As news of the Deltopia riot made its way to me on Sunday morning, I stewed over what had become of my beloved Isla Vista. What followed next was internal conflict. I asked myself if I had already forgotten, only six years removed from UCSB, what I.V. is about. Looking back on a memorable stint in Isla Vista, I could not help but feel that there was some hypocrisy inherent in my emotions. I realized, though, that my ire wasn’t aimed at squashing the party in I.V. As Matt Kettmann so poignantly notes in his recent Independent article, the Isla Vista experience turns out some of the most well-rounded people you will have the pleasure of meeting. The sense of work-life balance and soft skills we alumni have attained are key differentiators of the UCSB/Isla Vista experience. So how can we move on, without pointing fingers in blame, but instead toward solutions? How can we harness the goodness inherent in the Isla Vista lifestyle and expel what many have acknowledged to be the gross excess?
1) United Leadership & Long-Term Vision
The UCSB Associated Students have an opportunity to form a vision for Isla Vista that will endure beyond a four-year graduation cycle. To do so, A.S. needs the support of the offices of the Chancellor, Third District Supervisor and the Sheriff. Together, these entities should explore more effective communication strategies and continue to organize regular town hall meetings — like the meeting organized for Halloween 2013 — that integrate all community stakeholders.
It would behoove the UCSB administration and A.S. to improve lines of communication with SBCC leaders and enlist their help with communicating critical information to their student body. Lastly, the Administrators and A.S. should reach out to their peers at other prominent academic institutions with a penchant for partying — like the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Texas-Austin — in order to determine best practices.
2) Building Relationships
The relationship between authorities and many I.V. residents is a fractious one, which is due to a lack of communication. Despite their numerous obligations, the UCSB Chancellor, Sheriff and the Third District Supervisor must commit to improving their relationships with Isla Vista and being more present in the community. When I lived on the 6700 block of Sueño, the Sheriff’s deputy assigned to our neighborhood went out of his way to get to know my housemates and me, and we worked together to establish the lines of communication early on. As a result, we could always count on the deputy to look out for our best interests and he could count on our full cooperation. If the authorities take a more personal approach they will tangibly benefit from having the community on their side.
3) Investing in I.V.
Isla Vista needs resources like a community center and social workers to help build its social capital. Residents should continue to back recent efforts to establish a community center that would serve as a platform for them to engage with their community. The county should do its part to commit a full-time social worker to Isla Vista to deal with rising issues of mental health, addiction and sexual assault.
On a more tangible level, restricted parking would go a long way toward ensuring Isla Vista stays local. Street permits could be issued to residents for free, or for a nominal fee to cover expenses for signage and enforcement.
4) Assuming Responsibility
We used to say it all the time, “It’s the $&%#ing out-of-towners,” but we would seldom accept responsibility for our own role in bringing people into I.V. Putting an event like Deltopia on Facebook is like starting a campfire during red flag conditions. Think carefully about whom you invite and how you invite them. If you do have guests in from out of town, make sure they know how important your community is to you.
It has been encouraging to read the overwhelming sentiment that Isla Vista must look inward. UCSB and Isla Vista are bound to each other, and we all have a vested interest in ensuring that their reputations continue to spread for the right reasons. With this in mind, we Isla Vista residents of past and present should assume ownership over our community, perhaps for the first time.
Roozbeh Kaboli is a UCSB alumnus from the class of ’08.
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