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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Tucson red tag ordinance fraught with problems

    Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of three editorials regarding the dean of students’ new red tag policy, which allows the Dean of Students Office to punish students who have received a red tag for an off-campus party.

    It’s hardly surprising that the dean of students’ new red tag policy has prompted fierce student opposition, but even before students consider the fairness (or wisdom) of allowing the university administration to police off-campus parties, UA students should direct their attention to an even larger problem: the red tag ordinance itself.

    Tucson’s “”unruly gathering”” ordinance was passed in response to frequent complaints about rowdy student parties in campus-area neighborhoods. And the ordinance the city eventually passed was severely flawed.

    First, and perhaps most significantly, the ordinance fails to provide a clear definition of “”unruly gathering,”” opening the door for confusion, misuse of the law or worse.

    According to the ordinance, any gathering of five or more people that “”causes a disturbance of the quiet enjoyment of private or public property”” could be considered “”unruly.””

    It would be hard to write a broader definition, and the ordinance’s examples don’t help much, either.The ordinance states that “”excessive noise or traffic, obstruction of public streets by crowds or vehicles and littering”” could constitute an unruly gathering.

    A red tag being issued for littering is any indication, the law’s authors clearly intended to provide Tucson police with broad authority. But even if the ordinance was designed to crack down on disruptive parties, the ordinance’s sweeping definition is inappropriately broad.

    Consider, for instance, the possibility of an unusually loud family of five. While a perfectly reasonable person would expect the family to be louder than most neighbors, the red tag ordinance would allow the Tucson Police Department to slap the family with a red tag and a hefty fine.

    And the list of flaws doesn’t end there. The ordinance also poses a problem for roommates who don’t even attend a party that is issued a red tag.

    According to the red tag law, any “”occupant or tenant of the premises at which the unruly gathering occurred”” could be held responsible if the residence is issued another red tag within 180 days. Thus, a roommate who responsibly chose to avoid the party in the first place could be liable for heavy fines if his or her roommates recklessly decide to host another party.

    All of this begs the question: Would the Tucson community permit such an overly broad (and technically flawed) ordinance if it were usually applied to anyone but UA students?

    Probably not, which is cause for students to petition city council members to amend the unruly gathering ordinance. The definition must be more narrowly defined, catch-22s like the “”absent roommate”” issue should be remedied and students should make themselves aware of the ordinance’s intricate provisions.

    If the Dean of Students Office is intent on inserting itself into the world of red tags and off-campus parties (which it certainly seems to be), it’s time for students to know the standard by which they’re being judged.

    Opinions Board

    Editorials are determined by the Wildcat opinions board and written by one of its members. They are Justyn Dillingham, Allison Hornick, Damion LeeNatali, Stan Molever, Nicole Santa Cruz and Matt Stone.

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