I’m going to be graduating in just seven short weeks. The inevitability of the end of my last four years here at UC San Diego is bitter, but sweet. As our last Sun God approaches this upcoming Saturday, the graduating class of 2017 has reminisced over our last three festivals. The differences between our first Sun God in the Spring of 2014 and our last in 2017 are vast and, despite it being our last festival ever, my friends and I are not very excited about this year’s Sun God. As concerns over festival drug and alcohol use have increased over the last three years, A.S Concerts and Events, under pressure from University officials, has put increasingly strict regulations on the festival and students. While these regulations have not had significant impact on increasing the health and safety of UCSD students, they have changed the morale and attitude of those attending.
Sun God 2014 is often referred to as the “last great Sun God” by members of the graduating class of 2017. Beginning at noon, the festival lasted for 12 hours, letting festival- goers dance and enjoy the headliner, Diplo, until midnight. Because the festival lasted all day, students were naturally allowed to leave and return to RIMAC field at anytime. This was great for students who didn’t want to spend money on the expensive food vendors, and allowed attendees to get out of the hot sun for a few hours and go back to their apartments to rest or hydrate. Guest tickets could still be bought, allowing friends or significant others from other universities access to the festival. When the festival ended at midnight, students weren’t immediately forced to leave and return to their apartments or dormitories. When we did return to our on-campus housing, residential security officers and campus police did not wait for us at our doors. We had the freedom to enjoy our Sun God as we saw fit.
If Sun God 2016 is any indicator, then we can expect to see extensive regulations in place this upcoming Saturday. It has already been announced that the festival would begin at noon and end at 6 p.m., giving ample time for students to make their “early” bedtimes. Adding in drug-sniffing dogs, a heavy police presence, no re-entry into the event and no guest tickets, Sun God 2017 does not look very promising.
While these policies have positively affected some aspect of drug and alcohol use at Sun God, they have not had a severe impact on the number of students participating in disorderly conduct. A report released from the University’s Office of Student Conduct regarding Sun God 2015 found that “Three-fifths (60.3 percent) of all Sun God weekend incidents involve students being admitted to the on-campus Detox Center. This is a 13 percent increase from 2014 and a 22 percent increase from 2013.” Since implementing these changes, more students are arriving intoxicated, and with the shortened time frame, more students will be using alcohol and drugs for an extended period of time after the event ends. This shortened period of time will ultimately lead to a larger percentage of intoxicated students and subsequently a higher percentage rate of arrests or detainment. The student conduct office’s report of the 2016 festival found that 13 percent of all students admitted to the detox center were removed due to arrest; this is the most since 2011, when only eight students were arrested. The University is acknowledging that students will still be using these substances, but since it will be done away from the event, in dorms, apartments and off-campus housing, it is not their problem. Officials are effectively wiping their hands from any sort of liability but not helping students understand the real dangers of heavy drug or alcohol use. The student conduct office also found an increase in students attempting to buy or sell student ID cards to gain entrance to the festival; many students cited the elimination of guest tickets as reasoning.
There is not an easy solution to make Sun God safe and still enjoyable. With a high percentage of students being admitted to detox centers, hospitals or being arrested, as well as the death of a student by overdose in 2014, the University had to make adequate changes to protect the well-being of all students. However, I wish UCSD officials would stop treating students like small children instead of the young adults we are. Regardless of policies or threats, students are still going to consume psychoactive substances. We should be given the support and resources to make smart, informed decisions for ourselves, not a confined, shortened festival that we cannot leave.