Guest Commentary – Our Choices, Our Traditions, Our Sun God Festival

SGGOn May 16, nearly 20,000 students will attend Sun God Festival 2014 on RIMAC Field. A UCSD tradition for the past 32 years, Sun God Festival is one of the best college music festivals in the country.

The vast majority of Tritons conduct themselves responsibly at the Sun God Festival.  Unfortunately, in recent years, we have seen a sharp rise in the number and severity of problems associated with excessive alcohol consumption.  You know the facts, but they are worth repeating: Between 2011 and 2013, the number of arrests at Sun God Festival rose 78 percent from 82 to 146, the number of attendees admitted to detox rose 50 percent from 69 to 95 and the number of hospitalizations rose 140 percent, from 20 to 48.

These numbers threaten the future of the festival.  Last August, we decided to take action, joining a task force of students, staff and administrators committed to reducing the risks associated with the Sun God Festival. Our focus has been health and safety, and our decisions have been collaborative.  Among the highlights:

When an early decision to eliminate non-affiliate tickets threatened the budget for the lineup, interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Alan Houston agreed to cover the $165,000 in lost revenue.

When staff suggested revising and extending the Responsible Action Protocol (a medical amnesty policy), students volunteered to produce a video, “Rap the RAP.”

When the impact of the Sun God Festival on residential communities was recognized, we worked together to craft an appropriate campus policy.

And when we put out a call for “floaties” – volunteers who will receive bystander intervention training before the festival – over 500 students responded.

Please follow these tips so you and your friends can enjoy every moment of this year’s Sun God Festival.  If you choose to drink alcohol, pace yourself, drink water between alcoholic beverages and be sure to eat something first.  Have a game plan for how to get to and from campus safely and for where to meet your friends if you get separated.  Learn about the RAP and call 858-534-HELP (858-534-4357) immediately in case of an emergency.

The Sun God Festival is an important campus tradition. The task force has done its work.  Now it’s up to you.  Celebrate safely.  Your choices will determine the future of the Sun God Festival.  Please take this into account as you celebrate so that we can preserve the Sun God Festival for future generations of Tritons.