Alfred Trejo

Austin-Travis County EMS responds to an emergency situation during a RoundUp event Saturday night.
Photo Credit: Lauren Ussery | Daily Texan Staff

Despite a recent sound ordinance in West Campus, more tickets were issued for underage drinking than for noise complaints during RoundUp last weekend.

Officers of the Public Assembly Code Enforcement (PACE) team, which works to reduce City Code violations, issued 68 tickets for minors in possession of alcohol and two tickets for violation of the City’s noise ordinance that restricts outside music to 75 decibels, according to APD Sgt. Alfred Trejo.

“In the past, we may have let noise complaints slide because we’re focusing more on underage drinking,” Trejo said.

Trejo, who represents APD on the PACE team, said the team went to approximately 12 parties in West Campus and shut down three of them.

“The parties that are getting shut down are not so much related to the noise ordinance, but that when the police are showing up, no one’s complying, or they’re overcrowding their parties,” Trejo said. “They weren’t controlling the number of the people the fire marshal originally told them they could have.”

Chemical engineering freshman Drishti Wadhwa attended RoundUp for the first time as a member of Texas Bluebonnets. After attending multiple events, Wadhwa said she had a good time but was surprised at how many drunk people she encountered.

Wadhwa said it wasn’t clear to why a party she attended was shut down. 

“I went to Zeta Psi, and it got shut down for some reason,” Wadhwa said. “I wasn’t really sure what happened, but they were like, ‘Please exit,’ so then we all just went to Whataburger.”

After attending RoundUp last year and going to multiple parties that were shut down for capacity issues, rhetoric and writing senior Sierra Vela said she decided to opt out of the festivities this year.

Vela said she lives in West Campus near three fraternity houses and tolerates the occasional weekend party but said she tried to stay out of her apartment because of the noise she knew the weekend would bring.

“RoundUp is a special time of year since the noise tends to be day and night for the entire weekend,” Vela said. “The times I was in my apartment over the weekend, I could hear one party or another. Bad country music and lots of random mass screaming during the day then rap or whatever at night.”

Besides RoundUp, Vela said she normally has issues with noise at the beginning and end of semesters.

“I will say that the frats do a pretty decent job of keeping the noise down during the week, which I appreciate,” Vela said.

In order to focus on the issue of underage drinking, Trejo said his team only issued tickets to fraternities if it received multiple 911 calls about the noise. 

“Specific to the sound ordinance, for the most part, every fraternity that had a band outside was, basically, in violation,” Trejo said. “We took the sound meter with us and measured.”

Most fraternities were issued warnings for their noise but almost all of them had outside entertainment that was over the City’s limit, Trejo said.

“There’s no way you can keep a band down to 75 decibels outside,” Trejo said. “We really didn’t see anyone making attempts to push their bands inside unless we told them to.”

Photo Credit: Albert Lee | Daily Texan Staff

Many Greek groups in West Campus still do not know the exact requirements of the city sound ordinance, after the city promised to provide details in a meeting last fall, according to Daniel Warner, government senior and former president of Zeta Beta Tau fraternity. 

The Oct. 1 ordinance, which seeks to reduce sound levels in West Campus, requires organizations to apply for a permit through the Austin Center for Events at least three weeks before an event. Warner said the lack of specific guidelines has hampered his organization’s event planning process.

“During this meeting, I had asked these [city] officials if it were possible to compile a list, including City of Austin ordinances and statutory law, that would have applied to us,” Warner said. “One of the speakers had notified us that they would ‘send us the link’ with all of the city’s ordinances and codes.”

Warner said the event permits have not been approved in a timely manner, making it difficult to organize events.

According to Austin Police Department Sergeant Alfred Trejo, the ordinance is not new to the city, but the code will be held to a stricter standard in the West Campus area. Trejo said organizations were required to previously get approval from the fire department before hosting outdoor parties, but the application has been updated to include approval from multiple city departments. 

According to Andy Polasek, computer science junior and director of the Taos Co-op, many West Campus residents have decided to no longer host public parties as a result of the permit requirement.

“It’s really hard to go through the permitting process,” Polasek said. “Some of our buildings even had to get new blueprints drawn up, just so we could
submit good enough prints.”

Polasek also said many co-op members are relunctant to host public events because of increased police presence during parties.

Trejo said when his unit inspected parties at three fraternities he said typically have loud outdoor entertainment, two of the three fraternities had moved the entertainment inside in an effort to comply with the stricter codes. 

Trejo said the residents of the fraternity who did not comply received a written warning. 

“Tickets are a last-resort measure the police use to gain compliance,” Trejo said. “In the case of the music permit issue on West Campus, I’m willing to bet there were several times where the police showed up and gave a verbal warning.”

Despite stricter enforcement of the ordinance in West Campus, economics sophomore Akram Sirafi said he did not notice a lot of noise before the implementation of the ordinance and has not noticed any difference since.

Trejo said his unit would not make any changes in enforcement, including during the Greek community’s annual weekend-long Roundup event in March. 

Allison Young, accounting junior and president of the University Panhellenic Council, said sororities are working to comply with the codes and are still planning on having philanthropy and recruitment events this spring and next fall.

“Our Panhellenic community is used to changes being made every year,” Young said. “Individual sororities will make the necessary changes in order to continue to host events that support their philanthropies.”

Austin should consider its residents when setting zoning requirements

Students dance to to the Yin Yang Twins during Roundup at ZBTahiti in March of 2013. 
Students dance to to the Yin Yang Twins during Roundup at ZBTahiti in March of 2013. 

Beginning Oct. 1, because of a plan the city of Austin announced earlier this month to change event regulations in West Campus, people planning to host a large event must apply for a permit through the Austin Center for Events at least 21 days beforehand. Austin Police Department Sergeant Alfred Trejo said in an interview that the 21-day requirement is because the city needed to streamline the permitting process, since some city departments weren't as involved as they should have been. According to an article in The Odyssey, APD cited an increasing number of complaints from the "older residents" of West Campus as another reason for its plan to further enforce these regulations.

The city zones West Campus as a residential area, so although only 12 percent of households in the 78705 zip code area — which encompasses West Campus as well as parts of North Campus — are "family households," the city's rules for these neighborhoods of college students are the same as its rules for family neighborhoods. While I understand that the people complaining to the city are justified in doing so under the law, there's no reason for anyone who moves to an area near a college campus as large at UT to expect a quiet, peaceful neighborhood.

Currently, the city doesn't issue sound permits for sound equipment located within 100 feet of residential zoning (Trejo said live music acts during events such as Round Up have often been illegal). This rule makes sense for most of Austin, but for West Campus, it seems a bit unreasonable. Instead of fighting the inevitability of West Campus residents continuing to host huge, loud parties, I'd like to see the city of Austin look at its zoning requirements and consider making some exceptions for areas, like West Campus, where large events are frequent and expected. I'm definitely not suggesting that Austin should do away with its permitting process and noise regulations, but I do think if the process were less strict and took into account who the residents in each neighborhood are, that would make the process easier on both the students and the city.

Voeller is an associate editor.

Although Roundup was considered a relatively successful event in terms of safety, the festive weekend was not without its woes.

Sergeant Alfred Trejo of the Austin Police Department region one district representative unit agreed Roundup 2013 was safe to attend and cited a lack of arrests and serious injuries, but said overcrowding and failure to abide by city ordinances put a damper on the celebration. 

Trejo is part of a Public Assembly Code Enforcement (PACE) team, a group of APD officers, AFD fire marshals and officers from the city’s code compliance group. The group is a team that handles special events throughout the city year-round. 

According to a report filed by Trejo’s team, the PACE team issued 36 tickets for minors in possession of alcohol and one ticket for public urination. The Austin Fire Department issued three tickets for fire code violations. A total of six parties were shut down. The PACE team made no arrests and did not receive any reports of serious injury or assault. 

“Roundup was fairly safe this year,” Trejo said. “Last year it seemed like the fraternities were doing a better job of regulating the amount of people that attended their parties. Generally speaking, this year they didn’t do a good job [of that].” 

According to Trejo, five parties were shut down because of overcrowding. The sixth party was shut down because a few attendants began throwing bottles at police officers. 

“Roundup would have gone a lot better if they just regulated overcrowding,” Trejo said. “Generally speaking, some parties did a good job and others didn’t.”

Donald James McNamara, president of the University Interfraternity Council, said it is out of the jurisdiction of his organization to deny entry to anyone but high school students and minors. Overcrowding and code compliance is in the hands of individual fraternities. 

“The problem is that Roundup has become a near-national event,” McNamara said. “On Friday we swiped IDs from the University of Anchorage in Alaska. The IFC’s only goal is to make sure our member organizations have a good risk framework to prevent high school students from attending their parties. The real goal would be to have each organization prevent overcapacity, which is not an easy task.”

Between March 20 and March 23, the IFC distributed close to 20,000 Roundup wristbands. The wristbands were designed to curb high school turnout. McNamara said policing wristband distribution efforts would be a counterproductive process because Roundup continues to grow in popularity.

“The only thing I can see the IFC doing is mandating that only UT students get wristbands, but I really don’t think anyone would condone that or abide by it,” McNamara said.

On Saturday, police responded to a riot that took place outside a concert featuring rapper Juicy J at the Phi Kappa Psi house. According to an official affidavit, police were forced to disperse a crowd of about 200 partygoers after several conspired to break a fence and rush into the property.

According to police and eyewitness accounts, the crowd was not allowed into the concert because it was at capacity. All attendees needed to purchase a separate wristband. The situation escalated, leading to the destruction of private property that prompted police response. 

“Juicy J didn’t even take the stage,” said journalism junior Dylan Dickstein, who was at the concert. “The police came inside the gates blowing whistles, pointing flashlights and telling people to leave.”

Trejo responded to the scene and helped in clearing out the party. 

According to the same affidavit, one UT student was arrested at the scene. Thomas Edward Adams, a mechanical engineering freshman, was apprehended by police after refusing to follow orders to disperse. He was charged with participating in a riot, a class B misdemeanor. 

Adams refused to comment, citing his lack of legal counsel.

Printed on Tuesday, March 26, 2013 as: Roundup overcrowds West Campus, ignores codes