Chancellor, mayor issue 'last call' on Picnic Day covenant
April 1, 2011
By Julia Ann Easley
Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi and Davis Mayor Joe Krovoza this week delivered what may be a “last call” for Davis businesses that serve or sell alcohol — asking them to publicly pledge to follow “responsible hospitality practices” on Picnic Day, April 16.
The Davis Downtown Business Association and the Chamber of Commerce have led the effort to ask alcohol licensees to follow measures to “promote a healthy and safe environment for the benefit of all."
As of midweek, about 50 licensees had signed the Picnic Day Community Covenant; in a letter mailed Wednesday (March 30), the chancellor and mayor “strongly encourage” the remaining 50 establishments to come on board.
The covenant’s 13 measures include refraining from selling or serving alcohol before 11 a.m. and not using special pricing that would encourage over-consumption, practices blamed for some of last year’s Picnic Day problems. The full text and an updated list of signatories are posted on the Davis Downtown Business Association’s website.
“It is vital that we work together this year to take the necessary steps to reduce the activity that marred last year’s celebration,” Katehi and Krovoza wrote, “or UC Davis will be forced to consider canceling Picnic Day.”
Over the last year, a work group — with representation from Picnic Day student organizers, the campus, city, law enforcement and the business community — have been addressing problems that marred aspects of the 2010 event.
The campus’s annual open house attracts thousands of visitors with more than 200 family-friendly activities — including a parade, entertainment, educational exhibits, tours, a children's fair, sporting contests and animal events. But last year’s event was accompanied by rowdiness and alcohol-related problems, mostly in downtown Davis, and a higher than usual number of calls for police service and more arrests than usual.
Special measures for this year include scaling back event publicity and emphasizing the family nature of the event; enacting increased penalties for violations of the law and the student conduct code; encouraging responsibility and safety at off-campus parties; and increasing the presence of law enforcement, the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and university staff.
UC Davis managerial economics major Charlie Colato, who chairs Picnic Day, said the board of directors chose this year’s "Rewind" theme to encourage Picnic Day-goers to hold to the spirit of that first day spent picnicking around a new university barn in 1909.
“This is the year to ‘rewind’ Picnic Day from the alcohol-related problems that have accompanied the celebration,” he said. “We want our students and the community to enjoy the day and be safe.”
Calling on students and others
The board and more than 400 volunteers, most of them students, manage Picnic Day — making it what is believed to be the largest student-run event in the country.
New this year, about 25 volunteers have been recruited to increase the presence of university staff as well as to assist students with the event’s management. Paul Cody, staff adviser to Picnic Day, said the volunteers will be trained in providing information to visitors, monitoring for problems and notifying police when necessary.
Chris Carter, budget director for UC Davis, and Lina Layiktez, director of Conference and Event Services, are among them. “I know there have been problems,” Carter said. “To the extent that I can do my part to help ensure not just a successful 2011 but also ensure Picnic Day goes on well beyond 2011, all the better.”
Layiktez, who has volunteered with Picnic Day before, said she has been asked to represent the university in the community. “You really act as an ambassador for the campus,” she said. “I think it’s fun.”
Student leaders and Fred Wood, vice chancellor of Student Affairs, are also preparing to send an open letter to UC Davis students to encourage them to play their part in a safe Picnic Day 2011 and to help maintain it as a proud tradition. The draft letter highlights resources for safely hosting and attending parties at (safeparty.ucdavis.edu) and encourages students to consider the consequences of actions that would not be in keeping with the spirit of Picnic Day and campus values.
Anyone can show support for Picnic Day by signing the online Picnic Day Pledge. “Through my safe and healthy decisions, I hope to preserve the event for future generations of Davis students and the community to experience,” the pledge reads in part. At the time of publication, about 850 people had signed on.
Sanctions and law enforcement
The City Council has enacted a special safety enhancement zone for Picnic Day weekend, doubling the fines for specific acts — violations of noise and open container ordinances, urinating in public and smoking where banned — in designated areas of the downtown and along Russell Boulevard. Student Judicial Affairs, which oversees student discipline at UC Davis, will apply enhanced disciplinary sanctions for student misconduct on and around Picnic Day.
In the days leading up to Picnic Day, the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control plans to conduct decoy and shoulder-tap operations. In the former, minors try to purchase alcohol from licensed premises; in the latter, minors approach adults outside a licensed stores, asking the adults to make purchases. Last week, the ABC presented a special prevention and education program on alcohol and drugs drawing about 40 employees from licensed establishments in Davis.
Alcohol is prohibited on campus on Picnic Day, and Police Chief Annette Spicuzza said all alcohol-related laws will be strictly enforced. “There will be zero tolerance for alcohol on campus,” she said. Both the campus Police Department and the city Police Department plan to bolster their ranks by borrowing officers from other law enforcement agencies.
But the two departments have also been reaching out to bars and restaurants, students and others to mitigate potential problems and promote safety. Thursday (March 30), for example, police officers attended the regular weekly meeting of fraternity and sorority presidents to talk about Picnic Day safety.
Health Education and Promotion, a unit of Student Health Services, continues to provide information kits that promote responsibility at off-campus parties. A product of the long-standing Safe Party Initiative, the packs contain information on best practices for safe and successful parties for hosts and party-goers, and provide information about laws and campus policies related to alcohol and parties.
At the request of the city of Davis' City-UC Davis Student Liaison Commission, more than two dozen apartment complexes have agreed to distribute a letter to remind their residents about lease provisions relating to maximum number of guests, guest parking and noise control.
After it’s over
What happens after Picnic Day?
In the short term, the Greek community is going to help clean up the downtown area and campus. Joaquin Feliciano, Greek life coordinator, said he expects about 100 members of two dozen fraternities and sororities to participate.
Gary Sandy, director of Local Government Relations for UC Davis, said the campus has already scheduled a post-Picnic Day meeting for a debriefing and a discussion of the event and its future.
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