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Davis, California

Sunday, July 21, 2024

Students, alumni respond to Picnic Day controversy

News of Picnic Day’s potential demise quickly spread around campus over the past week and students are responding in full force.

A Facebook group titled “Save Picnic Day” attracted over 10,000 students within the first week of its creation and hundreds of wall-posts quickly crowded its page.

First-year communication and psychology double major Sam Sugarman, the group’s creator, said the general sentiment of the group’s members seems to be the same.

“The vast majority, if not 100 percent, feel that to eliminate a 96-year-old tradition is an unnecessary step that the school should not resort to,” Sugarman said. “However, many members do feel that precautions need to be taken by the city and university to ensure that the event does not get out of hand.”

Complaints of increased violent behavior, vandalism and public drunkenness during this year’s picnic day resulted in a move by the university and the city to re-examine the event and its continuation.

Members of the Davis community, including business owners, the chamber of commerce and the police department will meet with university representatives on May 10, during which the problems with this year’s event will take center stage.

“What happened this year was a big deal,” said Gary Sandy, the university’s director of local government relations. “I am only one part of the meeting’s group and I cannot prejudge what the group will decide, but all options are definitely on the table.”

Despite an outcry from many Davis business owners, who were forced to break up fights and clean up vomit outside of their shops, many say they are not looking to permanently cancel the event.

“The tradition of Picnic Day is important to our organization and to many in the community,” said Joy Cohan, director of the Davis Downtown Business Association (DDBA). “We hope to work collaboratively to find solutions to keep the event alive, but it can’t be alive in the way that it was this year, or even the past several years.”

Though the DDBA has made past attempts to work with the university and remedy some of the problems associated with Picnic Day, Cohan said that the event’s sheer size has prevented a lot of progress.

“The situation has simply gotten too large for just the university or just the DDBA to solve,” she said. “We need to bring the city in and perhaps look at ordinances and other regulations that will enable the police department to be more effective during the event.”

The May 10 meeting will be the first of a series of collaborative efforts between the city and university, Sandy said.

“Nothing will be decided at the first meeting,” he said. “This is just the start of a lengthy process and as of now we are only forming a planning committee … a whole tier of decision-making will be made later on.”

Due to space restrictions, the May 10 meeting will not be open to students or the general public, but student representatives will be present to voice their concerns.

“I am not sure what the city is advocating, but regardless, the city does not control the university,” said ASUCD president Jack Zwald, who will attend the meeting later this month. “Picnic Day is funded by the students and at the end of the day, any decisions must include city officials, campus administration and student leaders. There needs to be a consensus or else we will have this conversation every year.”

Former ASUCD vice president Chris Dietrich, who will also attend the meeting as a member of the UC Davis student liaison commission, said that the problem is largely due to both the increasing size of the event and the amount of individuals outside the Davis community in attendance.

“As the event has grown, it has gotten a reputation as a big party,” he said. “We are seeing higher numbers of people not connected to our campus coming in and just wanting to get drunk at Davis.”

Though problems in previous years led to discussion over whether to scale back on this year’s Picnic Day, Dietrich said it was never a serious option.

“In looking at issues with Picnic Day, the idea to take a year off from the event was brought up but it was never really considered,” he said. “It is more of an option on the table now but I think it is a last resort option – there are lots of other things we need to try first.”

Alumni also responded to the Picnic Day controversy with their own “Save Picnic Day” Facebook group, which attracted around 4,500 members. Many expressed sadness that off-campus partying was endangering the future of the event.

“I spent my whole day on campus and I only saw thousands of people having a good, wholesome time,” said Tom Stallard, a 1968 alumnus and this year’s parade marshal. “Picnic Day is a wonderful event that does a lot of good and I don’t want to see it jeopardized by the inexcusable, alcohol-fueled behavior in the town.”

Stallard is meeting with the president of the Cal Aggie Alumni Association and other members to look at ways that alumni can become more engaged in the event and ensure that behavior remains responsible.

“Other campuses have lost their open houses because of bad behavior,” he said. “We can do better. We will have to contemplate significant restrictions for the event, but we have a tradition of being a responsible campus community and I have great confidence in our university.”

ERICA LEE can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.


  1. So, swwsiam, what you’re basically saying is that you’re A. Not an adult. B. None of the UCD students are adults C. Can’t make any adult decisions and deal with their own consequences and D. Need Momma UCD to tell what’s wrong and right at night. Grow up or please, transfer somewhere else. You’re pathetic.

  2. While I respect you opinion, I have to disagree. While yes, it is the student’s responsibility to take care of themselves, it is not their job to police the activity of other individuals. As a current UC Davis student, I can state that the school took virtually no precautions in terms of talking to the students about potential pitfalls of picnic day, something that would have been extremely beneficial, especially to Freshman living in the dorms who have, for the most part, never experienced Picnic Day before. It is the schools responsibility to watch out for the well being of its student’s, or at the very least make sure they are aware of what can occur during events such as Picnic Day. To say that student’s are the only party that is responsible is essentially the same as if a child throws a party at his parents house while they are home, the house gets trashed while the parents sit by, then the parent’s blame the child for all the actions and make them clean up the mess. While the child does have some responsibility, it is also the responsibility of the parents to watch out for their home and step in or help the situation.

    As student’s, we accept that Picnic Day has gotten out of hand, but the major problem are the out of towner’s who come in with no connection what-so-ever to campus or anyone affiliated with campus, and trash the place. In term’s of asking for ID’s, maybe that idea should be passed on to the bars that open at 6AM and begin serving $2 beers and shots. Do not simply blame the student’s for acts committed by others.

  3. Sugarman said, “precautions need to be taken by the city and university…” No, Mr. Sugarman, those precautions lay in the hands of the students and Davis residents who throw parties or attend the parties. Your request is like an out-of-control driver who says, “It’s not my fault. If the police would just pull me over, all of this could be avoided.” The students are behind the wheels of the party bus. You guys blame out-of-towners, but the out-of-towners aren’t hosting the house parties where beer and liquor flow without any regulation. And most of those out-of-towners are alumni just reliving their college days. The responsibility lies with the students. As hard as it is, you must tell your friends when to stop drinking. You must tell yourselves when to stop drinking. You must ask for Davis IDs at your house parties. You must control your own house parties (e.g. don’t let people on your roofs). Just because it is Picnic Day doesn’t mean you have to get up at 6:00 am to start drinking. I know it is a shock to many students when they first come to college and your parents aren’t around to do your laundry or make your bed. You can’t treat the University like your parents and blame them for not regulating your behavior. If you really want to Save Picnic Day, then you have to man-up and take responsibilities for your own actions.


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