Guest Commentary

Guest Commentary

Festival coordinators weigh in about recent changes to Sun God Festival guest policy

The Sun God Festival is a 31-year-old tradition. That’s 31 years shared in the UCSD collective memory across not just our alumni but our community. And for the past 31 years, each UCSD student-attendee has driven Sun God to be one of the biggest and best college festivals in the nation.

With 20,000 attendees, three stages and our lineup history, Sun God Festival, like UCSD students, truly stands in a league of its own. From its humble inception in 1983 to its sold-out crowd last year, Sun God Festival has been guided by an unwavering vision to build campus community and generate spirit through a fun and memorable festival environment. Behind the scenes, the Festivals’ team works closely with dedicated experts to ensure the health and safety of all attendees. However, for the past several years, these efforts have reached a standstill. We continue to exhaust our resources and budget needed to sustain a safe environment, indicated by a continuous rise in the number of medical transports and criminal activity surrounding the festival.

The 2015 Sun God Festival is far from guaranteed, and this tradition built by 31 years of students could end with us.

As we move forward with planning, we are doing all we can to protect the festival’s spirit and intent, but major changes are required to take place in order to protect the existence of the festival itself. We ask that, through these changes, you understand why they are necessary and why we also need your input, support and partnership to protect our tradition.

Last spring, Chancellor Khosla received a letter from Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla expressing its deep concern over Sun God Festival’s impact upon students’ health and the local community. The level of alcohol consumption and drug abuse reported in patients that day was dangerously high, and, in some cases, life-threatening.

In 2011, four students went to the ICU and were placed on life support. Last year, we sent 48 students to the hospital in ambulances because they were a danger to themselves and others. These cases stemmed from high blood alcohol content (i.e.: excessive intoxication) and drug abuse that could have been easily prevented. Yet, for every ambulance, doctor and bed that a UCSD student occupies in the ER, there is one less for someone suffering from a less preventable crisis, such as a stroke or heart attack. As we strain our local hospitals and resources, we impact our community at large.

With almost 500 health and safety cases related to the festival in the past three years alone, it is apparent the current festival format must undergo serious revision in order to ensure that we can continue this longstanding tradition. It is also important to understand that this isn’t just a one-time occurrence unique to last year (or the year previous). This is a culmination of years where friends have abandoned friends in bushes because they couldn’t make it to the festival; where students have committed sexual assaults and acts of violence against one another as a result of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol; where students have put themselves and San Diego residents at risk by driving under the influence.

As festival producers, we cannot justify creating a high-risk environment where students may feel pressured to participate in dangerous activities. The last thing we want is to lose a life of a student, peer or friend over a day intended to unite and celebrate the campus community. Despite the changes, the festival can only do so much onsite since many of our issues persist off campus. It is only with your awareness and actions that we can keep the festival a tradition, not history.

The reality is that the 2014 Sun God Festival almost did not happen. The 2015 Sun God Festival is far from guaranteed, and this tradition built by 31 years of students, could end with us. Although many of you may not have undergone these experiences personally, these are issues affecting your friends and peers. As UCSD students, we need to be compassionate enough to see these issues and understand that it is our cultural and social responsibility to look out for one another.

Moving forward, the future of Sun God Festival lies in our hands, our responsibility and our choices. We ask that you remember why we have a festival — to celebrate our university and undergraduate experiences. We ask that you be kind to one another, be a good friend and peer. Report risks before they happen that may escalate beyond your control. If you choose to drink, do so responsibly without endangering yourself or others. If you or a fellow festival-goer are over-intoxicated and need help, learn about and take advantage of the Responsible Action Protocol. If you see someone abandoned and confused, guide him or her towards safety.

Over the next few weeks, we will be hosting Sun God Open Forums and circulating a survey to gather your input, answer your questions and gauge which changes will be most effective. Participation will be key in helping us form our planning strategy to change the extreme culture around the Sun God Festival. Please remember that this is our festival and it means so much more than just a day to excessively party. It is a piece of a tradition much bigger than us and extends back to most of our school’s history. Let’s not make this the year it all ends. Save Sun God.

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