Students claim revised UH noise ordinance targets JCU


Photo from Pixabay.

Sophia Maltese, Managing Editor

The City of University Heights revised its noise ordinances Feb. 21, making it easier for police officers to cite individuals for “disturbing the peace.”

As stated in chapter 648.11 of the University Heights, Ohio Code of Ordinances, the conditions for disturbing the peace are listed as, “No person shall disturb the good order and quiet of the City by clamors or noises, by intoxication, drunkenness, fighting, quarreling, wrangling, committing assault, assault and battery, using obscene or profane language in the streets and other public places to the annoyance of the residents or otherwise violate the public peace by indecent and disorderly conduct, or by lewd and lascivious behavior.”

The meanings of the terms “clamors” and “noises” are not elaborated upon. The vagueness of these terms provides University Heights Police Department with discretion in determining what noises and clamors disturb the peace. If UHPD determines that an individual has violated the ordinance, that individual is immediately cited and must appear in court. The maximum penalty is a second degree misdemeanor, which incurs a jail sentence of up to 90 days and a fine of up to $750.

As Saint Patrick’s Day approaches, this stricter ordinance is particularly concerning for John Carroll students. Eddie Jenkins, a Student Government senator for the senior class, wrote a resolution to express the student body’s discontent with the recent ordinance, if passed.

Jenkins’ proposed resolution took issue with the fact that University Heights did not warn John Carroll students about the harsher restrictions, stating “that the John Carroll Student Government expresses discontent for these policies and asks John Carroll University administrators to work with the City of University Heights to revise these policies.”

Jenkins elaborated on his resolution at the Feb. 25 Student Government meeting, saying, “Recently we’ve noticed that University Heights has been targeting John Carroll students. They sit on South Belvoir Boulevard waiting for people to walk across the street to go to class or their dorm and will write them several-hundred-dollar jaywalking tickets, and they recently updated their newest policy so now, any violation at any time of the day,  police will go and cite everyone there for disturbing the peace.”

In addition to writing the resolution,  Jenkins distributed a petition to stop UHPD’s restrictions, which has accumulated 323 signatures at time of writing.

“The city is [going through] some serious budget issues right now,” Jenkins said.” This is very clearly a revenue generation tactic, so I wrote [a] bill to try to encourage the administration to reach out to the city to let them know that we have noticed these actions, they’re unfair to the students, and that we are not happy about this.” 

Student Government Vice President of Business Affairs Maya Khawam disagreed with Jenkins’ position, stating, “They’ve been in a deficit for a while. So if it’s something that you’re noticing recently, then I don’t know if that’s the reason.”

According to the UHPD website, Jenkins and two other John Carroll students were cited for disturbing the peace on Saturday, Feb. 22. No other students have been reported as of Tuesday, Feb. 25.

In addition to enforcing the noise ordinance, UHPD has allegedly begun issuing frequent jaywalking citations.

“I got one of the tickets,” said sophomore Anthony Costarella. “I was crossing the street. I was waved on by two cars to go across, stopped by the police, told I was disrupting traffic, as [the police] are parked in the middle of the road and blocked traffic to give me a ticket that took over 15 minutes and there were three cop cars there. They were there for at least an hour or more. I’ve seen them back there at least four or five times, giving out mass quantities of tickets. They had kids lining up along the street, waiting to get tickets.”

According to the UHPD website, there have been no documented incidents of jaywalking within the last two weeks, as of Feb. 25. Yet, students report differently.

Collin Derrig, junior class senator and head of the Community Relations Committee, asked University Heights Mayor Michael Brennan about the ticketing. 

“I actually talked about the jaywalking tickets specifically [with the mayor]. Which, whether or not the mayor was telling the truth, the mayor was acting as if he had no knowledge of [the ticketing.] So, he said he would look into the incident.”

“There are no new laws surrounding jaywalking. However, it is the enforcement of the laws that have changed,” Jenkins said.

Student Government was divided over how to respond to the actions of University Heights.

“The [police force’s] picking and choosing of when to enforce these jaywalking laws is not aimed at keeping us safe. It’s actually impeding our daily lives,” said Sophomore Senator Sean Butler. “It’s really just making everyone’s lives harder.” 

In response, Vice President Esther Ngemba said, “As much as I stand with this resolution, I think as Student Government we have to remember that jaywalking is against the law.”

Jenkins was not convinced, holding that “What we’re seeing here is a targeting of John Carroll students, the people that [Student Government] is here to represent. This [bill], at the very least, says that, ‘Hey, we have noticed this. We are not happy about it and we would like to see it change.’”

The John Carroll Student Government decided on Feb. 25 to examine the issue in greater depth and hopefully reach a peaceful compromise with University Heights before passing an official resolution.