The perpetual challenge facing thousands of Cal Poly students, and even more of our colleagues who live, work and raise families in San Luis Obispo is how do we respectfully co-exist with profound differences in our lifestyles? Students have drastically different routines, habits and perceptions of respect and courtesy than do most community residents. Those of us living off-campus constantly struggle to live our lives fully while respecting the needs of our neighbors, and for those of you in the dorms, it’s only a matter of time.
As students, we’re in an interesting predicament: we’re on our own for the first time, anxious to carve out our independence and living in an area with a very youthful and active nightlife. On top of all this, we’re likely to live next door to a family home with young children and parents who leave for work early in the morning. Mix these two scenarios with a late-night gathering and a couple refreshments, and you have the age-old problem of college town community relations.
Many San Luis Obispo residents would like to believe that we are in fact not a college town, but instead a beautiful and quiet retirement community. For better or worse, both are true. Over one-third of our total population is enrolled at Cal Poly or Cuesta, and over $1 billion annually is contributed to the local economy from the impact of Cal Poly alone.
But let us not ignore that many of our neighbors don’t join us downtown, and aren’t interested in the frequent gatherings that we stage around town. While the fear of San Luis Obispo turning into the next Isla Vista party destination is a valid concern, is it fair that students can be fined up to $1,000 for making too much noise after 10 p.m., or using their yard as a makeshift restroom?
The answer isn’t simply black and white.
If you had to wake up for a final at 7 a.m. and your neighbors were blasting Juvenile at 2 a.m. could you grin and bear it? If every time you walked downtown it smelled like a grimy New York subway station would you defend the right to urinate in public?
The problem isn’t that the police are out to get us, or that the city is conspiring to drive us out with their endless bureaucratic hand slaps. The fact is that city officials are concerned with preserving the health and safety of the public, and maintaining everyone’s right to party all night just isn’t a top priority. It is unfortunate that students are frequently targeted by the police, but if we invested a bit more of our energy into avoiding these encounters, the outcome would be dramatically different. Here are a few tips for avoiding a run in with the SLOPD, and boosting your image with your neighbors:
Notify your neighbors in advance if you’re planning a large gathering. Include your phone number so they call you instead of the police if it gets too loud.
Be a responsible host and make sure that the backyard is kept quiet during late-night hours. Unfortunately, your yard is probably next to their bedroom window.
Don’t be afraid to put an end to a gathering that has gotten out of control. A rumor that the police are on their way should do, but be sure that folks get home safe.
It’s not about us versus them – it’s about a community working together. Both sides need to be more understanding and tolerant, but my sense is that unless students make the first move to show that we’re genuinely interested in enhancing our community and respecting our fellow residents, it’s unlikely that we’ll ever get the respect we deserve. This is our community challenge – are you up to the task?
Tylor Middlestadt is the ASI president and a Mustang Daily columnist