in the eyes of police.
During the game against Michigan State University last month, police gave only two tickets at that intersection. In one instance, the students had disregarded a previous warning from police, and the other resulted from a student throwing a beer can at an officer, which Seto said will always result in a ticket.
During the discussion, the group also talked about littering violations issued by police on Football Saturdays for red cups and bottles strewn on lawns. Seto said litter violations are different from noise violations and that the ordinance is based on “community standards.”
“Citizens cannot understand why students can’t put their trash in the trash bins,” he said.
Students expressed a willingness to clean up after their own parties but felt that they weren’t given enough time to do so before they were given tickets.
Seto responded that the ordinance was intended to prevent trash from blowing onto neighboring yards, and that the amount of trash — rather than how long it had been outside — was the determining factor in issuing a violation. He suggested that students take their concerns to the Ann Arbor City Council and attempt to revise the ordinance.
Andy Snow, a member the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity, expressed frustration that there appears to be a double standard in enforcement. While students in residential areas receive trash violations, adults litter without consequence on public property like Pioneer High School and the University’s golf course.
“I understand it’s a tough situation, but when we say students are feeling targeted that’s what they see,” he said. “I would think it’s a bigger problem on public property than it would be on private property … especially the golf course. That’s more or less our golf course, and it’s completely trashed.”
Seto responded by saying that Pioneer High School and the golf course are removed from residential areas and have fences that prevent litter from blowing onto private property. But he said students in residential areas have to respect their neighbors.
“I’m not saying that makes it right,” he said, adding that the location of the trash — whether it’s in a residential area or not — is the important factor.
Despite the somewhat conflicting perspectives brought to the meeting, there were a few points representatives from the fraternities and police could agree on.
Seto expressed support for the Sober Monitor Training Program, which Greek members redesigned last year to promote safer parties and to limit alcohol-related problems. Seto called the program “a great idea” with “a lot of potential” and suggested students could use sober monitors as a way to check for noise and litter violations.
He also said it’s important to have sober monitors present to interact with police if problems arise.
“You can’t talk yourself out of a ticket, but you can talk yourself into a ticket,” he said.
There was a general consensus among those present to make the meeting the start of a lasting dialogue between those in Greek life and the police department.
“We would like to work with you guys and keep the lines of communication open,” said LSA junior Rick Stepanovic, Interfraternity Council ex-officio representative to MSA.
Seto also expressed support for more communication, but said the constant turnover of University students has in the past hurt attempts at long-term communication.
He added that it is a little late in the year for changes to be made, with football season winding down and the weather growing colder, but that plans are already being made for next year.
“Cold weather puts a damper on people’s mood to party,” he said.