SSU students unfazed by stricter RP party ordinance
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By Natalie Gray  August 30, 2013 12:00 am

It may not be the choice of Sonoma State University students to live as neighbors among Rohnert Park residents year in and year out. SSU can only accommodate about 3,000 students to live in on-campus housing, but the school has more than 9,000 students currently enrolled and that number only seems to be climbing.

As a result, the students have had to branch away from campus and move into the Rohnert Park community. Recently, the two communities – SSU and Rohnert Park – have come to clash. Many Rohnert Park residents have complained to the police and city officials about the students.

They say that the students too often have loud and unruly parties and have gotten out of hand. To retaliate against the disturbances, the city has enacted a new 120-day punishment ordinance. Should police be called to a residency to break up a party that is deemed to disturb the peace, the occupants will be given a warning of 120 days: if a party or disturbance occurs within the 120, the residents get fined. The police hope this will deter students from having such parties. 

The students of SSU, though, are unimpressed by the ordinance and even less intimidated. Instead, they seem rather annoyed.

“It just goes with the territory,” SSU senior Jessica Leon said of the student parties. “This is a college town, it’s part of the college environment.”

That seems to be the general consensus among college students; that socializing is a part of college life and that socializing usually comes in the form of parties. 

“It’s part of being young,” said SSU student Renan Young. “It all goes into helping you find yourself. You also need to get it out of your system now, instead of when you’re older. It’s annoying that the city expects us to come here, try to have the college life and experience, pay for all this (businesses in the city) and then get mad about parties.”

Students feel the city seems unsympathetic to the students’ desire to socialize and experience what they consider to be the “college lifestyle.” According to Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety Director and Police Chief Brian Masterson, city police must respond to all calls received that report a disturbance in the peace, and the police have received enough calls on parties for the city to call for action.

“My goal is for the number of calls to decrease,” said Masterson of the 120 day-ordinance. He added he thinks the added time and fines for ignoring the warning will help get partiers’ attention and will help ease the relationship between students and the city. “I think it’s a great school and from my experience as chief we do not have a lot of problems.”

Students, though, are unconvinced the new punishment will do little to change things between the school and the city. Young said he believes that putting such a strict punishments on parties will cause party-goers and throwers to condense their parties and that those select few individuals willing to throw parties will have even more people invited. He said he does not believe the SSU parties of the past have been all that loud or large, but believes they could now be subject to grow. 

Recent SSU graduate and local resident Cassandra Childers believes close to the same. 

“I think that the type of people throwing the really loud and big parties won’t care,” said Childers. “They’re the kind of people that will keep throwing parties even if they get the 120-days.”

Childers, nor any of the students, expressed much sympathy for the permanent residents that live next to party-houses. 

“The thing about my hometown is there is no college in it,” said Childers when asked if she would be angered if such parties happened next her home if she were a permanent resident. “When you buy a house in Rohnert Park, you know there’s a college here. When you move in next to Allegro, you know those are student apartments.”

She jokingly suggested that maybe, to solve the problem, the city should be split in half, one side for the students and another for the residents. However, the only solution that students came up with wasn’t too far off from such a suggestion. 

“I think the idea of fraternity and sorority houses would be a better idea,” said Leon. “Then, the parties would be more contained and it would be easier for students and not so bad for everyone else in the city.”

Young and Childers also believe that having fraternity and sorority houses and perhaps locations like “frat row” like other universities would help ease relations between students and local residents. However, they all also agreed that they have heard rumors circling through the SSU campus as to why there are no fraternity/sorority houses that actually make them bitter towards the city. 

“I always heard that it was because Rohnert Park considers more than six girls living in a house a brothel,” said Leon, an affiliated member of a sorority. Childers claimed to have heard the exact same rumor during her years at SSU. Young said he had not heard such rumors, but had heard and believes it is because the city does not want the houses; that residents have fought to keep them out and would continue to do so. 

Masterson, however, said he has never heard such rumors and that, as far as he knows, there is no existing ordinance in Rohnert Park prohibiting fraternity/sorority houses. According to Masterson, there is nothing stopping someone from purchasing or renting a house for fraternity/sorority use. 

The 120-day punishment has already been activated within Rohnert Park. Should police be called to a party and find more than 10 people in attendance and deem it too unruly, they may give residents a 120-day warning. Should the police be called back to that house within the 120 days, those residents are subject to fines that begin at $500. 

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