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This Saturday will mark my last Deltopia as a UCSB student. Previous years have included some of my best memories in college. I love it: Friends come in from out of town and sleep on my couch. We spend the day in the sunshine, by the surf, well-refreshed and all together. It’s hard to imagine being a Gaucho sans Deltopia.
And yet, I’m trying hard to see the university perspective, too. Last year, the Sunday after Deltopia, my girlfriend and I went hiking to Campus Point and came across some paramedics. They were holding a body bag, the first one I had seen in my life. It was a week or so before everyone else heard. A freshman girl from Cal Poly had come to celebrate Deltopia, but tragically fell off an I.V. cliff to her death. This is all the university hears about: damages. Damages to property, to reputations or — in the worst cases — to human beings. They don’t have the memories that strike a balance, and so every year we get a long email from the Chancellor’s Office abhorring Deltopia.
It’s hard for me, though, to accept the safety of a few as reason enough to restrict the freedom of thousands. A staggering majority of Deltopia celebrants are responsible enough. For every idiot we see throwing rocks at the police, we get an uncountable number drinking moderately and relaxing among friends. As we all know, it is extremely likely that rock-throwers are out-of-towners as well. Even most out-of-towners, though, are responsible enough.
I think about it in the way that I think about driving. Some people are dangerous on the road and leave others injured or worse. Sometimes, too, accidents happen with no one to blame. If we forbade driving altogether, lives would be saved. And yet, we don’t want to let bad drivers ruin it for the rest of us. Most of us drive routinely, fully aware that it might mean the end of our lives. But we want to risk our lives on the road, because sometimes living completely without risk is not really living at all. That’s how I feel about Deltopia. Is it possible that I’ll black out and fall off a roof? I guess so. But that’s no less trivial a claim than that it’s possible my brother’s school bus will tip over and explode.
Sometimes, I think this is why students and universities will never see eye-to-eye, not just on Deltopia, but on a wide range of matters. They’re not concerned for the same thing. Let’s give UCSB the benefit of the doubt and assume it really is working for the benefit of the student body first and foremost. Well, the students care for themselves, individuals within the student body. That’s where the disconnect begins. Will someone get arrested at Deltopia this year? Of course. Will someone drink a dangerous amount? No need to ask. Will someone die? Unfortunately, it has happened in the past, and may happen again. Will you or I do those things? Of course we’re going to try our best not to.
I used to think that the annual anti-Deltopia email was just generational warfare, but now I think the university just isn’t talking about the same event I am. If they have memories, it’s not of friends, beers and the beach. It comes from the extreme cases, from police videos or hospital security cameras. They’re not thinking about me, about what I do at Deltopia. They’re probably not thinking about you, either. Instead, they’re thinking about everyone, and that means the newsworthy fringes. I bet I would hate Deltopia too, if my memories involved arrests or hospital visits.
What’s important for the university to remember, though, is that I would also hate driving if it always involved horrible accidents. But it doesn’t, and neither does Deltopia.
Ben Moss wants the university to takes its hands off his friends, his beer and his beach.