Anyone who lives off-campus, knows someone who lives off-campus or who just has frequented off-campus gatherings during their time at Bates, knows there is something noticeably different this year. Due to outspoken members of the Lewiston community, new ordinances have been proposed with regard to students living in off-campus, non-Bates owned houses. Some things proposed include things like inability to park on certain streets or the newly proposed “nuisance party” and “unlawful noise” ordinances.
These ordinances were recently proposed by the city council and go up to vote on October 3. If passed, the new ordinances could come into effect as soon as early November. A nuisance party is defined, by Dean Carl Steidler and Interum Head of Security Paul Menice, as a social gathering or party occurring at a residence within the City of Lewiston that results in any of 12 listed conditions that include disorderly conduct, public urination, or unlawfully loud noise. Violations of this ordinance could result in fines of $300 for tenants in response to a first time offense, and can escalate with repeated offenses.
In addition to these definitions, there is a clause in the nuisance party ordinance that holds tenants responsible for all guests in their home. This could mean that if under-age students enter an off-campus house, the tenants of the house can be charged with furnishing alcohol to a minor, a Class E crime.
The unlawful noise ordinance focuses mainly on excessive noise created in a home or in the streets during nighttime hours, especially from 11 p.m. – 7 a.m. The unlawful noise ordinance states “it shall be unlawful for any person or persons to create, assist in creating, continue or allow to continue any excessive, unnecessary, or unusually loud noise which either annoys, disturbs, injures, or endangers the reasonable quiet, comfort, repose, or the health or safety of others within the City of Lewiston.” This ordinance would focus on fining offenders, with increasing fines for repeat offenders.
As a student who lives off-campus, I am caught at a crossroads. Of course respecting our neighbors and community members is something that should not need laws to encourage decent treatment of each other. However, I am left wondering how many non-Bates student Lewiston residents will be cited for either of the proposed ordinances? How do we as a community work to regain the respect of our neighbors, to the point where they do not feel like they are forced to involve law enforcement in order to get our attention? How do we persist in being good neighbors and not come off appearing as entitled kids who are upset they are no longer allowed to party?
The relationship between Lewiston Police Department (LPD), Bates Security, and the student body is also something worth examining. To what extent do either LPD or security have the right and authority to break up a gathering on suspicion even if neither entity has received a noise complaint? For me, the relationship between Bates students, the community, and LPD go far beyond parties being broken up or people being fined. I feel as though these ordinances are creating an “us versus them” situation that is brewing hostility on all sides.
Although the college has done a good job of keeping students informed and creating alternative options to off-campus parties, there is still much work to be done. Going forward, more clear definitions need to be set in order for students to feel safe within the community and not feel as though they are at the discretion of whatever cop shows up at their door. While it may feel as though Bates students are being attacked, we must all also consider why and how we have driven community members to this point where they must go to the full extent so they too feel safe in their own homes.
Moving forward we as students must also reflect on our tendencies rather than simply being frustrated, upset, or blaming community members.