About the Noise | The Blog of Jeffrey Bullock

About the Noise

Based on our data, only 16% of my blog readers live in the Dubuque community. That means my Editorial below, published in the Dubuque Telegraph Herald on Sunday, December 17th, 2017, will probably mean nothing to you.

But before you exit the page and go on with your day, I’d like to suggest that you read it with a specific thought in mind.

While many challenges you face seem daunting or even impossible to overcome, when viewed in the context of the ‘big picture’, they are simply learning experiences masquerading as obstacles.

In this instance, our neighbor’s complaint about noise at a football game turned into an opportunity for us to think through the University’s role in being a neighbor, as well as a contributor to the larger community.

Moments like these afford organizations like ours the opportunity to conduct periodic inventories. Are we being a good neighbor? Are we contributing to our community’s overall health? Are there things that we can do better, or are we about where we need to be?

In other words, sometimes a difficult critique, when understood more broadly, can be an opportunity for organizational improvement.


My guess is that at least a few Telegraph Herald readers are following the discussion about the City of Dubuque’s noise ordinance as it relates to events on campuses of our colleges and high schools.

I was surprised, on the occasion of our last home football game, to learn that Dubuque police had been sent to quiet our public-address operation.

It seems that one neighbor complained that Saturday afternoon, and our announcer and public address team were instructed to turn down the volume or risk having the system turned off completely or, worse, being arrested.

Thankfully, a call to a city employee helped cooler heads prevail and our admirable Police Department was released to do what they do so well for our community. Also, we won the game in overtime, which is always a good thing!

I certainly understand that, on occasion, campuses can be pretty rowdy places, in addition to places of spiritual, intellectual and character formation. We all work with 14- to 22-year-olds who are in the process of learning. Learning how to read, write and seriously engage a subject, of course, but also learning how to grow and mature into the men and women God created them to be.

To be sure, living near a college or high school campus isn’t always easy, as with occasional issues with parking or litter. But owning a home near a campus does have its privileges.

For example, neighbors regularly use our campus to take walks, ride bikes, walk dogs (and, no, the leftovers aren’t often picked up), hit golf balls, throw footballs, jog on the track, play baseball or softball, kick a soccer ball or walk on the indoor track. Those are a few examples of the outside access.

Inside, we regularly host community organizations (often at no cost), politicians and candidates, art shows, lectures, basketball games and wrestling tournaments, youth football, basketball, lacrosse, soccer, cheerleading, choral and instrumental camps — all on top of the 32,404 people we’ve hosted at Heritage Center, 12,468 of which were part of our 2017 School Bus Performance Series.

Like our sister campuses, the University of Dubuque is a busy place — and thank God for that. In addition, along with Clarke University and Loras College, our collective 700-plus employees and 5,000-plus students contribute over $500 million annually in the form of rental housing, hotel stays, catering charges, payroll taxes, property taxes, building projects, medical and dental bills and automobile purchases. It is important that each of our schools does its part to help make Dubuque one of the most livable places in America.

So, hopefully, readers can forgive my mild disappointment about the noise issue.

After researching the subject, I’ve learned that UD hosts outside events approximately 42 out of 365 days in the year. Music is played at those events, at the absolutely most, for a total of about 31.5 hours out of the 8,760 hours in the year. This translates into music being played 0.359 percent of the time, which hardly strikes me as excessive.

Friends, neighbors do things for neighbors. We pick up their mail when they’re gone or walk their dogs when they are ill. To be a good neighbor, UD opens up its campus to its neighbors to bike, walk, play, meet, serve and learn. Occasionally — 0.359 percent of the time, to be precise — the noise from our loudspeaker might be a little excessive. We invite you to be patient with us even as, on occasion, we try to be patient with you.

And look on the bright side — at least we’re not playing disco!

18 Comments

  1. Got a smile out of this!!!!! A very Merry Christmas to all there!!!! and Happy New Year !!!! Alice Gibson

  2. Maybe the announcers could call the game like golf, in a quiet whisper and fans could be reminded that we are a Presbyterian school and sit quietly like church?

  3. I always enjoyed the football commentary when working outside in my yard. But that touchdown cannon gets me every time!!!

  4. Dear President Bullock: In spite of the data you drew on to place the noise associated with certain outdoor U of D events in a perspective favorable to the University, the fact remains that there are some folks in the University’s vicinity who object. Why not cut to the chase, issue a genuine apology and seriously study the feasibility of installing an acoustics system the makes possible direction and sound drift control. Now is the tome to go the extra mile! To be candid about this matter, data-based retorts to real problems, no matter their duration, are easily construed to be disingenuous. I am sure this is not your intent and urge you to clear away this impression.

  5. As someone who lives just two blocks from Goerke Field, home of our local college team the UWSP Pointers and several high school and junior high teams, I have experienced the sounds of the crowds as well as the public address system. I find it far more interesting than disruptive. I certainly wouldn’t think of complaining about it to the police. When we bought our home here we considered our proximity to the University an asset not a liability. I have often taken advantage of the track for workouts which at age 75 take longer now than they once did. I hope all your neighbors come to realize in time what a benefit it is to have great schools in their community and neighborhood. UD certainly is a great school! May you, the faculty and staff, and students all have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

  6. While you have certainly made a case for UD’s being a good neighbor; I do not see where or how the core issue was (if it even could be) dealt with. It is interesting that it was the last home game of the season, when the complaint was filed- what was different about that time? I would doubt the crowd, or the PA system was any louder then, than at any other time. So, was it a case of it being the ‘last straw’? Maybe an illness- I suffer from migraines, where I become very sensitive to loud noises. Since the police came to the announcer’s booth, presumably, after going to the complaintant’s address- to verify the validity of the call- the level of noise coming from the stadium must have exceeded some standard.
    Could the neighbor be new to this particular part of town- and just not have been prepared for what living next to a school campus would really mean in the day to day ‘peaceful enjoyment’ of their property? Living in the Chicago area, people still move into suburbs, not realizing that their new home is under the flight patterns for one of the airports. I live two blocks from the local high school (very intentionally). Yes, I here the crowds- on average, every other Friday night, in the Fall. They have a tradition of having fireworks at Homecoming. But, that ‘came with the house’; so there are no complaints from me or my family. Even if it is 17 years since the last of my daughters attended the school. And the other issues (parking, traffic, …) are not even a topic here.
    Unfortunately, the school may never know the identity of the complainant. It would be better, to be able to address the specific concerns- to the extent possible. I realize it was a joke, but golf voices, and sitting quietly is not any part of the American sports experience (except golf- and even then, after the shot is made, loud cheering is heard, and encouraged).
    You mentioned Dubuque’s noise ordinance. Apparently there is no exception granted for outdoor sporting events. Could the PA system be adjusted (the speakers re-positioned) to try and keep ‘the noise’ more within the bounds of Chandler Field?
    Yes, this has been, and is, an opportunity to reflect on what being a good neighbor means. And it means many things- different things, to different people. I fully believe, as you thoroughly describe, that UD is, has been, and will continue to be, a very good neighbor- an asset to the immediate neighborhood, and the larger Dubuque community. God bless all involved. But, one of your, our, neighbors has reached out- and deserves more than a statistical response. It may end up being physically impossible to meet the expectations of the one involved (short of enclosing the field)- but cooler heads will understand that, if both sides have a full hearing (and exposition). Maybe all this has been done- your letter is silent on some key points- perhaps for being concise. For better, or worse, not a constraint to me in this format.
    Thank you for all of your work, and leadership, at UD. Proudly a member of UD Nation

  7. Well said Jeff.. aren’t they glad we don’t put up a high fence with security guards like many schools do.
    Love the comment about golfing announcers and Presbyterian fans. Shhh!

  8. Perhaps, the neighbors would prefer a 20 foot high concrete fence the length of the field to block the noise and the view.

  9. Nicely said however I suspect it’s long shot that this particular individual is the slightest interested in the privileges or benefits of living in close proximity to UD. I would gladly give him/her one of my neighbors in trade.

  10. When folks prepare to purchase a home, they usually consider the pros & cons of the neighborhood. Generally, the presence of a nearby school, whether it be an elementary school, high school, or college, has a positive impact on the properties’ value.

  11. Hey Jeff, have the person attend a University of Washington game. No one in Mountlake complains about the noise, and it is more amped now than when you were on campus.

    Suggestion: earplugs to the neighbors as are given to the members of the Husky band.

  12. Well written, Jeff. You pointed out the situation perfectly. As they say, you can please some of the people all the time, and most of the people some of the time, and then there are some you can never please!.

  13. Well written, Jeff. I think it’s a bit of a fantasy to think that it an urban/university environment like that of UD sound levels will always be right where one wants them. Life is messy…games and events can be loud…stuff happens. My guess is that most people get that, even if a few folks don’t.

    Your stats and tone were, I thought, a great combination. You acknowledged that it can be challenging for some folks, even as you are honest that that’s kind of how it goes sometimes.

    And Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  14. Jeffrey, Great article with a touch of reality at being a good neighbor.
    Thank you,
    Leon Thompson

  15. UD has had complainers throughout the years. Who from my time at UD can forget “Mrs. White”, the first complainer about the Mu Sig’s cannon. She also complained to the police about people parking in front of her house, which included “Lefty” when he would deliver the mail to the New Men’s Residence Hall a.k.a. Cassat Hall. We in NJ had a noise complaint from someone who built his house next to the outter limit beacon (5.00 miles) for Runway 13 of Atlantic City Airport. Wonder what he had to say when the 177th ANG F-16s that share the runway took off with full-bore afterburners blazing on September 11!!! Maybe more smaller speakers aimed up into the home bleachers and down from the visitors bleachers might help, or send the neighbors earplugs, but it still won’t quiet the cannon!!! Merry Christmas from New Jersey on this Christmas Eve.

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