It’s 2 a.m. Saturday and the police just walked out your front door. You just finished hosting a party, but are left with an empty house and a $1,000 fine. Not to mention, a landlord demanding even more cash for being placed on the “No Warning List.”
For some students, this is routine. They may have already racked up $8,000 in tickets this year alone and the cost can be easily absorbed into their family’s high income.
But for other students, this is financial suicide. They struggle with tuition payments and this fine could be the reason they have to drop out of school.
In reality, however, the fines work. According to Mayor Heidi Harmon, there is a relationship between increasing fines and fewer violations. But Harmon says they are not effective in improving the vital student-community relationships. Due in part to Cal Poly’s high average student-family income, Harmon says that fines are not the best way to keep noise down and reduce wild parties. Instead, Harmon has proposed introducing “significant” community service as an alternative to steep fines.
“I am 100 percent in favor of [community service],” Harmon said. “I think that would be significantly more meaningful for everyone.”
Council member Carlyn Christianson, a proponent of increased safety-enhancement zones for recent events, called the community service alternative “very naïve.”
“I don’t think community service would have one bit of influence over the kind of folks doing this stuff,” Christianson said.
Daniel Halprin, business administration junior and former president of the Inter Fraternity Council, argues that there is a better way to battle unruly parties without $1,000 fines.
“Allowing students to do community service as a repercussion for a fine would do more greater good for the community and wouldn’t cause such [financial] detriment on the students,” Halprin said.
He said that recently he has seen the City Council be much more understanding of the college environment, especially with the new party registration program.
Implementing a community service program would first take consensus from the Council to have city staff investigate before anything could be officially voted on. Harmon proposed the idea of implementing an alternative to the fines at the Jan. 17 meeting, but was unable to gain a majority of the council.
Still, according to City Attorney Christine Dietrick, implementing a community service program is not as simple as it appears.
“It’s not something that right now we could just commit to offering up on a wholesale basis to anyone who got an administrative citation,” Dietrick said. “We simply don’t have the staff capacity.”