After facing down UCSB earlier this year over the use of its trademark on his website, www.thedarksideofucsb.com, the father of a former UCSB student is putting his money where his mouth is.
With about $1,000 in contributions from students, alumni and parents of students — but mostly from his own pocket — James Baron has begun funding events hosted by student groups that promise to be free of sex, drugs, alcohol and violence. He said his decision to fund student groups stems from his desire to provide UCSB students with alternatives to the Isla Vista party scene. Baron’s website hosts selected headlines pointing to incidents of crime in I.V. and several editorials critical of what he sees as a university culture that is overly accepting of vice.
“What happened was [that] about two months ago we became aware that the Associated Students were out of money and they weren’t funding groups,” Baron said. “One of the things we are trying to do is highlight the problems at UCSB, [Santa Barbara] City College and Isla Vista. But we also want to provide solutions and one of the solutions is to fund more alternative venues — meaning no violence, no sex, no drugs and no liquor. So we said let’s go ahead and start funding them.”
Baron said he has funded six events hosted by UCSB student organizations, but some groups chose to not publicly disclose that they received money from him. He said the groups fear that their reputations could damaged if they are affiliated with Baron or his website.
Most recently, Baron funded the UCSB men’s tennis team’s season home opener on March 10. Matt Coin, a fourth-year sociology major and captain of the team, said Baron responded promptly to the team’s request. Coin said Baron provided money for sodas, chips and 30 pizzas.
Coin said he appreciates what Baron is trying to do for the university.
“I think his efforts to provide alternative activities that don’t include alcohol and [elicit] substances and his efforts to promote UCSB in a more positive light are really helpful to our program and the UCSB student body,” Coin said. “It’s admirable that he was willing to provide funds to a program he had never been involved in. He took a chance on us and we are very grateful.”
The tennis team was able to draw more fans to its opening game because of Baron’s aid, Coin said.
Baron also agreed to fund the team’s Feb. 2 game against UC Irvine, and money from thedarksideofucsb.com also helped pay for the Women’s Ensemble Theater Troupe’s performance of the The Vagina Monologues” on Feb. 28.
Groups seeking funding for events can submit their requests through Baron’s website. Baron said he requires a general overview of the event, and activities cannot involve alcohol, drugs and/or be conducive to violence.
Baron said his vision for UCSB is one where safety and community are emphasized over partying.
“You don’t have to agree with our methods, but we are trying to do something positive for the school,” he said. “We are hoping ultimately to have some late-night venues where people can do things at 11 or 12 o’clock at night instead of just drifting off to the party scene. The ideal situation would be a great open and safe atmosphere with people acting responsibly and like adults.”
Barbara Ortiz, coordinator of the Alternative Social Programming Committee, which also funds non-alcoholic student events through the Office of Student Life, said she supports Baron’s endeavors.
“If someone in the community wants to give money to student groups, then I’m all for it,” Ortiz said. “He has a perspective of the problems we face and I think it is very admirable what he is doing.”
Ortiz also said she agrees that more late-night events are necessary as a viable alternative to the party scene.
Baron said he became aware of some students’ behavior in Isla Vista through the negative experiences of his daughter, who withdrew from UCSB, and from friends and family members who have attended or are connected with the university. Although he agrees that the negative activities that occur in Isla Vista also occur at other schools throughout the country, Baron said Isla Vista is unique because the unruly and unsafe conduct of its residents is more extreme.
“I think we owe it to the communities that we are involved with to see that they function in a healthy fashion,” Baron said. “When we recognize that there is a problem, those of us with the time and resources are obligated to help improve the situation.”
The university tends to ignore the problems until they become disastrous and does not hold the students accountable for their actions, Baron said.
“If the university would focus on this instead of ignoring it, they could solve the problems. There are a lot of smart people there that know the conditions and what’s going on, they just don’t have the will to do something about it,” Baron said.
Chancellor Henry T. Yang said the university does not oppose Baron’s efforts.
“We sincerely appreciate not only those who participate in such joint efforts, but also those who provide helpful suggestions and ideas,” Yang said. “We want the very best for our students, both in and out of the classroom.”