Notre Dame Belmont students break their silence

It’s the worst possible combination: a brand-new athletic field with bleachers full of cheering students, a neighborhood naturally shaped like an amphitheater and a strict city noise ordinance that empowers residents to report any and all sound disturbances.

And in the middle sit students from Notre Dame de Namur University, who are unable to cheer and make the same kind of noises at Koret Field for which their counterparts at schools such as Stanford University are famous.

As a result, Associated Students President Mallory Barr, 20, said the students are beginning to flex their political muscle, speaking out at the two most recent City Council meetings, holding demonstrations and planning a candidates forum for Oct. 25 to share their concerns with the residents vying for council seats in November.

“This is 100 percent student-driven, by a generation that has been characterized as apathetic and uninterested,” Barr said. “This has spurred them into action.”

Barr said there is a perception on campus that the city doesn’t respect students, and she suggests that many feel residents in Belmont simply do not like the college students who make up approximately 6 percent of the city’s total population. Residents who complained about the noise on a Saturday called Belmont police officers to the school’s Aug. 25 barbecue to celebrate its soccer team.

“There’s a sense that [neighbors and city leaders] don’t really understand what it is to be a college student, and what that experience of being a student would be at any other college,” she said. “The city responds to the voters, and right now that voter is the resident, but even if we’re not voting, we’re members of the community.”

Mayor Coralin Feierbach said she doesn’t feel there has been any communication breakdown between the city and the students. She said she hopes the school’s efforts to deflect sound away from Ralston Avenue — once done by a grove of eucalyptus trees — will give students the chance to scream and cheer while still protecting residents from unnecessary disturbances.

Notre Dame is planning a third sound test for either Oct. 10 or Oct. 14, using sound-measuring devices placed at numerous points around Koret Field, Ralston Avenue and Chula Vista Drive, Chief Operations Officer Tim Schickedanz said. The test will look at any impact a new set of field speakers — facing away from Ralston Avenue — will have on the sound in the area.

“When [the test is done], we’ll have a myriad of sound numbers for a report, to find out what kind of problem we have if we indeed do have a problem,” he said.

Schickedanz said that if problems persist, the school is considering building a second dirt “berm” around the existing bleachers to dampen any sound.

jgoldman@examiner.com

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