Johnston: Sun God Rocks, But UCSD Can Be Fun More Than Once a Year

Sun God is Friday, and for those of you who are Sun God virgins, I envy you. You get to see for the first time the one day a year when UCSD really loosens its tie, kicks off its shoes, and goes wild. The U.S. News & World Report Web site confirms that Sun God is the most popular cultural and campus event at UCSD, followed (closely, I’m sure) by “sporting events” and Admit Day.

There is little question as to why Sun God rocks so much. It’s the naturally occurring “party” in every college student’s system that is repressed until the pressure builds and ultimately explodes on Sun God. Unfortunately, the lack of partying for nine-tenths of the school year overshadows Sun God, and the result is seniors from my high school informing me that they’ve decided on UCSD in spite of it being “boring.” To make the university more appealing to current students and upcoming applicants, we must improve its party potential, and it can be done without sacrificing academics and morality.

To determine what makes a school great for parties, we must ask the experts, which in this case would be the number-one party school as ranked by the Princeton Review: the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The Princeton Review Web site notes that the party school rankings were based on “a combination of survey questions concerning the use of alcohol and drugs, hours of study each day, and the popularity of the Greek system.”

The rankings appear to suggest that widespread use of alcohol and drugs is a contributing factor to the quality and quantity of a school’s parties. But let’s face facts: Asking the administration to relax alcohol and drug policies would be naive, unrealistic and, quite possibly, illegal. Personally, I’m thankful that security officers are not posted outside residence halls on Friday and Saturday nights to search the bags and pockets of everyone coming in or out. Perhaps my standards are low in this era of wiretapping, but I would not be surprised if the university tried to have residential security officers do just that and excuse it as a security precaution.

The rankings then suggest that we could reduce the hours of study each day and increase the popularity of the Greek system to make for better parties. But studying isn’t the real problem; most students can and do take off at least one night a week for fun. The Greek system probably can’t help much, either. The main thing that could increase Greek system popularity is housing on or just-off campus where groups could gather to throw unbelievable parties. This, unfortunately, is inconceivable for UCSD. The university will almost certainly build more general housing before it considers Greek housing, and buying or building a Greek house near campus would likely be impossibly expensive. The Sigma Chi “ranch house,” which isn’t particularly close to campus but is nevertheless a major party spot, unfortunately appears to be the exception and not the rule.

One improvement within reach, however, is reforming the 1 a.m. quiet hour. It has good intentions, but overzealous enforcement has ended numerous harmless parties and full-volume conversations. A reasonable compromise would be to follow the model of private complexes’ quiet hours. Each college should set 1 a.m. (or later) as the start of quiet hours, after which an RSO can warn or break up a party only after someone has complained about the noise. When all the neighbors are at the party, no one complains about the noise and there’s no reason for RSO interference. Quiet hours, after all, are not safety regulations but courtesy regulations. Police officers don’t enforce courtesy laws, like picking up after one’s dog, and RSOs shouldn’t either. With bike thieves and drunk drivers abound, there are bigger fish to fry.

Often, though, the best parties are off campus. On Friday nights, the university is kind enough to run the Cityshuttle up until midnight, giving students a way to get to parties near Nobel Drive. To get home, though, all we have is A.S. Safe Ride, a program which is woefully underused due to so many frustrating flaws. For Safe Ride to be truly effective, the A.S. Council ought to show off the service in the same way the parking office advertises the free bus zone sticker: with outside sign-ups where there’s plenty of foot traffic (Library Walk would be perfect). It should also consider running Safe Ride until a later hour (3 a.m. is awfully early for young, energetic party-goers) and ending the limit of three rides per quarter. These changes can be scaled up or down to accommodate the program’s budget. Finding an equilibrium for Safe Ride between underused and overbudget may take some trial and error, but saving lives will be well worth it. Disregard the naysayers, like Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Joseph Watson, who made the ridiculous claim in a Guardian interview that “[Safe Ride] is not a safety program. It is a program that encourages and facilitates students getting into circumstances in which they are not safe.” Right, just like air bags and anti-lock brakes should be taken out of cars because they encourage people to drive fast.

Another idea the university should consider is an express shuttle to Pacific Beach on Friday and Saturday nights. If administrators are reluctant to make UCSD a fun college environment, they should at least have the decency to drive us to one. However, as A.S. Representative and Chair of the Transportation Policy Committee Josh Martino explained in a letter last week, “Increasing the number or frequency of Cityshuttles, for example, is an extremely expensive venture, the cost of which … would inevitably lead to increases in permit costs.”

He’s right, and higher permit costs would be a pain in the neck. So why in the world doesn’t the university take a hint from city buses and sell ads inside and outside UCSD shuttles? Do they have any idea how many advertisers would trample their own mothers for a chance at a captive audience of 18- to 24-year-olds? Students wouldn’t mind the ads if it meant the shuttles ran their usual route on Saturday nights and/or express to PB on weekends — a faster, more convenient, student-friendly option compared to the regular 34 bus. If ads are insufficient to hire a PB shuttle to run for six hours two nights a week, students would probably be willing to pay a subsidized rate of a few bucks for a ride to PB and back.

These ideas are not all-or-nothing. The transportation office can try operating a PB shuttle for one weekend. It can have a trial run of the Cityshuttles on two Saturday nights to see if students utilize them (and they will, if it’s well-advertised on the shuttles and in residence halls). One college can try the private complex-style quiet hour enforcement for two weeks. Just don’t disregard these ideas because you’re afraid they’ll require major commitments. Give them a try, and maybe, just maybe, the spirit of Sun God will permeate UCSD all year long.