This Memorial Day weekend, the Safeboats program will once again return to Lake Shasta to protect Houseboats attendees from themselves.
The program, which was initiated in 2005 following the death of a UC Davis student at Houseboats, educates students on how to take safety precautions for the weekend and provides essentials throughout the event such as water, sunscreen, bandages and condoms.
As many of the students in attendance partake in the consumption of alcohol, student injuries are more or less an annual occurrence at Houseboats. However, since the beginning of Safeboats, there have been no UC Davis student casualties.
For this reason, many argue that Safeboats is an essential accompaniment to the excess of Houseboats.
“[Houseboats] is different from other off-campus partying done by Davis students in that students are isolated on the lake,” said sophomore Senator Anni Kimball, an international relations and psychology double major. “With no cell phone reception and over an hour of transportation to the nearest hospital, Safeboats becomes a vital link between students and medical attention.”
By mooring a boatful of EMTs on the lake right alongside the rest of the houseboats, Safeboats ensures that there will be medical service available to any partygoer in the event of their injury.
Within a relatively short period of time, Safeboats has already proven itself to be very effective in preventing injuries and death, according to various sources.
Several personal accounts written by Davis Wiki users on the Houseboats page describe the experiences of past attendees who have injured themselves, with the severity of these injuries ranging from bumps, bruises and alcohol poisoning to severed arteries.
Many of these personal accounts credit Safeboats with preventing such injuries from turning deadly.
However, while few would morally question Safeboats’ efforts to protect students’ lives, many — including members of the ASUCD Senate — remain divided over the program’s sources of funding.
The ASUCD subsidy for the Safeboats program was one of the most hotly debated issues at this year’s budget hearings. Members of the Senate were largely divided over whether or not to cut the size of the subsidy contributed to the over $5,155 cost of the event.
Although Safeboats receives funding from organizations such as the Water Safety Council, in previous years about $1,000 of its annual funding has come from ASUCD subsidies. In next year’s budget, Safeboats will only receive $370 for Safeboats and $130 for Safeboat education. ASUCD’s budget, of course, is largely funded by student fees, which is where the contention begins.
Because funding Safeboats is an inherent acknowledgment of the unsafe activities which occur at Houseboats, many view ASUCD providing money to the program as an endorsement of Houseboats itself.
Furthermore, certain students have expressed disagreement with the notion that their student fees are paying for part of an event which is only open to a fraction of students.
Some students, including ASUCD Senator Justin Goss, a senior political science and philosophy double major, believe the answer is the gradual transition to private funding.
“Houseboats is an inherently, empirically dangerous student event,” Goss said. “My main problem with it is that when you engage in a dangerous activity knowingly, you do so knowing the consequences. These individuals are fully aware of what they are doing and they want to protect their own lives, therefore they should insure themselves.”
On the other hand, many students see this subsidy merely as an extension of ASUCD’s efforts to cater to a diverse array of students.
“The reason there are so many different grant programs is because they are trying to reach out to as many different groups of people as possible,” said Senator Don Gilbert, a junior English major. “If everyone is going to pay student fees, everyone should be benefiting in their own way.”
Regardless of their varying opinions on how it should be funded, many Senate members seem to agree that the program itself should stay intact because of the safety it provides.
“I would have liked to have seen [the cuts] done in a better way, but as long as Safeboats is out there and doing its job that’s what really matters,” Gilbert said. “I don’t want it to take someone losing a life for us to wake up and realize we could have done something.”
DYLAN GALLAGHER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.