Twelve hours, 200 events, and 100,000 guests are only a few of the massive statistics that describe the only party whose attendance will exceed those who RSVP’d on Facebook.
But while the majority of the Davis community will be spotted somewhere on campus this Saturday, its minorities may be staying home.
That’s because Picnic Day places certain factions of the greater campus community under the metaphorical microscope more than any other day, according to Andrea Gaytan, assistant director of the Cross Cultural Center.
“[The lack of diversity] is magnified because Picnic Day is like a homecoming, or open house,” Gaytan said. “You see generations of students come back, and it’s just more obvious that historically this institution has been predominantly Anglo.”
Because Davis’ roots are as a farming town, and Caucasians have only recently been surpassed as the most common race on campus, the trend will likely continue until the current generation’s homecoming, Gaytan said.
Meanwhile, illustrating campus diversity is one of the Picnic Day committee’s annual goals, according to chair Monica Lindholm, who cited the Multicultural Children’s Faire – an all-day crafts and activities event for children in the Hart Hall courtyard – as an example of cultural representation.
Kids can make their own Aztec mask or African bead necklace at the Faire, or learn to write their name in Chinese calligraphy.
Lindholm said stages throughout campus will again be filled with a variety of styles and cultures expressed through music and dance. Danzantes Del Alma, a returning favorite and UC Davis’ only folklorico dance troupe, can be seen at East Quad from 3:20 to 3:40 p.m.
While displaying diversity is one of the Picnic Day committee’s greatest hopes, it isn’t something they can do alone. Their role isn’t to host or charter events, Lindholm said, only to provide a forum and physical space.
Lindholm said that every department is sent an invitation to participate, and some, like Plant and Environmental Sciences and the Cal Aggie Alumni Association, even have more than one event.
“We do our best to include everyone who wants to participate, and we usually don’t turn down any applications from within the UC Davis community,” Lindholm said.
What the Picnic Day Committee can’t do is usher in departments that are reluctant to participate.
“We do our best to make sure that we represent the diversity on campus with as many views as possible,” Lindholm said. “We’re students too, and we want to show the best of Davis.”
Gaytan said that even though the structure is open for people to participate, if students don’t feel safe and comfortable on campus on a day-to-day basis, they’re not going to participate on a day their differences will be even more visible.
“If we don’t feel welcome and if nothing else is done any time of the year, why should these people of color be paraded out on this one day,” she said, alluding to the streak of hate crimes the University of California experienced during winter quarter. “It’s a dog and pony show to get people to look at what a happy family we are, too, especially to donors.”
More visibly troubling is the increase in alcohol-related incidents on Picnic Day, as many students choose the day that academic departments try to look their best as one to look their worst.
“It’s a fun day that the university and our units try to put our best foot forward, wash our windows, offer free things, and show what we do in the world and then you have a good portion of students who play the fool,” said UC Davis Chief of Police Annette Spicuzza. “And it’s like, ‘What are you doing? You’re out of control and not helping anybody.'”
Spicuzza said there has been a rise in complaints from the community in recent years about drunkenness, disorderly conduct and underage drinking on Picnic Day.
“We probably see violations of the open container law the most – and that doesn’t mean if you put a cap on it it’s legal.” Spicuzza said. “We’re still going to have you dump it out and confiscate it.”
Emily Glass [cq], a junior at Davis High School, said high school students get excited for this weekend because alcohol is more accessible than any other.
“A Street apartments are so open that anyone can get in,” Glass said. “You just say ‘Mom, I’m going to the weiner dog races … and I couldn’t hear the phone because the dogs were barking.'”
Spicuzza said that the campus police department has increased the number of officers on duty for this year’s Picnic Day and cautioned students against drinking on campus.
“If you’re going to do it, be smart and responsible about it – don’t drive, or get in a car with someone who’s been drinking,” she said. “Your best bet is to just not do it, because the City of Davis isn’t going to tolerate it at all.”
MIKE DORSEY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.