GORHAM – University of Southern Maine fraternities last week said a proposed series of rules could quiet rowdy off-campus behavior, but police officers and angry neighbors said the students better act fast.

“You’re putting on a smoke show,” Officer Dean Hannon of Gorham Police Department told a contingent of fraternity leaders and students at the neighborhood meeting with residents and university officials at the Gorham Municipal Center.

The Sept. 16 meeting with fraternity representatives, students, neighbors and university officials marked the second such gathering since fall classes began. But problems have persisted, neighbors and police say, including noise, public drinking and public indecency.

There are three fraternities and one former sorority in downtown Gorham. The neighbors of fraternities live on streets that include Preble, South, Elm, Church and School streets besides College Avenue. The fraternities are Delta Chi, 19 Preble St.; Phi Kappa Sigma, 27 Preble St.; and Sigma Nu, 24 School St. Several women who are university students live in a former sorority house on Preble Street.

Besides Hannon, 24 students, neighbors, university officials, and Lt. Kevin Conger of university police attended last week’s meeting. Hannon cited incidents of drinking and people walking up the street in their underwear.

“You still have no respect for the town’s people,” said Hannon, also a Gorham resident, who added that problems were continuing around the clock.

Brian Boyt, president of the Sigma Nu fraternity and now chairman of community relations of the Inter-Fraternity Council, read a list of recent proposals developed by the council at the university, aimed at limiting late-night music, controlling party guests and conducting community projects.

Fraternity proposals included turning off music by 11 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays (neighbors asked it be amended to 10 p.m.) and 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays (neighbors asked for 1 a.m.); posting two sober individuals outside fraternity houses during parties; and notifying neighbors and police 24 hours in advance of parties. Joe Austin, dean of student life at the university and moderator of the neighborhood meetings, urged students to build trust.

“Actions speak louder than words,” Austin said. The university’s Steve Nelson of Community Standards cited a recent case of a student leader who received a summons from police. Such students who are also organization leaders, Nelson said, have “an added responsibility or an added burden.” Neighbors of fraternities called for a halt to student drinking.

“Stop the drinking. If everyone is sober, there’s no problem,” said Durwood Graffam, a Preble Street resident.

Tim Allard, also of Preble Street, asked for an alcohol-free zone. “The root cause is that bottle,” Allard told the group, and asked students to “pretend your grandmother lives next door.”

One neighbor, Bill Keef of Preble Street, who didn’t attend, said in a telephone interview before the meeting that “huge crowds” of kids have been marching up and down the street and some have “huddled around drinking.” Neighbors have long voiced complaints in meetings that resumed last year. Keef said problems had continued after the previous meeting at the beginning of this school year. “I’ve seen people urinating on our lawn,” Keef said.

Bruce Roullard of School Street said students returning to campus dorms from downtown create disturbances at 3 or 4 a.m.

“The language is vulgar,” Roullard said. “It’s complete hell” in the neighborhood, he said.

At least one neighbor said the students were not causing all the problems in the neighborhood. Sherri Fontaine, of Church Street, praised the Sigma Nu fraternity on School Street as helpful and said they’ve raked leaves and helped carry in lawn furniture for her.

The Inter-Fraternity Council will review the proposed rules and amendments suggested at last week’s meetings. Changes will be e-mailed to neighbors and no date has been set for another neighborhood meeting.

Boyt, the fraternities’ spokesman, said the two sober members posted outside parties would handle noise problems. But Boyt said he didn’t want his fraternity brothers at Sigma Nu posted on the Preble Street corner because it’s dangerous.

Hannon warned students about possible liability consequences associated with drinking in the event of an accident. He urged fraternities to take steps to protect themselves from a lawsuit, and told fraternity leaders at the meeting to “take control of your people.”

“I’m out there,” Hannon said. “I’m watching.”

Joe Austin, dean of student life at the University of Southern Maine, moderated a meeting Sept. 16 aimed at decreasing rowdy student behavior in a Gorham neighborhood.

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