I told my mom not to worry; I wasn’t going to get killed in Isla Vista. My mom is a worrywart. The nagging of a mother is one thing that a good majority of students retain long after they’ve moved away from home, much longer than girlfriends or boyfriends, good credit and good hygiene.
But last spring, I received a call from her that was quite different.
“Please don’t go out partying tonight,” she begged me.
“Because I’m afraid you might die.”
My mom lives two thousand miles away from Isla Vista, in Chicago. One of her co-workers is the mother of the girlfriend of the young man who was killed in I.V. last March, Bradley Jones. He was a Santa Barbara City College student who was killed after a violent tiff with another young man on the 6600 block of Sabado Tarde Road. Jones was punched in the face, fell backward and hit his head on the asphalt. He died in the hospital soon thereafter.
Apparently no distance, not even the two thousand miles to Chicago, is too long for I.V.’s reputation. I did not know Jones, but, through my mother, we were a mere three degrees of separation apart. Three degrees of separation from a man who died three blocks from where I live is far too close for comfort.
It’s no secret that young, drunken men get in fights. The mix of alcohol and testosterone has been the cause of most physical confrontations since the caveman discovered Miller High-Life. Alcohol robs young men of most of their inhibitions and devastates their common sense. On an intelligence scale, drunken bands of I.V. men can be categorically ranked somewhere between hamsters and slugs.
The university, the police and local officials agree that the problem is the alcohol and the students, in that order. This mentality is reflected in policies that are hostile to all student drinkers, not just the troublemakers. They’ve built a bridge to the 1920s by trying to turn I.V. into a Prohibition-era police state.
The I.V. Foot Patrol has dubbed its current anti-alcohol campaign the “fall offensive,” which sounds like it came off the History Channel. Our police officers are supposed to “serve and protect,” but when they characterize I.V. as some sort of battleground in the larger war against drinking, it does nothing to lessen the animosity between residents and cops.
The university does its part through the parental notification system, which rats you out to your parents whenever you get caught doing something naughty.
They seem to think that treating the student body like 5-year-olds is the right way to curb drinking.
Local officials have made it less and less possible to play music late into the night, the logic being that no music means no parties. Anybody who’s been to I.V. can attest to the fact that, when the music isn’t bumping, all we have are drunken people who aren’t dancing but are looking to get drunker. There is no silver bullet for the violence problem in I.V. – it will always be a party town and there will always be drinking. Policies that hold the student body in contempt do not encourage safe drinking.
With all this bureaucratic wrangling over what can or can’t be done in I.V., it’s easy to forget about Bradley Jones, whose death is all the more tragic because it didn’t need to happen. I hope that Isla Vistans will think twice before making that snide comment to the passer-by, or confronting the idiot who insulted your girl’s honor. A little common sense will go a long way in making I.V. a more livable and less dangerous place for everyone.
Our moms should worry about mom things like rent, hygiene and grades. They should not have to worry about whether their children are going to get killed on the streets of I.V. Think of Bradley Jones’ mother, who will never have the opportunity to worry about her son again.
Neil Visalvanich is a senior history and political science major.