A New Face for Sun God?

    This year’s Sun God festival could be subject to a significant logistical
    overhaul — including potential changes to the event’s date, location, concert
    access and alcohol sales policy — if recommendations made in a recent planning
    report are approved by the A.S. Programming and University Events offices.

    Read the Report

    The Oct. 16 report analyzed health, safety and miscellaneous complaints
    made by faculty and vendors after last year’s festival, and provided
    recommendations for how Sun God 2008 should be changed to alleviate the issues.

    UEO Director Martin Wollesen said that the event’s programmers are
    constantly looking for ways to improve the festival’s execution, but that last
    year’s 25th anniversary of Sun God spurred them to charter a comprehensive
    report for future planning.

    “We always go through a debrief process,” Wollesen said. “This year we
    sort of said, ‘Let’s use this year, since it’s been 25 years, to make sure that
    when we debrief, we have a document about that debrief.’ We want to, as a
    campus, think globally and widely about this event.”

    Wollesen and A.S. Associate Vice President of Programming Kevin Highland
    organized seven meetings with the heads of numerous campus departments,
    including the UCSD Police Department, the Office of Student Policies and
    Judicial Affairs, the Office of Safety, Health and Security, Parking and
    Transportation Services and the council of college deans. UEO and A.S.
    Programming then either endorsed, chose not to endorse or abstained from
    endorsing the recommendations listed in the 22-page report.

    An endorsement does not guarantee that the recommendation will ultimately
    be implemented, Wollesen said, as many circumstances that make certain options
    seem prudent are in a constant state of flux. Similarly, decisions not endorsed
    by the council or UEO are also not considered final.

    “We’re not predetermining anything,” he said. “It may change over time.”

    Many of the issues addressed in the report pertain directly to student
    safety, which Wollesen said is always a primary concern of Sun God programmers.
    Last year, 355 people — 197 students and 158 nonaffiliates — were arrested at
    Sun God. Approximately 97 percent of the arrests were alcohol related, the
    report said.

    In response to those statistics, the report offered four recommendations:
    decreasing the number of nonaffiliate tickets sold, discontinuing them
    entirely, linking them to student IDs for easier tracking and stopping the sale
    of tickets on the day of the event. Both UEO and A.S. Programming abstained on
    the first possibility — meaning it will be discussed and decided upon at a
    later date — but the programming department rejected the idea of limiting the
    concert solely to UCSD students.

    “The student body as a whole is very proud of the Sun God festival,” it
    said in the report. “We want students to be able to welcome friends and family
    to their campus, and together enjoy this extraordinary event.”

    UEO abstained from endorsing the issue, while neither side objected to the
    other two alternatives. The programming department did not endorse a similar
    recommendation to limit nonaffiliate attendance: changing the festival’s date
    to a Saturday.

    The report also cited difficulties with crowd control at entrances and
    exits during the evening concert as a major impediment to student safety, which
    echoes a second criticism that police and emergency personnel are often blocked
    from moving quickly around campus by student organization booths and other
    events.

    Both the council and UEO abstained on recommendations to consolidate the
    event layout to a single site or shorten the number of festival hours, but did
    not object to stricter oversight of the annual Junk Yard Derby, which takes
    place on Peterson Hill. The report said that the derby limited emergency
    access, and that the three-day duration made the event burdensome to supervise.

    Ultimately, both offices approved a recommendation to revise the derby’s
    safety standards, including a pre-event run-through of the vehicles on a
    similar course.

    UCSD programmer analyst and derby participant Wayde Gilliam said that the
    derby is generally safe for participants, but that he understands why there may
    have been some concerns posed by festival coordinators.

    “I’m not exactly sure how they would do a pre-check of the vehicles,”
    Gilliam said. “I think it’s a case-by-case type of concern with different types
    of vehicles.”

    Wollesen said that another focus of the report is to de-emphasize the
    connection between the festival and alcohol consumption among students.

    “I think what we’re really interested in doing is creating an event about
    the UCSD community,” he said. “If the change is that students view it as a
    community event as opposed to a drinking event, that’s an okay change.”

    Chancellor Marye Anne Fox said at a Sept. 26 meeting that last year’s Sun
    God was particularly problematic in regard to ensuring campus safety.

    “We almost lost some kids last year,” she said. “So something is going
    to have to be done. We’re going to have to elicit support from the student body
    on how to make it safe but still fun. We have so few traditions that you don’t
    want to do away with it, but you would like to make it safe.”

    Wollesen said he had not heard about that particular incident, but that
    his office is aware of the problems associated with the festival’s image as a
    day of heavy drinking.

    “We wouldn’t be surprised that binge drinking and alcohol abuse are real
    issues at Sun God,” he said.

    Several suggestions in the report specifically addressed alcohol-related
    problems, including a one-day ban on alcohol sales at university venues.
    Presently, neither UEO or the A.S. Council has objected to that provision.

    The two offices are currently organizing public Sun God planning meetings
    beginning later this month.

    A steering committee consisting of representatives from the UCSD Police
    Department, the six colleges, Student Health Services, the Office of Risk
    Management, event facilities and UEO will be charged to advise the programming
    office on festival planning and implementation.

    Highland emphasized that no changes to the festival have yet been
    implemented.

    “[The report] contains no concrete actions on our part,” he said.

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