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Gaucho Mythology Debunked

myth (mith) n. an idea that forms part of the beliefs of a group or class but is not founded on fact.

UCSB is known for many things: nationally recognized academic programs, Nobel Prize-winning faculty, dominant ultimate Frisbee teams and an incredible beachfront location. Yet there is one characteristic of our campus that seems to garner more attention than any other: its status as the quintessential “party school.” How did UCSB acquire a national reputation as the University of Casual Sex and Beer (where U Can Study Buzzed)? Much can be attributed to the persistent myths about the school that portray it as a depraved bastion of drunken, promiscuous youths densely packed along the Central Coast. These legends have spread so widely that a large percentage of the public has come to accept them without a second thought. If one questions the validity behind these supposed facts, however, it becomes clear that most contain no truth whatsoever; rather, the myths of UCSB are nothing but Unsubstantiated Claims and Statements of Bullshit.

MYTH ONE: UCSB has the highest STD rate of the nation’s four-year universities.

The epidemic of this myth has spread unimpeded for years, but after much research, a vaccine has been developed that will eliminate this plague on UCSB’s reputation – the facts. The biggest problem with this assertion is the absence of any comparable data; very few universities have conducted public studies on STIs – formerly called STDs, the medical community has adopted “sexually transmitted infection” as the appropriate term, as not all of these ailments are technically diseases – among students, thus making an objective evaluation of the STI statistics for different colleges impossible.

In universities that have examined the STI trends within their student body, results vary considerably depending on the venue and method in which the information is obtained. The figures from a general survey differ significantly from those taken at a medical clinic, where many participants are already showing potential symptoms of a STI. As a result, any attempt at a comparison between schools faces an apples-and-oranges predicament.

“We certainly do not lead the nation in STIs,” UCSB sociology Professor John Baldwin said. “We’re not even near [the top].”

Baldwin, who with his wife Janice teaches the popular Sociology 152 course in human sexuality, has conducted several studies on STIs among the general population of UCSB students. One such survey in 2002 reported that approximately 6 percent has an STI. This figure is remarkably small compared to national statistics prepared by Robert Crooks and Karla Baur – their results indicate that one in four Americans contract an STI by the age of 21. While numbers fluctuate from one study to another, the difference between UCSB students and the general population is too significant to attribute merely to variance between surveys. Gauchos could not have the highest STI rate among universities, as UCSB’s figures do not even reach the national average.

MYTH TWO: Isla Vista is the most populated square mile west of the Mississippi River.

Considering the sardine can-like living conditions throughout much of Isla Vista, this statement could easily be accepted as fact. But looking at the numbers from the 2000 census, the flaws in this claim become clear. First, Isla Vista is not a square mile but 2.2 square miles of land adjacent to UCSB. Second, Isla Vista’s 8,635 people per square mile, while high, is not even close to the greatest population density west of the Mississippi or, for that matter, California; Isla Vista’s figures are far eclipsed by those of Buena Vista (24,099 inhabitants per square mile), East Compton (17,945), San Francisco (16,634) and several other cities.

However, Isla Vista’s population density is not without distinction – I.V. is undoubtedly the most densely populated area south of Hollister Avenue.

MYTH THREE: More people lose their virginity at Francisco Torres than any other building in the United States.

Francisco Torres serves as the Mount Olympus of Gaucho mythology, a central location filled 10 stories high with unruly UCSB students and their legendary debauchery. An entire subset of myths specific to FT has emerged, chief among them the aforementioned claim that it is the lost-virginity capital of the United States.

This myth is one of the most difficult to refute, as most buildings do not keep any data on the number of students who lose their innocence on the premises. The management at FT was not any more helpful. Thus, informal polls had to be administered. A random sampling of freshmen at Francisco Torres, San Nicolas Residence Hall, Miller Dormitory at Pepperdine University and the residence hall at California State University, Long Beach, were asked about their sexual history in college housing. The results (of this very informal survey): LBSU has the highest rate of dormitory deflowering (30 percent), followed by FT (28 percent), San Nicolas (20 percent) and, finally, Pepperdine’s Miller Dormitory with a zero percent lost-virginity rate.

While the population of each building will vary from college to college, the general trend in the data indicates that the sexual activities at Francisco Torres do not exceed the normal level. Losing one’s virginity can be a central characteristic of dorm living wherever one attends school (with the exception of those chaste Pepperdine Waves).

MYTH FOUR: UCSB consumes 1 percent of the nation’s alcohol.

Observing the behavior of students walking down Del Playa on a Friday night, it is easy to understand how this myth could spread – Gauchos are clearly drinking a lot of alcohol. Yet the figure of 1 percent of the nation’s consumption is like a man-eating Cyclops or a capricious god of lightning named Zeus – that is, something that could only be myth.

The annual alcohol consumption in the U.S. is approximately 482,678,000 gallons, which is equal to 10,726,173,000 gallons of beer, a figure that breaks down to 1.14 billion 12-ounce cans. This means that each of UCSB’s 20,000 students would need to drink 57,206 cans of beer in a year, or 156 cans each and every day. UCSB students are an impressive and talented bunch, but not even the best among us could take that kind of pounding. Just think of the liver damage!

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One Comment

  1. The roots of these myths are hardly long-standing. UCSB’s rise in the mythology of debauchery coincides nicely with Chico State’s newfound rise in morality. That rise, or its perception, started taking place almost immediately after Chico’s leadership at both the university and at the city did away with Pioneer Days, which no one can deny was a week of rampant non-stop drinking.

    Not discussed about either school or even within them is that each campus has a student body which, within its respective state university system, has the highest percentage of White (minus Latino) students among its campuses. While the meaning of this characteristic is not clear it is hard to see it as unrelated to racial animosity.

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