Picnic Day. UC Davis. It almost seems like one couldn’t exist without the other.
But after this year’s Picnic Day, many are concerned the day may need some reforms.
This year, the campus Police Department handled 330 calls for service on Picnic Day. Police and fire units handled 12 medical calls, six people were taken in for hospital treatment and 33 were arrested in the city of Davis.
Campus police made four arrests, three for alleged public drunkenness and one for a suspected narcotics violation. Police issued 13 citations and 59 warnings.
In a news release, Lt. Thomas Waltz said the average number of arrests on Picnic Days is 15.
Waltz added that city police handled 516 service calls this Picnic Day, compared with 100 during a typical weekend. Most of the problems occurred off campus, and police said many of those arrested were out-of-town visitors.
The ASUCD Picnic Day Committee, alumni, Government and Community Relations, the Davis Chamber of Commerce and the Davis Downtown Business Association have formed a task force and met Monday to look into ways to address problems related to Picnic Day.
The bars’ opening times have been another concern for those organizing Picnic Day.
The Davis Graduate’s owner Charlie Swanson, and husband of City Council candidate Rochelle Swanson, said when community leaders were saying there was a need to take back the day, the bar wanted to be proactive and take a leadership role in making changes to Picnic Day.
Normally the Grad begins serving $1 beers at 6 a.m. on Picnic Day, but Swanson said next year they plan on beginning to serve alcohol at 11 a.m. instead.
“We serve less than 1 percent of alcohol, but we are willing to make this change because the perception of drinking at 6 a.m. doesn’t match the way we want to stand in the community,” Swanson said. “This has put our customers who did nothing wrong in a bad light. We want to make it a more responsible day, with hopes that other groups can also.”
Junior political science and philosophy major Michelle Ellison said she believes people will drink regardless of the change in hours; it just may be a little more difficult to have access to alcohol.
Gary Sandy, director of local government relations for UC Davis, said Picnic Day needs to change radically to be saved, such as emphasizing the possible penalties for those who break the law and reaching out to not only bars, but other businesses that sell alcohol as well.
“The size of the event [around 75,000 people] has become unmanageable, along with issues of excessive use of alcohol,” Sandy said. “We need to make sure we have resources and we need to get the message across that this is a family event, not party day. It’s going to take the entire community to bring about change and return Picnic Day to its roots.”
Swanson said there needs to be more emphasis on the activities of the day, rather than making it a day all about drinking.
“There should be much more involvement from student groups in participation in parade and events surrounding Picnic Day,” Swanson said. “My family went and commented on how the amount of floats and participation have really gone down. It should be a great day to try to attract new students.”
Marjorie M. Dickinson, assistant vice chancellor of UC Davis, said though The Grad’s proposal is one new idea related to addressing some of the problems related to Picnic Day, there are many options being discussed.
“Picnic Day is a wonderful tradition and an important part of UC Davis’ personality, but we often have to take a look at programs to see if there’s a way they can be made better,” Dickinson said. “We want to bring all the stakeholders to the table, students, alumni, the city and business, and come up with some recommendations and have a conversation about what we can all agree on.”
ANGELA SWARTZ can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.