After nearly nine months since it passed, Eugene’s Ordinance on Unruly Gatherings — also known as the Social Host Ordinance — is still on the minds of Eugene residents. There have only been 11 citations since the ordinance went into effect last April — a small percentage of overall party-related citations. However, the ordinance, which makes hosting an unruly gathering a criminal offense punishable by a $375-$1,000 fine, was a large point of contention for students when it first passed last January. ASUO Senator Lamar Wise attempted to repeal the law and had no result, though he collected 2,000 signatures and presented his initiative in front of the Eugene City Council.
On Monday as part of the annual “Your Neighbors and U” event, UO President Michael Gottfredson, ASUO President Sam Dotters-Katz and members of the University of Oregon Police Department and Eugene Police Department went door to door across six blocks near the UO, reminding residents of the ordinance and its consequences.
According to EPD spokesperson Melinda McLaughlin, because this fall is the first that the ordinance has been implemented, Eugene police don’t know how many social host citations to expect. Typically, party citations — along with EPD party patrols — increase during fall with students returning to campus. Last weekend, there were a total of 67 citations, 55 of which were UO students; however, none of the citations were related to the Social Host Ordinance.
Jennifer Summers, UO director of substance abuse prevention, was part of “Your Neighbors and U,” and said that all the students she talked to were aware of the ordinance. Because the ordinance has many different aspects that it uses to classify an unruly gathering, Summers said it is important that students understand the ordinance. Because of its high level of accountability for both the party’s host and the landlord of the property the party takes place on, Summers believes the ordinance has been effective in teaching students about responsible parties.
Some UO students, however, still worry about the ordinance’s consequences. Senior Ellie Richardson, who lives in the West University neighborhood with eight roommates, worries that she could be put at risk of being punished simply because of the number of people living with her. Under ordinance rules, if Richardson and her roommates were watching a football game, drinking a few beers and received a noise complaint, they would be in violation and could be fined. Though she believes it’s unlikely that this would happen, Richardson said the possibility is worrying.
“It doesn’t really make sense,” Richardson said. “That it could even happen is kind of absurd.”
Regardless of community opinion, Summers says the ordinance has changed party culture around the university.
“Mainly, it’s just gone through and educated students on the threshold of responsibility for a party,” Summers said. “I think it’s a learning tool for students to recognize what it means to party responsibly.”