Noise and empty bottles in the street: The shht campaign isn’t bearing fruit just yet

The municipality is trying to prevent students in the Schildersbuurt from causing a nuisance with a new campaign. So far, it’s had mixed results.

It’s midnight on a Thursday in the Schildersbuurt. A group of giggling students are walking to a student house in the Jozef Israëlstraat. Their voices fade away once a boy lets them in and immediately shuts the door behind them. The street is silent again.

Perhaps the campaign signs saying ‘Shhht’ that the municipality has put up are working?

Outright failure

No, say several neighbourhood residents. In fact, says resident Benjamine, the campaign, which was initiated on August 15 and which asks students to be quiet between ten at night and nine in the morning, is an ‘outright failure’. 

‘There’s been a lot of noise over the past few weeks and the street was littered with empty bottles every morning’, she says. ‘This is a diverse neighbourhood. People of all ages live here and we have to take each other into account. We have to think of the students, but the students also have to think of us.’ 

Marcella, who lives three houses down, couldn’t agree more. ‘As far as I’m concerned, the campaign has not been successful. I’d secretly hoped it was working because things were fine during the KEI week, but it’s as though students think all of Groningen is this big festival and they can just sit outside with their beer, blasting music. Hanging a few signs isn’t enough to deter them.’

Rules

The municipality has a more positive outlook. ‘The neighbourhood residents put together a set of rules that apply to everyone, including students’, says city spokesperson Corien Koetsier. ‘The campaign was created because residents expressed frustration. We’ll have to wait and see whether it’s working.’

Perhaps the nuisance coordinator can play a helpful role in the process, although no one has been hired for the position as yet. ‘We’re envisioning someone who can mediate between the residents and the students, who can spot the things that are going well and the things that need improving. They can facilitate contact between parties to ensure everyone’s being heard.’

Barking mad

Neighbourhood residents Marion and Magda live right behind the H.W. Mesdagstraat. They’re increasingly often plagued by noise. They’re happy with the municipality’s renewed vigour. ‘I think it’s a great, positive campaign’, says Marion. 

‘Students cause a lot of nuisances around here, especially during the first few weeks of the academic year. I know a few people who went barking mad and moved away’, she says.

Magda is particularly glad to hear about the nuisance coordinator: ‘It would be nice to have someone who can knock on the door if students are causing a ruckus. A warning would be enough as far as I’m concerned.’

House parties

Student Isabelle lives in the Jozef Israëlstraat and supports the campaign. She understands why the municipality set it up. ‘People were having a lot of house parties during the pandemic, which caused even more noise than before. People would come back from the city centre and yell loudly while passing through the street.’ 

She and her roommates always try to keep their neighbours in mind. ‘We always talk to them when we’re having drinks or a party. We try to meet them in the middle, and we’ve had no issues so far.’

Tate, who lives in the H.W. Mesdagstraat, confirms this. ‘I understand the reasoning behind the campaign, although it took some getting used to being quiet until 9 in the morning. We have a good relationship with our own neighbours, we don’t hear from them much. But I can imagine a few other houses in the street causing a nuisance. Some of them throw loud parties quite a lot.’

Police

Student Marnix wonders if the new campaign will encourage students and residents to talk to each other whenever there’s a noise complaint. ‘The police showed up again last night. There are some residents who call them immediately.’ 

However, Betty witnessed some residents directly addressing students during the KEI week, telling them to be quiet. Now that the pandemic is over, she says, students tend to go out to the city centre again, which means there’s less noise anyway. 

‘My friends and I do that too, or we go back inside earlier than we would before’, she says. ‘I think the campaign is a bit much, but I’ll obey it.’

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