A recent restriction has put limits on Duke students’ ability to party late off campus.
Durham County’s instated a new noise ordinance this summer that forbids sound above fifty decibels between 11 p.m. and 8 a.m. The 50 decibel cap limits noises louder than a washing machine or a quiet suburb. Enforcement of this policy has created tension with Duke students living off campus, who have been stopped from making noise in their off-campus residences.
Police have been enforcing the ordinance regularly at Partners Place Condominiums, a residence on Morreene Road that is popular with Duke students. Senior David Estrin said he chose to live off-campus for the expectation of social freedom. The noise ordinance, however, limits this freedom by stopping residents from socializing in their own apartments after 11 p.m.
“Durham Police’s selective enforcement of the noise ordinance at Partners has stifled much of my social life,” Estrin wrote in an email Sunday. “As much as I ‘love’ spending my time and money in Durham bars and Shooters, I’d much rather hang out with friends in the comfort of my apartment.”
Senior Connor Lennard noted that the ordinance forces people to have fun away from their homes, such as on Main Street.
Community leaders, however, have interpreted the ordinance as a way to ensure smooth relations between students and their neighbors.
“This is how the city attempts to make everyone happy,” said sophomore Derek Rhodes, vice president of Durham and regional affairs for Duke Student Government. “[The ordinance] doesn’t allow Duke students who live off campus to do whatever they want, whenever they want, as loud as they want, but it holds everyone else in the city accountable to that same standard.”
A certain social lifestyle may be possible on Duke’s campus, but the Durham community does not conform to the college social schedule. As a city-wide regulation, the noise ordinance has to apply equally to the entire city of Durham, so it cannot apply differently to college students, Rhodes noted.
The Durham Police declined to comment on the ordinance, but John Dailey, Chief of the Duke University Police Department, noted that even University events, such as outdoor concerts on campus, garner noise complaints and can be handled by both Duke Police and Durham Police. Dailey said that the community should cooperate to resolve their noise issues.
“The level of tolerance for noise varies, and neighbors should work together,” Dailey said. “Within Durham, citizens can report neighbors creating a disturbance at any time.”
Rhodes said that, though there have been violations of the noise ordinance this year, he has observed students taking charge of their own misconduct.
“It’s the job of the Durham Police Department to enforce the ordinance, so they show up, and students are respectful of that and follow the orders they’ve been given,” said Rhodes. “In the instances I’ve seen, a lot of times students are aware that they may be a bit too loud and police themselves.”
Freshman Alexa Romersa experienced the noise ordinance for herself at a fraternity party she attended. While attendees enjoyed the ambience of the festivities outside the fraternity apartment, the Durham police waited below.
“The frat guys knew that they were going to get cited so they made everyone move inside,” Romersa said. “When it was time for the party to move to the next phase, everyone just kind of sobered up to walk past the cops but was ready for a good time when they got to the bus stop.”
Rhodes stressed that students who choose to live off-campus are aware of their responsibilities.
“The rules that apply to local Durham residents also apply to Duke students,” Rhodes said. “This is something that most students understand when they choose to live off campus.”