News

New noise policy aims to quiet campus

The new noise policy limits the days and times during which students can make “disruptive noise” near university buildings. From left to right: Protesters outside the University Center speak out against Carnegie Mellon’s partnership wtih Rwanda; students gather on the College of Fine Arts lawn for this semester’s activities fair; a crowd gathers to watch last year’s Anti-Gravity Derby; and local activist Kimberly Ellis speaks to a several hundred Pittsburghers at a rally by the Fence to protest the killing of Trayvon Martin. (credit: Photo illustration by Jonathan Carreon/Photo Editor) The new noise policy limits the days and times during which students can make “disruptive noise” near university buildings. From left to right: Protesters outside the University Center speak out against Carnegie Mellon’s partnership wtih Rwanda; students gather on the College of Fine Arts lawn for this semester’s activities fair; a crowd gathers to watch last year’s Anti-Gravity Derby; and local activist Kimberly Ellis speaks to a several hundred Pittsburghers at a rally by the Fence to protest the killing of Trayvon Martin. (credit: Photo illustration by Jonathan Carreon/Photo Editor)

The campus noise policy has been revised to limit the amount of noise coming from student organization activities on the Cut. The revisions were announced to leaders of Greek and student organizations in an email from Director of Student Activities Elizabeth Vaughan and Associate Director of Student Life for Upperclass and Greek Houses Lucas Christain. The new policy is also available online in Carnegie Mellon’s Student Handbook, The Word.

The main change is the clarification that the noise policy applies to both indoor and outdoor activities. In particular, the new policy is meant to target activities on the Cut.

“We received a lot of feedback from faculty, staff, and students saying that we need to preserve some periods for studying and being in class,” Christain said. “People were saying how they had to close windows in class because there was music coming from the Cut or from another part of campus.”

According to Christain, in the majority of the complaints, the noise was coming from student organizations, which is why he and Vaughan made a special announcement to student organization leaders. “It was important that student organizations were aware of this policy because a lot of their activities include tabling, hooking up speakers, or doing something on campus outside,” Christain said.

Both the current noise policy and the previous version, released in 1998, begin by specifying hours when certain types of noise are permissible, and both versions then go on to say that “excessive noise that results in a reasonable complaint from residents within or beyond the campus” is never permitted.

However, when specifying the hours, the 1998 version defines the type of noise restricted as “indoor activity that can be heard outside a university building.” The current revision expands this definition to include both indoor and outdoor noises, such as those from activities happening on the Cut. Specifically, the 2012 revision uses the umbrella phrase, “Activity occurring on Carnegie Mellon-owned or managed property that disrupts the normal course of business or is otherwise disruptive to the university or surrounding communities.”

Although one could argue that the 1998 version would still classify loud activity on the Cut as “excessive noise that results in a reasonable complaint,” the definition is vague and doesn’t acknowledge how outside activity, like the indoor activity referenced, can be “excessive” during certain times of the day while permissible at other times.

In short, the 2012 version clarifies what type of noise is allowed at what time. “The main difference was that there was more ambiguity in the previous version,” said Student Body President Will Weiner, a senior economics and statistics and decision science double major who helped draft the new policy. “These revisions are helpful insomuch as they let student leaders know what policies are actually in place.”

There are also changes to the hours when “disruptive noise” is permitted during both weekends and weekdays. On Monday through Thursday, such noise is only allowed between 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., whereas in the 1998 version of the policy, noise was permitted from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. On Fridays, the hours are between 4:30 p.m. and 10 p.m., versus 4:30 p.m. to midnight in the 1998 version.

“We want to acknowledge that the university should have regular operating hours where the focus should primarily be studying and being in class,” Christain explained. “There’s a policy that undergraduate class[es] aren’t held, or shouldn’t be held, between 4:30 and 6:30, so it’s a free period of time that we can set aside for student activities.”

The 2012 policy also acknowledges that “a vibrant campus culture ... will necessarily involve some noise associated with campus activities.”

“We don’t want to squelch student life,” Christain said.

The new revisions also expand the permissible noise hours during the weekend. In the 1998 version of the noise policy, the hours were between 4:30 p.m. and midnight, while the current revision expands this period from 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Although the 2012 revisions might restrict certain student organization activities, Weiner doesn’t think the policy will have much of an impact on campus. “Students are still allowed to play music and make noise on the Cut, but they should do so at a reasonable volume. At the end of the day, I don’t think the core culture of our university will change because people tabling have to turn down their speakers,” Weiner said.

Senior business administration major Alex Price, the general manager of WRCT, said he doesn’t anticipate the radio station being affected. “WRCT has always done its best to not disrupt classes and this new policy will not change any [of] our activities on the Cut,” he said in an email. “We want people to enjoy our music, not get an ear full of noise. Regardless of any ‘noise policy,’ WRCT always plays its music at an appropriate level while out on the Cut.”

According to Price, WRCT has known about the policy change since August.

“My adviser for WRCT told me about it,” Price said. “He said that if we’re playing music where we normally do, and somebody’s walking by the UC, they shouldn’t need to raise their voices to hear themselves in that conversation. Then I saw the email and thought, ‘It’s really not a big deal.’ ”