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Warrior Day cancelled; Binge drinking, violence focus of event controversy

POSTED March 30, 2012 8:30 p.m.

Warrior Day, an annual festival of music, games, and beer on the California State University, Stanislaus campus, was cancelled Tuesday after students and administrators were unable to agree on how to best guard against dangerous binge drinking.

According to administrators, Warrior Day had become little more than an excuse for a dangerous day of drunkenness. The administration felt like it had no option but to bar alcohol sales, university spokesman Dave Tonelli said.

“There is an expectation that student programs will promote safe, legal, and responsible behavior,” Vice President for Enrollment and Student Affairs Suzanne Espinoza wrote in a March 23 memo to student leaders. “Unfortunately, it seems that the presence of alcohol at (Warrior Day) has had the opposite effect and poses an imminent threat to the health and safety of students and the surrounding community.”

Student leaders say CSU Stanislaus administrators would have made the event more dangerous by eliminating on-site alcohol sales, by encouraging dangerous “pre-party” binge drinking.

Students also say administrators stacked the deck against Warrior Day by attributing more crime to the event than it actually causes, and were set out from the start to eliminate the entire event – not just alcohol sales.

Twenty-seven arrests were related to last year’s Warrior Day – one-half of one percent of the roughly 5,000 attendees. That figure includes individuals who attended Warrior Day and then went on to commit crime later that day, including a domestic violence incident that happened several hours after the event.

Tonelli said the crime figures do not accurately represent the issues with the event, as some people were released to parents and were not included in arrest reports.

 

Students say efforts ‘ignored’

On March 5 Espinoza informed Associated Students Inc. of various administration concerns related to Warrior Day, and that the university expected to ban alcohol sales at the event.

Espinoza asked ASI to develop a document to address those concerns, and said she would review the decision. After developing a five-tier plan, ASI approached Espinoza for feedback.

“She said, ‘This isn't enough,’” ASI President Mehran Khodabandeh said.

Students went back to the drawing board, producing a 27 page, 10-tier plan. That plan calls for limiting alcohol sales, eliminating same-day ticket sales, reducing the number of non-student attendees, and strictly disallowing drunken guests from entering Warrior Day.

That plan, too, failed to win administrators’ favor. Khodabandeh said that for every concern addressed, administrators offered new issues, stating that Warrior Day incites gang violence and rape. Khodabandeh said multiple reports – from the Turlock Police Department, the Stanislaus County Sheriffs’ Department, and other local agencies – were used against ASI with the students receiving no chance to review or respond to those claims.

“It was really shocking to see how much disregard for what students want was seen,” Khodabandeh said. “Everything we produced or set out was disregarded.”

According to Tonelli, the university followed the appropriate process in dealing with ASI. Both sides met “extensively,” he said.

“They were consulted,” Tonelli said. “It was the university’s decision to eliminate alcohol sales.”

 

Never about alcohol, ASI says

Had ASI proceeded with the event without on-site alcohol sales, the potential for danger was great, Khodabandeh said. Rather than consume alcohol in a safe, controlled environment, students would likely binge drink before arriving, so as to be “drunk enough” to last through the day.

Espinoza agreed in her memo that eliminating alcohol sales was unlikely to curb binge drinking, as students would likely become intoxicated before arriving.

But, according to Khodabandeh, the university declined to work with ASI should any incidents occur following the elimination of on-site alcohol sales. Should even one problem happen, he said, Warrior Day would likely have been eliminated forever.

The alcohol concerns were just a guise, he said; CSU Stanislaus Chief of Police Steve Jaureguy recommended cancelling Warrior Day to the Academic Senate earlier this month, per Khodabandeh.

“It’s always been about cancelling Warrior Day,” Khodabandeh said. “We knew it wasn’t about alcohol. It was about the event in general.”

Jaureguy did not return calls from the Journal by press time. According to Tonelli, there were “never” any discussions with students about shutting Warrior Day down completely. Tonelli said he was unable to comment on Jaureguy’s address to the Academic Senate, as he was not in attendance.

 

Cancellation only option, ASI says

Ultimately, Khodabandeh said he made the painful recommendation to cancel this year’s Warrior Day to ASI on Tuesday.

Tonelli said the students’ decision was unexpected.

“We were very surprised they chose to cancel the event,” Tonelli said. “I think in some ways, the cancellation sends the wrong message to students; it says you can’t have a good time without alcohol.”

But the decision was never about alcohol, Khodabandeh said — it was about ensuring the event survives for future generations of CSU Stanislaus students.

Khodabandeh said the ASI resolution stipulates that next year’s event will be bigger and better, bringing in the community, alumni, faculty, and staff for an event everyone can enjoy. ASI hopes to work with the university to develop a plan to address the college’s concerns while allowing Warrior Day to grow.

That plan likely won’t include alcohol, Khodabandeh said, but it will ensure that Warrior Day lives to see its 100-year anniversary.

“The decision we made was never around the concept of we're going to fight for alcohol next year,” Khodabandeh said. “It would have been generational tyranny if we held it this year and risked it for the future.”

Khodabandeh, Espinoza, and Jaureguy will speak at an open forum to discuss the cancellation of Warrior Day at 3 p.m. Thursday in the CSU Stanislaus Event Center.

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