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Davis, California

Friday, February 23, 2024

Column: Live and let live

Last year, Picnic Day resulted in 516 calls to the police and 33 separate arrests, more than double the previous year. Prospective students and their parents watched as Unitrans evacuated buses in which partygoers had vomited. Local families reported instances of harassment and indecent exposure, or in rare instances, both at the same time.

You may laugh, but there are those who have had enough, who harken back to Picnic Day’s traditional roots, and their voice has been persuasive to the administration. So persuasive, in fact, that it threatens the very existence of a Picnic Day 2012. Picnic Day is at a fundamental crossroads, and for better or worse, its future rests in each student’s hands.

One of those hands, however, will likely be holding a disposable red cup. We had better hold our liquor.

My attitude toward Picnic Day through my first four years has been the classic, “live and let live.” If you want to drink with me at 6 a.m. on First Street, you’re certainly invited. Picnic Day is about community, and I’d love to make a new friend over a 30-cent beer. Just don’t bother those who’d rather put on a smiley face for prospective students and stay sober. Live and let live. For my friends and me, this is a Picnic Day philosophy that works.

But I spent the last two hours reading every article even referencing Picnic Day in both this online publication and in The Davis Enterprise’s, and perhaps I’ve been an idealist. I’ve found myself questioning how realistic my philosophy actually is. Not because of the articles per se, but because of the comments they incite:

“Is public urination not to be as egregious an act near my house as in the Safety Enhancement Zone?” wrote Donna Turcot on The Davis Enterprise’s website. “It’s happened before in my yard! I didn’t like it then either!”

Someone with the username “christyliz” wrote about how it used to be: “As a Davis native I can tell you that Picnic Day weekend was a time of civic pride. Citizens mowed and edged their lawns, washed their cars, cleaned their windows and presented a good face for the visitors from other communities who might be considering sending their college-bound kids to UCD. Now most of us leave town or hunker down at home trying to avoid the drunken, noisy, disrespectful scenes in our own neighborhoods.”

For the last four years, I’ve spent the hours between 6 a.m. and 3 p.m. on First Street, so I haven’t exactly made the Picnic Day rounds. I had imagined there were many neighborhoods that went relatively undisturbed, but apparently not. I realize now the naïveté in assuming my “Live and let live” philosophy applied en masse. Students have been doing stupid stuff in too many stupid places, so the city of Davis, in its infinite wisdom, took action.

This year, there will be a “Safety Enhancement Zone” that borders the Downtown Davis area inside which fines will be doubled and tripled. Problem solved.

Wait, if Davis citizens’ problem is that students are doing too many stupid things too close to their homes, homes that are statistically outside of the “Safety Enhancement Zone,” why is the city’s policy to give us incentive to leave the one place we already congregate?

Yes, this policy will undoubtedly place an angelic conscious figure on the left shoulder of students who might normally be puking, but it might also be enough to convince houses outside of the downtown area to throw bigger parties to avoid the fees downtown. And if big parties aren’t downtown, then they’re a whole lot closer to homeowners’ lawns and windows.

“We know people are going to drink,” Davis Police Lt. Glenn Glasgow told The Enterprise. “We know people are going to party. We just hope they do it responsibly.”

If that’s the city’s policy, then it is reasonable to think the police would want to keep the lunacy contained in one area. Tripling fines where they already know we congregate is not the best way to accomplish this.

This year, I think the police force is going to be patrolling a much larger area and have much more difficulty doing so, not because of the nature of students or of Picnic Day, but because of their implementation of this policy.

If it were up to me, I’d triple fines everywhere BUT the downtown area between A and E Street and First and Fifth Street (Let’s be real, Froggy’s could use the tripled fines). This way we’d have incentive to keep our debauchery in one place, away from those who don’t appreciate it. If it were up to me, I’d give you incentive to “Live and let live,” because that’s what Picnic Day is all about.

In honor of Principal Brochill, JOSH ROTTMAN will be respecting his partner this Picnic Day. He cannot be reached on Picnic Day, but he can be reached every other day at jjrottman@ucdavis.edu.


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