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University Student Commission discusses couch burnings, party litter

October 3, 2013

MSU and East Lansing has had a bad reputation for couch burnings in the past, so this year, the University Student Commission plans to put in extra effort to eradicate the issue.

The University Student Commission is a commission of MSU students who make proposals and suggestions to the East Lansing City Council addressing the problems students face. Their second meeting of the school year was Oct. 1, when members met to outline their initiatives for the semester.

Issues included the rise in tuition costs and the continuation of party litter policy, but the main topic of conversation was couch burnings.

Commission chair Marisa Martini said an unusual number of couch burnings throughout the summer sparked their debate. She sees these burnings as a big safety risk, not as a mode of celebration.

“There is no reason to take part in it.” Martini said.

She and the other commissioners hope to address this issue before the spring, when couch burnings increase in the height of the basketball season.

East Lansing police Capt. Jeff Murphy said couch burnings were a major problem for the police and fire department this summer, but noted the number of burnings has gone down since the fall semester began.

Besides being a nuisance for all residents of the city, another big problem with couch burnings are the misappropriation of emergency responders, Murphy said.

“Police and fire have to deal with burning items in the road — it takes the emergency response out of position to deal with bigger problems,” Murphy said.

Another issue of importance to the commission is dealing with party litter. The city defines party litter as bottles, cans, cups, kegs, food wrappers or containers. Officials consider the waste detrimental to the public health, safety and general welfare.

The commission has pushed for changes to city ordinances in order to curb party litter in the past — in 2011, the city made an ordinance that increased the penalties of party litter charges.

East Lansing City Clerk Marie Wicks said the change was a necessity meant to address repeat offenders. The police now have the ability to charge houses that repeatedly break this law. So far, the changes seem to be working, she said.

“We have had bad offenders, but the city is looking better,” she said.

With the changes starting to take place, the next step for the city and the commission is education.

“We’ve got an ordinance in place, now its just about reminding people that we have an ordinance,” Wicks said.


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