Many students engage in the consumption of alcohol and have social gatherings where they enjoy the presence of other students after a long, hard week of school. Sometimes these gatherings become too large and noisy, making it hard for the next door neighbor to get some sleep. This weekend behavior has created tension between the Amherst residents and University of Massachusetts students over noise, alcohol and parking.
This tension has led to Amherst town meeting members voting to increase the fines on bylaws that are aimed at college students. For example, two years ago the fines for noise violations or nuisance house violations, unlicensed kegs and open containers were all raised to $300.
Have you ever been through the joyful experience of dealing with Ernie’s Towing to get your car back after it’s been towed? There’s a reason why they’ve been towing so many more cars. Amherst has bylaws that designate certain neighborhoods to be regulated as tow zones.
This past fall, the residents of Amherst designed a petition to stop allowing single family homes to be converted into multi-family homes in an attempt to control the social gathering scenes. The hope is that this measure would help prevent residential neighborhoods from becoming student housing.
However, it is time for this tit for tat behavior to stop. The University represents a growing community that is not going anywhere. Students will inevitably party and consume alcohol, and it is time to find a solution that works for both parties, instead of just penalizing students. A solution to this would be for more students to run to be Town Meeting members.
What I am proposing is that the town bylaws should represent a collective ideology that reflect cooperation between students and residents; not the dominance of one over the other. Students are a key part of this town as the University is critical to the town’s economy. Due to students sheer numbers and because of the role students play in the economy, students’ voices should be a part of the writing and formalizing of the bylaws.
In the fall, voter registration tables were located all around campus. This was great. But my question is, why aren’t there tables on campus now registering students as Amherst voters and helping interested students to get elected to Town Meeting?
Let’s put our heads together and create a student voice not to combat but to work with Amherst residents, even though many of us, including myself, believe that their voice sounds like the adults from Charlie Brown.
However, we have to learn to work with them and we have to elect student representatives to the Town Meeting because every vote in Amherst has an impact.
There is power in numbers, and we have a lot of numbers. Don’t let the residents decide our lifestyle: we are voting individuals of this community who want a say in how the town is run. If we feel as if a bylaw is hampering our residential experience, we have every right to petition and vote in our town’s voting process.
Some of you may believe that our voice doesn’t have the force to make any noise at Town Meeting. Others may believe that the tension is insurmountable and all of our efforts are futile. We have to change that thought process. We need to get political and start getting involved because it seems as if the bylaws will only get tougher on students.
For the future of our alma mater, we have to try and make the relationship between residents and off-campus students a more civil one. We do not want our future students to endure even stricter bylaws as a result of our inaction.
Evan Hutton is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.