From national media attention highlighting UCSB student participation in pornographic films to stories about rising violent crime rates in Isla Vista, a variety of factors have shaped university and local law enforcement policy regarding this year’s Halloween celebration.
I.V.’s legendary Halloween weekends of the late ’80s and early ’90s are the basis for the hard-partying reputations of current UCSB students. Very few descriptions of I.V. life omit background information regarding the arrests, violence and drunken antics characteristic of past Halloween celebrations.
University officials say the health and safety of their students is their primary concern, and they acknowledge the party school reputation attached to I.V. is difficult for outsiders to detach from UCSB’s steadily climbing academic reputation.
“If our students are portrayed or perceived as behaving in irresponsible ways, it harms the reputation of our campus community,” Chancellor Henry T. Yang said. “I also think such portrayals are unfair to the majority of our students who celebrate responsibly.”
Lt. Tom McKinny of the I.V. Foot Patrol said that this year in particular, a combination of highly publicized I.V. incidents has made Halloween seem like a bigger deal than usual. A grand jury report issued last spring faulted IVFP crowd control methods, cited “lax leadership” at the station and painted a picture of a town slipping from police grasp.
“Last year, increasing assaults peaked some interest, then the grand jury report got a little media attention, then the pornography peaked some interest, then two of our undercover officers were the victims of sexual battery, which is different from sexual assault,” McKinny said. “Then we get to Halloween, and somehow it all gets mixed together.”
McKinny said the message local law enforcement is trying to get out this year, in addition to discouraging out-of-town visitors, is for partygoers to have a good time, but to be responsible.
However, that message, which was promoted by the IVFP at a town hall-style Halloween informational meeting last week, was contradicted when the UCSB Office of Student Life sent an e-mail announcement to all students stating in its subject line that, this year, “the party is over” in Isla Vista.
The e-mail was co-signed by Richard Jenkins, the Office of Student Life activities adviser; Sarah McKittrick of the Isla Vista Recreation and Park District; and Logan Green, Associated Students external vice president. It sought “to inform [students] about possible fines, penalties and county ordinances and laws that [students] may very well face if [they] are in Isla Vista for Halloween this year.”
However, several students were surprised by the message’s assertion that “there is NO party!” in the e-mail’s second paragraph.
“They sent out that ‘the party’s over’ e-mail, but I feel like the party’s going to happen regardless – just without the loud music,” said Jessica Buttafuoco, a UCSB student who lives on the 6500 block of Del Playa Drive, which is historically the epicenter of Halloween crowds.
Francis Burns, a senior political science major who also lives on the 6500 block of DP, said he is worried the university’s message could backfire and promote student resentment of local authorities.
“The thing that bothers me is that Halloween is part of our culture here,” Burns said. “For a good number of years, that’s just part of I.V. They’re going to get a more violent reaction from people, especially since they’re publicly announcing ahead of time that they’re cracking down.”
“It’s going to make people frustrated,” Burns said. “People are going to be building aggression all week, and when they’re drunk and they actually see [the police] on Halloween night, the reaction might be violent.”
McKinny said he is “very confident” that the weekend will run smoothly, given comprehensive planning and coordination with numerous county and university entities. He said he does not feel pressured by people who say they disagree with IVFP tactics for Halloween law enforcement.
“Our job is unpredictable no matter where you work,” McKinny said. “People may point fingers, but I’m not too concerned. We certainly don’t feel under the gun.”
Associate Dean of Students Carolyn Buford apologized for the mass e-mail’s tone and took responsibility for not paying more attention to its wording. She said she certainly expects students to party in Isla Vista this Halloween.
“I’m sorry that [the e-mail] seems to be misunderstood,” Buford said. “It was not our intention to make students feel disrespected.”
Buford said she is inviting student input to help re-craft the university’s Halloween message for next year, which is intended to “let students know that it could be rough” out in Isla Vista, but to also communicate ways to stay safe and have fun.
“We do not wish to dictate our students’ behavior or to prevent the people of Isla Vista from having a good time on Halloween,” Yang said. “We do want to protect our students by promoting a safe and law-abiding environment where everyone can be free to enjoy themselves responsibly.”
Yang said UCSB students are surrounded by caring and dedicated staff members and belong to an academic community that includes Nobel Prize-winners, pioneering research and top-ranked academic programs.
“I think that’s why many of our students are disturbed by some of the recent media coverage of parties in Isla Vista,” Yang said. “They know we are a serious academic institution, and they know they are working hard to achieve their academic goals and to ensure future success in their chosen careers.”
– Staff writer Jenny Mayock contributed to this report.