Making SGF’ 15 Beer-able

A.S. Concerts and Events recently announced several changes to Sun God Festival 2015, including the addition of a beer garden for students who are over 21 at this year’s festival. Students who are interested in attending the beer garden must provide a government-issued ID to prove that they are over the drinking age. Furthermore, they will be screened for sobriety prior to entering the fenced-off area. In order to prevent binge-drinking, approved students will be forced to pace themselves and drink responsibly by being able to buy a maximum of three beers within a certain interval of time.

The implementation of a designated drinking area with a capped number of purchasable beers will hopefully curb legal-age students from consuming excessive amounts of alcohol before the event. There also will be a number of trained security staff and police officers present at the beer garden, ensuring that attendees do not share their drinks with each other or pass them on to minors through the double fence. These security measures echo those in place at UCSD’s regular Bear Garden events, which have been operating for the past eight years without any hospitalizations for substance abuse. The university might finally achieve its goal of hosting a safer Sun God Festival by moderating how much alcohol a large proportion of the student body consumes, instead of unrealistically attempting to prevent students from drinking at all with empty threats and loosely enforced policies. Moreover, encouraging students who are over 21 to purchase their drinks at the beer garden could potentially discourage them from stocking up on ridiculous amounts of hard liquor and illegally sharing it with underage friends.

This change is also relevant with the new inclusion of UCSD graduate students at the festival. Since Sun God Festival 2015 is now catering to more than just undergraduate students, it is important that the amenities at the event satisfy the greatest number of people attending.

However, there is one new policy that might diminish the positive effects of the harm-reduction initiative: Students will not be able to leave the event between acts and come back later. The elimination of the re-entry policy is allegedly due to the festival’s change in hours; according to ASCE, students should have no reason to leave RIMAC Field during the event’s duration.

This decision is not only unreasonable but also unsafe. Students who are only interested in attending events at the beginning and end of the festival will be forced to endure six hours outdoors in historically sweltering weather, consequently increasing the risk of heatstroke and dehydration. These attendees will also be forced to either buy food from overpriced vendors or go hungry for the entire day, due to the fact that the festival also prohibits guests from bringing their own food. Preventing students from attending the events for shorter periods of time will likely cause overcrowding on the field, since students will be less inclined to leave if they know they cannot come back.

If ASCE truly feels that eliminating the re-entry policy is a sensible decision, it must do everything in its power to make the festival bearable and safe for students who want to attend events that have significant time gaps between them. Possible solutions to the foreseeable issue include providing students with nutritious snacks at no cost, distributing free Sun God Festival beach towels through raffles and adding shaded areas with water misters where students can cool down. The importance of hydration and sun protection should be stressed to all students to ensure that everyone safely enjoys the entirety of the festival.

Regardless of how much hydration and safety are stressed, some individuals will forget to take proper precautions before entering the festival. Students should at least be given the opportunity to leave the festival once to take care of themselves. The same entrance protocol could be employed to deter students from intoxicating themselves prior to returning to the festival. While this may require overall more security and scrutiny, a quick run home or to the market would prevent most incidents resulting from pure negligence from occurring.

Although the introduction of a beer garden to the festival could significantly decrease the rate of alcohol-related accidents at the festival, it would be a shame if the total number of hospitalizations stayed constant or even increased this year due to the unbearable heat exposure students will be forced to face. ASCE needs to take this into consideration before finalizing this year’s policies in ways that could bring more harm than good to students.

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