Posted by rtucknott on:
Please read UCSB Vice Chancellor Michael Young's letter and join us in an environmental mission.
In a letter emailed to all UCSB students on Earth Day:
April 22, 2009
Dear UCSB Students:
I have been Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs at UCSB for almost twenty years, and during that time I have found countless reasons to be proud of UCSB students. I have watched as students championed issues of social justice?militating for the rights of gays/lesbians/bi-sexual/transgender citizens, fighting for equal pay and equal rights for women, working to ensure that the full range of opportunities are available to all Americans. I have watched as you organized to protect academic preparation programs for underserved communities, and as you provided such programs yourselves. Time and again, you have backed up your protests and your talk with hard work and resources. You entered the political arena registering more students to vote than any other university in the nation. You have spoken out against sexual violence against women, and you have protested manifestations of hate in our community. You, as UCSB students, have routinely stood at the forefront of the hard issues, showing yourselves to be true scholars, leaders and citizens of the 21st Century.
It is from this perspective that I find the general student reaction around Floatopia to be so stunningly perplexing. I am joined in this view by many colleagues, including Dean of Students Yonie Harris, Associate Dean of Students Carolyn Buford, and Associate Dean of Students Debbie Fleming. Among the signature issues for which UCSB students are known and admired are care and concern for the environment. It is both ironic and confounding that, even as the campus engages in Earth Day celebrations, UCSB students persist in the planning for Floatopia 2 despite the ecological devastation left in the aftermath of the last Floatopia. To willfully participate in an event that will cause significant and, in some cases, irreparable environmental damage to an especially fragile area is just plain negligent and short-sighted, no matter how much ?cleanup? is planned. Yes, everyone loves a big beach party, but this is a party where you invite tens of thousands of your ?best? friends to urinate in our ocean, destroy vegetation on the cliffs, drop broken glass and plastics of all shapes, sizes and varieties onto the sand and into the water, allow garbage to be strewn along the shoreline down to Santa Barbara and beyond, destroy habitat for any number of species, and kill untold numbers of fish and birds. All in the name of having fun! How can this be okay? There is no way to spin this as anything other than a frivolous, self-indulgent, destructive, and irresponsible event. It is the ultimate irony that UCSB students helped to launch the national environmental movement with their activist reaction to the 1969 oil spill that spoiled the very beach that UCSB students themselves are now destroying.
Someone recently said to me, ?Considering that Floatopia 2 is ?inevitable,? what are Student Affairs and the campus going to do to respond and accommodate the event?? My reaction is this: I refuse to accept that Floatopia 2 is ?inevitable.? Floatopia 2 does not have to happen if the UCSB community and, particularly, the UCSB student community decide that they do not want to be complicit in needless, wanton, and irreparable destruction of the environment. This community has a choice to promote this event or to kill it, and each individual will make that choice by his or her own actions.
There are additional major issues with Floatopia 2. Let me mention just a few:
No doubt large amounts of alcohol will be consumed. If you consider the thousands of participants, the ocean, and the high bluff, you can see that this is a prescription for tragedy. In the wake of the last Floatopia, the Goleta Valley Hospital emergency room was overwhelmed with alcohol poisonings and injuries, including two people who fell off the cliffs and a young woman who was hit by a beer bottle thrown from the bluffs.
There will likely be incidents of violence and possibly even sexual assault.
The County of Santa Barbara, which is currently facing massive budget cuts, will have to spend tens of thousands of dollars on additional law enforcement, emergency medical response, sanitation, and other personnel as it did in response to the last Floatopia. This, at a time when the County has already furloughed staff and may be facing significant layoffs, many of whom will be low-income, working-class folks with families.
No one is arguing that students don?t have the right to put on Floatopia 2. The real issue is, is it the right thing to do. I cannot stop Floatopia 2. The University cannot stop Floatopia 2. The County of Santa Barbara cannot stop Floatopia 2. But, students can stop it. You can stop it if you decide to act upon what most of you know already in your hearts: Floatopia might make a great party and a wild, fun, spontaneous event, but it will likely lead to tragedy for a few of the participants?even serious injury or death?and it will bring blight to our community for weeks afterward and cause permanent damage to our beautiful beach and ocean environment.
So rather than plan for the cleanup of an assault on the environment, students could instead organize against the event. Ask your friends not to participate. Organize a campaign to help students understand the ecological impacts. Get on Facebook and ask people not to come, not to destroy our unique and fragile environment. Those who have already invited friends can uninvite them or hold alternative activities.
Each and every member of this community has a choice. You can promote and participate in this event, or you can choose to protect our community and environment. One of the students involved in promoting the last Floatopia is alleged to have boasted that UCSB is the ?only campus in the nation with its own beach.? What an extraordinary privilege that is. But, as is often the case, with great privilege comes responsibility. Don?t we have the responsibility to protect this extraordinary gift we have been given? The choice is yours.
Michael D. Young
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs