The rumors of Warrior Day’s demise may have been greatly exaggerated.
The annual California State University, Stanislaus celebration is back on the drawing board after a student petition forced student leadership to reconsider the event’s cancellation.
Warrior Day was cancelled March 27, after students and administrators were unable to decide how best to address dangerous binge drinking. Administrators decided to ban beer sales, but Associated Students Inc. representatives feared that would drive students to drink more before the event, leading to more problems and giving administrators an excuse to eliminate Warrior Day forever.
Despite the disagreement, students Amanda Punzalan and Perla Guerrero drafted a petition to ensure Warrior Day continues – beer or no beer.
“Warrior Day is a campus tradition” Punzalan said. “Students and alumni come together to celebrate all of our achievements, but that’s been taken away from us.”
It’s a tradition as important as commencement, Punzalan went on to say. And while it’s certainly about mingling, having fun, and letting loose, it’s not about alcohol, Guerrero added.
“It’s about having the day for us students to celebrate and come together,” Guerrero said.
In just three days, the students collected more than 1,000 signatures. That triggered an ASI bylaw which forces the body to reexamine the issue.
The event would likely be smaller scale than past Warrior Days, with only a DJ or a few local bands in a festival atmosphere. Only students and alumni would be allowed; in past years, the event welcomed thousands of non-student guests, whose ticket sales raised money for more famous musicians. But 17 of 27 arrested at last year’s Warrior Day were guests.
Punzalan and Guerrero also said Vice President for Enrollment and Student Affairs Suzanne Espinoza agreed to attend a meeting scheduled for Tuesday, and to work with the students to make some sort of Warrior Day possible.
Students, leadership voice disagreement at forum
The petition came to light at an open forum about Warrior Day held on campus Thursday, where the CSU Stanislaus administration and ASI representatives discussed the disagreement which ultimately led to the event’s cancellation.
Administrators characterized ASI’s decision to cancel the event as an unfortunate response to the university’s decision to bar the sale of alcohol, which served to perpetuate the idea of Warrior Day as an alcohol-centric event.
Student leaders said Warrior Day’s cancellation was an act of self-preservation, as administrators made clear that if even a few students drank, the event could be eliminated forever.
“Espinoza did say we would have to look into the program itself if things did not work out this year,” said ASI representative Marvin Hooker. “… I'd rather not have it this year than not have it for 50 more years.”
Espinoza admitted the statement was made, but said the university’s concern was always with the sale of alcohol at Warrior Day, not with eliminating Warrior Day itself. Espinoza pointed to a letter penned by CSU Stanislaus President Hamid Shirvani supporting the event as proof of the administration’s stance.
Students were not convinced, however, as CSU Stanislaus Chief of Police Steve Jaureguy advocated the elimination of Warrior Day to the Academic Senate in early March. Espinoza said that recommendation came as a surprise to her and was solely Jaureguy’s opinion, not representative of the administration’s stance.
ASI representatives also said they felt as if they were set up to fail from the beginning, with crime statistics stacked against them and new evidence brought forward at the last minute. Though they were given a chance to develop plans to mitigate the risk of alcohol, after multiple revisions ASI was ultimately told that no mitigation measures could possibly be good enough.
“I did not see anything that would mitigate the risk to the extent we would feel safe in offering alcohol at the event,” Espinoza said.
The interaction between Espinoza and ASI ultimately lead ASI to pass a resolution of no confidence in Espinoza’s leadership this week.
Drinking won’t stop, students say
Students maintained that removing alcohol from Warrior Day would not address the binge drinking issue. Due to limits placed on drinks served, drinking at Warrior Day actually failed to meet binge drinking standards; much of the dangerous drinking took place before and after the event.
“You’re hiding the issue,” ASI President Mehran Khodabandeh said.
CSU Stanislaus Provost James Strong disagreed, saying that by eliminating alcohol from the event Warrior Day would no longer become associated with alcohol. Strong said the ban would eliminate drinking before the event, though the forum audience loudly responded that “pre-partying” would continue.
Espinoza agreed eliminating drinking at Warrior Day would not stop binge drinking students do at other times, but noted there was no need to make matters worse by allowing them to drink more at Warrior Day.
With the zero-tolerance stance pushed by administrators, ASI officials said they felt as if they were expected to change the mindset of 9,000 attendees in 30 days –an impossible task. They lambasted CSU Stanislaus for failing to provide students with alcohol education, and for their late involvement of ASI in the decision-making process. Had discussions began in October, ASI representatives said, there may have been enough time to educate students, they said.
Administrators said discussions began immediately following the 2011 Warrior Day, but ASI representatives disagreed with that assessment; though a debrief occurred, Khodabandeh said the issue of eliminating alcohol was not brought to their board until March 2012.
Students also noted that CSU Stanislaus is a wet campus, with beer sold in the campus grill.
Farewell concert planned
Khodabandeh said the money allocated to Warrior Day won’t just disappear. ASI recently approved holding a farewell concert this year, using the Warrior Day money to hire an even “bigger” headline musician than Warrior Day usually drew.
But ASI will have to take a step back from the farewell concert on April 17 to discuss bringing back Warrior Day.
It may not be the same as in prior years, but at least it might live on, Punzalan said.
ASI will meet at 5 p.m. April 17 in the CSU Stanislaus student lounge to discuss reinstating Warrior Day.