With the masses cheering him on, Chancellor Henry T. Yang squared up and let fly a high, arching shot that landed neatly in the cup.
It may not have been the most traditional game of beer pong — the cups were the life-sized costumes of two students reveling in their encounter with the chancellor — but Yang sank the shot as the horde chanted his name. The two students stood in awe as the chancellor acknowledged his fans and continued his traditional stroll down Del Playa Drive.
As he walked away, one student whispered breathlessly, “Best chancellor ever.”
Then again, an out-of-towner greeted the scene incredulously: “Someone brought their parents here!”
It’s all a regular part of Chancellor Yang’s Halloween and, after 16 years, he is a pro at navigating through the mass of costumed revelers. Yang doesn’t travel with any police escort when he hits the street. He’s instead joined by his wife Dilling and his good friend professor Michael Freedman, winner of the Fields Medal in mathematics.
“I’ve never missed a year,” Yang said. “Students are my bodyguard.”
Dilling agreed, noting that “we feel very comfortable walking with our students.”
The night began at Freebirds with dozens of snapshots from star-struck students.
“Can I shake your hand?” Richard Gavan, a third-year philosophy and psychology major, asked. “You’re really cool! I can’t talk. I’ve dreamed of meeting you. It sounds kind of weird, I know.”
Gavan wasn’t the only one whose dreams were fulfilled this Halloween, however. As the chancellor journeyed down DP, UCSB students came to greet him (“It’s an honor to meet you, chancellor,” or, “Oh my god, it’s the chancellor”) and snap pictures. Yang spoke to each student who recognized him, noting that he could easily designate out-of-towners from Gauchos.
“I don’t have to identify them — they’ll identify me,” he said confidently.
Needless to say, the chancellor knew best. Those who didn’t know him brushed by, unaware that UCSB’s biggest celebrity of the night was in their midst, demanded he dance with them or asked him why he was visiting the festivities.
“Welcome to I.V.!” a drunken, disheveled man shouted.
Chancellor Yang smiled, playing along as he often did with those clearly not from UCSB.
“Where are you from?” he asked.
Yang nodded with understanding as he walked away.
“He looks like a City College student.”
The chancellor was on the VIP list of several parties Saturday night; he’s teaching a class this quarter and a few students invited him to check out their gigs. He even made his way up on to a balcony at one point, surveying the massive crowd spewing out on DP.
“Considering the fact that it’s a Saturday,” Yang observed, “it’s pretty mellow.”
Despite the consensus that this year was calmer than past years — the 50,000 people expected never made it to DP — the chancellor was still mobbed as he advanced on his tour.
“Chancellor, your e-mails light up my day!” a student screamed from her balcony. “We love you — and your wife!”
The first couple of UCSB waved back, happy to pose for another photo.
“After walking all these blocks, I feel relieved,” Yang said. “It looks like this is one of the safer Halloweens.”
At one point, Yang made it even safer for students, picking up a discarded beer bottle from the middle of the street.
“I come here because I am concerned about safety,” Yang said. “When I walk, I have a good feeling if the students are safe. That’s my primary concern. I’d been concerned because [Halloween] was on Saturday, but it turned out to be okay.”
Professor Freedman agreed.
“It was pleasant,” he said. “I didn’t see anyone vomiting in the gutter. Maybe it’s becoming a friendlier ritual here.”
As the chancellor and Dilling began their walk home at 1 a.m., several students stood off to the side, whispering the common refrain of the night.
“It’s the chancellor… This has been a dream for years.”