Hillman noise levels prompt complaints


Thomas Yang | Assistant Visual Editor

The University completed renovations to the quiet floor of Hillman for the fall 2018 semester.

By Adaugoamaji Nwankpa, For The Pitt News

As finals season approaches, more and more students will migrate to Hillman to cram before finals. But some students have been dissatisfied with the noise level at Hillman.

Students have posted their frustrations to social media, expressing annoyance with students holding conversations on Hillman’s top two floors. Both the third and newly renovated fourth floors are designated for quiet study.

Jada Pham is a first-year majoring in biology and Spanish, but she’s already found herself irritated by noise on the quiet study floors, though she thinks the problem has declined in recent days with the approach of finals.

“Just a few weeks ago I experienced a lot of commotion,” Pham said. “It’s been better because finals week has been around but just during normal exam time it’s noisy.”

According to Pham, the noise level shows a lack of maturity on the part of the students talking.

“I think people just need to acknowledge that it’s a quiet floor and it’s college. I think people should know better. It’s so annoying,” Pham said.

Noise begins to interfere with the human ability to perform activities at 45 decibels, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. For reference, the average conversation is held at about 60 decibels.

According to Piervincenzo Rizzo, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, any setting where the noise level is deemed as “annoying” to humans can be considered noise pollution.

“One of the reasons why they say noise in the human environment is underestimated is that people are exposed to noise,” Rizzo said. “In the long term this might have an effect on ears without really being perceived by the people.”

The library staff has also taken some steps to help counteract high noise levels. Caroline Brown, Hillman’s information area manager, said visitors should take their own steps toward a more study-friendly environment.

“We encourage students to be respectful of their peers who seek to work in a quiet environment. Additionally, we do make available free earplugs and loan noise canceling and noise isolating headphones,” Brown said.

Lindsay Scott, a sophomore studying pre-occupational therapy and psychology, finds the noise level on the fourth floor bearable. She said it’s easy enough to avoid the pandemonium by escaping with headphones to one of the fourth floor’s many individual desks or side rooms.

“Whenever I come here I go to those side rooms and I have my headphones in so it’s not really noisy. In my personal experience, it’s pretty quiet,” said Scott.

Both Pham and Scott guessed the fourth floor’s noise pollution stems from its layout, which provides an area for groups to study together. Pham has found that these group study tables are a problem area on the fourth floor, where groups of friends spend more time talking to one another than studying.

“I think [the noise] mostly comes from people sitting at tables,” Pham said. “It’s usually group tables but there are some people that just sit in rows in the independent tables and just talk to each other just as loudly.”

The supposed noise level is still quite a subjective subject especially considering it seems like no one who complained has actually recorded the decibels of sound on an average day at Hillman’s fourth floor.

Noise is subjective, Rizzo said. People have different levels of tolerance toward noise.

“Some people might be absolutely fine with certain levels of noise,” Rizzo said. “Other people may find that the same level of noise is really annoying. Often, it’s based on personal perception.”