The Los Angeles (LA) City Council unanimously approved a new ordinance pertaining to house parties Feb. 21. The policy changes, first proposed by Councilman David Ryu in 2016 according to the Los Angeles Times, levy heavier punishment upon any loud or unruly conduct on residential property within the city of Los Angeles, including Occidental’s off-campus housing. Violating the ordinance may result in citations, as well as fines ranging from $100 for a first offense to a maximum of $8,000 for a sixth and any subsequent offense. Occidental’s Associate Director of Student Conduct Thomas Wesley sent an email Feb. 26 to students living off-campus regarding the updated policy changes.
“My understanding of why we had this ordinance change [is not because of] college parties, but rather the Hollywood Hills, party palaces,” Wesley said. “So part of me thought, ‘well, it’s important for the students to know the changes,’ but I’m not sure it’s going to affect them a lot. I think it’ll be fairly inconsequential.”
According to Wesley, Occidental’s party culture is tame, especially in comparison to larger private or state universities. Wesley pointed to his prior experience at Michigan State University and University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) as examples of schools with prominent party culture.
Ryu told the Los Angeles Times that these new rules are intended to impose greater accountability upon areas known for extravagant, large-scale events which are considered disruptive of the peace, such as the Hollywood Hills and other “party palace” neighborhoods.
Upperclass off-campus residents have divided opinions regarding the stiffer penalties and stricter policy, with some believing they will ultimately be detrimental to Occidental’s party culture. Alex Melikian (senior), a resident of an off-campus house on Alumni Avenue, does not think the changes bring any fresh cause for concern.
“We got an email when it was first passed, saying that these new laws were put in place,” Melikian said. “But I mean, living off-campus at Oxy, we’ve known for a while that there’s a strict party policy. You know the [risks] of throwing a party off-campus. You know what could happen.”
Other students expressed more concern, based on the way authorities respond to student-hosted off-campus parties.
“A lot of our friends are really fearful of throwing parties, and when we do throw parties, we’ve noticed that LAPD or Campus Safety arrives relatively early,” Gabriel Barrett-Jackson (senior), a resident of the off-campus soccer house on Avenue 47, said. “We are aware that there’s a mandatory curfew, but often Campus Safety or LAPD shut down our parties at like 11:30 or 12:00 [a.m.].”
Barrett-Jackson said increased penalties and police response to parties will likely sway students away from hosting them in general, or result in more invite-only events if they do.
“[Less of a party culture] can be thought of as a good thing, but I feel like my freshman year was really fun, and I got to meet a lot more people just because there were a lot of events going on off-campus,” Barrett-Jackson said. “We’ve noticed that when we invite a lot of people to our parties, that’s when LAPD comes. We’ve been really exclusive when inviting people to our houses, which is a shame because it’s not something we necessarily want to do, but it’s kind of our only way of hanging out together without getting in trouble.”
According to Wesley, the ordinance is unlikely to have a large impact on Occidental’s off-campus community, largely because its party culture operates on a much smaller scale than other schools.
“I imagine it won’t have as much of a long-term impact in Eagle Rock, because every year a new group of students is off-campus, and they have to familiarize themselves,” Wesley said. “But I’m not sure anyone would look at Oxy as a party school.”