Santa Clara University


The Big Q

Back to Blog

This Town is Big Enough for the Both of Us

Monday, Oct. 28, 2013

The first 20 student comments on "This Town is Big Enough for the Both of Us" win $5 Starbucks gift certificates. Entries must be received by midnight, Sunday, November 10th, 2013. Subscribe to the blog (by RSS or by e-mail in the right hand column) for updates. 

**DISCLAIMER: All characters and scenarios in this post are fictional.**
Steve is a senior at a private university in California. He’s involved with Greek life off-campus and lives in his fraternity’s house. The fraternity just moved to a larger house, next door to a middle-aged woman and her two young children. There are 13 total fraternity brothers living in Steve’s house, and as a result, it tends to get loud even when only the residents are hanging out on the front lawn or in the backyard.
The fraternity has thrown several small events at the new house that have bothered their neighbor. They usually just involve the housemates and a few friends playing drinking games and listening to music in the backyard. Their neighbor has called in noise complaints to the local police department on several of these occasions, sometimes leading to a warning and other times leading to escalating fines.
A few weeks after their last fine, Steve’s fraternity plans and executes a weeklong philanthropy event at their house. They donate all proceeds to several different charities, from cancer research to food banks. One of the week’s events involves teams bringing as much canned food as possible and constructing a creative sculpture out of these cans. The most creative can sculpture wins. Around 200 students show up to the event, which is held in the backyard. No drinking is taking place at the event, but there is music playing and the students are loud while communicating sculpture plans. The cops show up at the event at 7pm and shut it down. They also fine the house $300 for a noise complaint violation. It seems that their neighbor has called in again. 
Was it reasonable for Steve’s neighbor to call in a noise complaint for the event? Do Steve and his housemates need to accommodate their neighbor more, or does their neighbor need to be more accommodating? How can Steve and his house work with their neighbor so they can coexist more peacefully?
Useful Resources:
Photo by marsmet553available under a Creative Commons license.


Comments Comments

JDK said on Oct 28, 2013
I think that Steve's neighbor should have confronted Steve and his housemates before calling in a noise complaint for the event. At the same time, Steve should have reached out to his neighbors and let them know that the noise coming from their backyard was for a charity event. If the neighbor had known, he or she would have probably been more accommodating to their situation, and might have even participated/donated! It's a learning moment for both parties. Steve and the fraternity can learn to better communicate with their neighbors before hosting events at their house. The neighbor can learn that not all noise coming from the house is from partying. - Like - 1 person likes this.
McKenzie said on Oct 29, 2013
While I understand that as neighbors & as residents, everyone is entitled to live peacefully, I strongly believe this neighbor is infringing on the students' rights. These students are entitled to freedom of expression - in this case playing music - and their positive involvement in the community should be fostered. While the fraternity had the responsibility of informing the neighbors of an event like this, the neighbor's selfishness & lack of willingness to communicate speak the fact that poor neighborhood university relations are not only the fault of students. - Like - 1 person likes this.
Erica Chen said on Nov 5, 2013
I agree with you. Both parties have rights of freedom of expression and respect. Through the landlord may tell the renters a set of rules, these guidelines are not always met. Students may break these rules because they seem almost impossible to follow and there is no incentive to abide by them. In an article by The Catalyst (a newspaper by Colorado College), the writer brings up a good point about landlords telling families misleading information about living in a college community. When families rent a house in a college community, the landlord may tell them things like students are very willing to accommodate and do not throw socials after 10PM. Families believe in these statements and rent/buy the house, only to have their expectations broken. Therefore, the only solution to these situations is to build a relationship and make compromises. - Like
Justin Fitzsimmons said on Nov 5, 2013
I agree with both JDK and McKenzie that communication is vital to a good relationship, especially between neighbors with varying lifestyles. It seems that in this case, the onus is on the Steven and his fraternity brothers to warn the family, as this event is outside the usual course of events, drawing over 200 loud students. From the pattern of noise complaints and fines, it seems that Steven should have planned that his largest party thus far would also be his loudest and may cause his neighbor to complain again. Had Steven planned for this contingency, like JDK says, his neighbor may have supported as well as participated. Instead, a well intentioned, though loud, philanthropy event was such down. Proper planner would have Steven warn his neighbor, which would hopefully open up a clean line of communication. - Like
Erica Chen said on Nov 5, 2013
I strongly believe that it is not ideal for families to be living in a college community. College students and families have completely opposite lifestyles so living in the same community is bound to stir up problems. In order to better this situation, the fraternity and neighbors should establish a relationship, make compromises, and accommodate to one another's needs. The family should understand that because this is taking place in a neighborhood filled with college students, noise is unavoidable. Next time, the fraternity should inform the neighbor of events that they plan on hosting, but maybe limit it to once a week or once every two weeks. I think that if the neighbors knew that it was a philanthropy event, they would be able to understand why it got so loud and maybe even be on board with the event. However, if the fraternity continuously throws social events, I think that the family should be able to call in a noise complaint if it gets out of hand. The key to any relationship is communication. - Like
Stop Hate said on Nov 8, 2013
I think that Steve and his fellow fraternity members are being extremely sexist and oppressive against the woman living next door. These misogynistic, patriarchal frat members are asserting their privilege against the strong female neighbor who must balance work and raising a family. The only just solution is to have the fraternity shut down and the members' wealth must be redistributed to women and minorities they oppress with their privilege. - Like
Lauren S. said on Nov 9, 2013
I think that it should have been up to the fraternity to keep the noise down for most of their events. They are responsible for themselves, and are supposed to respectful of their neighbors. If they had let their neighbors know ahead of time that they were having a philanthropic event, I think that the neighbors would have been more understanding. I also think that if they did know exactly who has been complaining, they should go directly to that neighbor and apologize. Although I think that it was a little much for the neighbor to have called in a noise complaint on a charity event, I think that it should have been up to the fraternity to make amends and warn their residents prior to their philanthropic event. - Like
Dima Demishev said on Feb 11, 2014
On the one hand, it is reasonable for Steve's neighbor to demand silence and comfort in his own house. It is understandable that he gets very angry when there is a party and he wants to sleep because he has to wake up late. On the other hand, I consider calling the police to be the very last action taken against the source of noise. It is unethical to report a complaint before you actually talked to your neighbor. I am sure that this problem could be very easily solved through simple friendly talk between two people. While Steve's neighbor is acting inhumanely, Steve himself is also being unethical. He knows that his party makes much noise and makes his neighbor angry. The best thing he could have done was to inform that person beforehand and most likely they would have come up with a compromise. To sum up, both sides in this situation are being unethical. Their biggest problem is the lack of communication between each other. A constructive debate would most likely solve all their problems and maybe they would even become friends and Steve would start inviting his neighbor to the party. - Like
Post a Comment

Tags: alcohol, Charity, civic engagement, college, college students, decisions, drinking, ethics, etiquette, exploited, fraternity, greek life, independence, party, partying, respect, stereotypes, The Big Q