URI Students, ACLU Disappointed by Orange Sticker Ruling
The court's decision last week went against the arguments made by both bodies.
When University of Rhode Island students will return to their Narragansett houses later this month, they will still have the burden of a possible orange sticker branding their house as a nuisance to the community.
Last week marked the second time that courts have ruled the “unruly gatherings” ordinance in Narragansett to be constitutional. However, the University of Rhode Island Student Senate, represented by the Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, argues otherwise.
In 2008, they sued the Narragansett Town Council over the ordinance, which gives power to police to place a 10-by-14 inch sticker on houses with excessive noise, public drunkenness and public urination, among other things. But the senate’s main issue with the ordinance is that it does not give residents an option to appeal a sticker.
A hearing in October that left student senators and the ACLU hopeful brought disappointment after they found that their appeal of the 2010 District Court decision did not make a difference.
“We’re upset, obviously,” URI Student Senate president David Coates said. “I think that we still feel that it’s unconstitutional and that it targets college students.”
He stated that denying students the right to appeal is his biggest issue with the ordinance.
“As much as I'm sure a lot of the police officers in Narragansett are good hardworking individuals, human error is part of human nature,” Coates said. “It's part of just who we are and that's why there’s a process in the legal system and that's what's being denied to students.”
He believes that the sticker is not effective because there are still parties going on.
Jefferson Melish, who has been representing the URI Students Senate since the lawsuit was filed, said he was very disappointed with the decision.
“We think that fundamental due process rights are being violated by that ordinance and the way it's being applied to students and landlords,” he said.
Melish also stated that he doesn’t think the ACLU will decide to further pursue the case, but Coates emphasized that this isn’t over. He said he hopes he can sit down with the Narragansett Town Council and make a compromise to the issue or negotiate how the ordinance is being used.
“You're talking about a town ordinance that really puts students on par with sex offenders in the community notification part of it, but it can’t be challenged,” Coates said. “You can challenge a littering fine, but you can't challenge something that says you are a nuisance to your community, which is just a little ridiculous.”