With memories of Deltopia 2014 fresh in our minds, the question remains as to how Chancellor Henry Yang will respond to this latest insult to our community and UCSB’s reputation. Sadly, based on events of the previous two decades, the answer is uncertain.
Henry Yang arrived in 1992 and is now UCSB’s longest serving chancellor. Deltopia 2014 mars his 20th year at the campus. Santa Barbara County’s successful plan to put a lid on Isla Vista’s notorious Halloween party (dating to the 1970s) ended when Yang began. In the early 1990s, law enforcement controlled the massive party by checking residency of all who entered I.V. on the major thoroughfares intersecting with El Colegio Road. Halloween was well on the verge of becoming a controlled party with predominantly local participation until Yang.
UCSB’s longtime chancellor is seemingly oblivious to the dangers of Halloween and Deltopia. Each year, after sealing off campus parking to outsiders and placing fences around university-owned properties, Yang walks down Del Playa and greets partiers. His annual visit takes place long before the unsanctioned event boils over at 1 a.m., sometimes for two to three days straight. Deltopia 2014 changed all of this — Yang was at the riot on Sabado Tarde, got a lung full of tear gas, and was among those ordered by police to vacate the scene. Chancellor Yang finally tasted what it is like when 25,000 uninvited guests cram into I.V.
Welcome to the party Chancellor Yang — you are 20 years late.
I’ve lived in I.V. for over 30 years, went to undergraduate and graduate school at UCSB, and lectured on and off at the campus for 15 years. I love this seaside community and am part of the 40 percent of residents who are not students. I’ve seen decades of Halloweens and every single Deltopia. The end of ingress control measures cost our community millions of dollars and tarnished UCSB’s reputation — perhaps irreparably. The addition of lights, portable restrooms (not present for Deltopia 2014), and more police do not solve the problems posed by tens of thousands of partiers from out of town. This year’s Deltopia mob surged into I.V. and relieved themselves — literally — all over our community.
UCSB’s dormitories, yards away from Yang’s campus residence, were packed with guests, some of whom undoubtedly ended up on Sabado Tarde during the riot. The reality is that UCSB is now I.V.’s major landlord with campus holdings extending into and encircling the town. Under Henry Yang. UCSB acquired Francisco Torres (FT) and also leases many of the large housing complexes along El Colegio Road. Yang converted I.V.’s only nightclub, the former Bank of America building, into a lecture hall and did the same with I.V. Theater. Storke field, once an excellent safety valve for large I.V. gatherings, is now covered with a housing complex. More university housing is underway along Storke Road with plans for an additional two towers adjacent to FT. Yang’s ability to hide behind the eucalyptus curtain ended ages ago as the campus is now in and around Isla Vista.
Already maturing when Yang arrived, UCSB’s faculty blossomed under his leadership, and the value of a degree from Santa Barbara is probably greater than in previous decades. Sadly, this improvement is obscured by national news coverage of Halloween and now Deltopia debacles — including several related deaths — that cast a pall over the university. Elite institutions recruit the nation’s top students striving to latch on to a future Nobel laureate. Top scholars have a choice of where they want to go to school, and the question is whether UCSB will remain on their list after Deltopia 2014. The answer is no. When you have a choice of elite schools to attend, there is absolutely no point in choosing a party campus. Every Halloween or Deltopia devalues the achievement of UCSB faculty, students, and alumni. If allowed to continue, these parties will forever marginalize UCSB as “that campus with the idiot parties.”
UCSB has a decades-old commitment to helping prevent lawlessness in I.V. After the riots of the 1970s, the campus helped finance the Foot Patrol and now kicks in campus cops when the party gets out of control. It was a UCSB officer, one of Yang’s employees, who was clobbered in front of his boss while trying to defuse Deltopia 2014. The “riots” of 45 years ago involved 1,500 people. They are miniscule in comparison to the 20,000-40,000 or more showing up at Halloweens and Deltopias. It is time UCSB reassessed its commitment to law enforcement in I.V. and helped finance enhanced measures designed to eliminate mega-parties.
Twenty years of I.V. debacles attracting national attention are too much. The mega-party problem requires immediate, decisive leadership. In five months, Halloween 2014 will test Henry Yang’s ability to respond to these insults to our university and to our community. There is a very simple, proven solution — stop visitor ingress into Isla Vista. Nobody allowed in without proof of residency. No cars, buses, or taxis without ID — just the mother of all traffic jams and a decisive message that Deltopia 2014 marked the end of embarrassment for UCSB.