By Alejandro Trejo
April 29, 2010
A lot can happen on campus in one day.
Between an administration that does not condone the event and such a
large amount of campus getting so stoned that someone could get a
contact high, it's easy to get mixed up and lost in the haziness of
it all. 4/20 is crazy, tiring, and it happens every year.
But for thousands of students and non-students who flock to the
Porter Meadow each year for the day's festivities, 4/20 is more than
just a day. It's an event, an extravaganza filled with smoke, muddled
thoughts, and lots of eating. It's been featured in articles from
Rolling Stone to the local Santa Cruz Sentinel, where it is always a
top story. The excitement has been the subject of many YouTube
videos, with up to 60,000 hits for a single clip. The event has
gathered enough steam to take on a life of its own, one that the
campus administration does not support.
For some, the day doesn't mean much. Just ask fourth-year biology and
environmental studies major Noah Best who, at 4:20 p.m. on April 20
is in, of all places, UCSC's Science and Engineering Library. Best,
who doesn't smoke marijuana, didn't even realize the magnitude of the
moment the clock struck 4:20 until just a couple of minutes prior. He
doesn't find the event special, calling it "just another day."
"Tons of kids do it anyway I bet you a majority of the kids who are
there at the [Porter] field right now smoke weed anyways," Best said.
"It's not like they're just doing it this one day."
"This is not a university sanctioned event, this is not something we
condone," said Felicia McGinty, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs.
"One of our greatest concerns is safety, specifically the safety of
our students and our ability to maintain continuity of the learning
environment and business operations."
This continuity becomes harder to maintain due to the enormous amount
of people who come onto campus for the event, and the obstacles made
to disrupt attendance. Specifically, no overnight guests were allowed
to stay on campus from the 19th to the 21st, traffic was diverted
from the west entrance towards the main entrance, and the routes of
both campus shuttles and city buses changed to avoid the whole Porter
McGinty was especially worried about the event becoming hostile, like
it almost did in 2009 when a religious group stood in the Porter
meadow holding signs opposing the use of marijuana and condemning
those who use it to damnation.
"The problem is you have a large crowd of people last year there
were people with signs saying 'You're going to hell,' that kind of
thing then there was a confrontation between these two groups,"
said McGinty. "It didn't get physical, fortunately, but my concern
is, what if it does?"
University spokesman Jim Burns echoed McGinty on the issue of massive
amounts of people on campus and how that can affect the university.
"We have implemented a number of transportation measures that are
designed to really protect the safety of the people here," Burns
said. "Even if we would rather they not be here."
Fourth-year astronomy and astrophysics PH.D student Kevin Schlaufman
worries that the event does a great disservice to how the University is viewed.
"I think it might have an effect on the way people perceive UC Santa
Cruz in general, so I suspect that this might leave people outside
the UCSC community with a potentially mistaken impression that Santa
Cruz students are somehow less serious academically because this is
one way they choose to spend their free time," Schlaufman said.
Schlaufman does not see any real alternative "thing" for the
university community to get behind, despite having various cultural
and community events going on every week.
"It seems like most of the activities are focused at small groups,"
Schlaufman said. "This [event] at least gives the appearance of an
event that everyone can get behind."
McGinty wonders at this same anomaly.
"I think it's interesting that our student groups do such great
programs on campus, our athletes compete and there are these great
sporting events and we don't get the turnout for those things,"
McGinty said. "But then on 4/20 thousands of people show up."
Porter Meadow is almost mythical in the way it is talked about in
conjunction with 4/20, and this year was no different. It wouldn't be
surprising if someone could have seen the smoke rising from the
meadow from far down the hill. The field was filled with people,
blunts, bongs, pipes, gas masks, and fruit.
If you could smoke with it, it was out in that meadow. The mix of
people out there showcased the diversity of the campus, people of
various colors, young and old; everyone comes out of the woodwork for
4/20. There were drum circles, there were boom boxes, and there was
a lot of marijuana.
That afternoon, two young entrepreneurs were selling T-shirts that
read "BONG HITS 4 JESUS" on them, along with bottled water for five
dollars. After pausing to think, they told a reporter they go by
"Jeremy" and "Bovice."
Bovice said T-shirt business was good early in the day, but it slowed
down as the afternoon wore on.
Jeremy thought the event was a great way for the students of UCSC to
come together in a relaxing, tranquil atmosphere and hang out with
their fellow peers.
"I think [4/20] is a fine thing. I was recently talking to one of my
geology professors and they were saying how they have no problem with
it," Jeremy said. "I think this is a wonderful event and I like when
people get together and enjoy themselves. It unifies people and
allows them to come together and be merry."
Bovice noticed the balance that students make between work and play
on 4/20. School doesn't get canceled, students still have to go to
class, do homework, and yet still try and take a few moments to relax
and enjoy being in the present.
"Everybody isn't cutting their classes to come out here, you notice a
lot of people come out in a mass at 3:45 because everybody waits
'till after their class." Bovice said. "Everybody is smoking weed,
but we're still doing our homework, then we're going to come back and
do a little bit more after this, a little bit hazy, maybe get
something to eat, but we're still doing our role as students, we're
just having some fun at the same time, and that's just a part of college."
Seventh-year Politics major, Alan Sangster was one of the more
energetic and politically minded people at Porter field.
"This is definitely one of the bigger turnouts I've seen over the
years and what's drawing a lot of people is the legalization of
marijuana," Sangster said. "People feel more engaged with the
political process than when Bush was in office, so you know it's a
different community now."
Sangster continued, explaining how much the community has changed
since he first came to UCSC in 2003. He felt that after the the Bush
administration ended, the student community decided to take a more
active role in the way they wanted to see the campus run. This is
exemplified by the recent March 4 strike that ended by closing down
campus for a day, and which gave students a chance to express their
views on the current UC crisis.
Sangster touched upon the inevitability of 4/20 and how it forms and
shapes the minds, politically, of students on campus.
"This community is very predictable, this sort of energy can be
directed in different ways every year, but in the end we're going to
have a bunch of kids who want to smoke weed and live their lives how
they want to live them."
Ben, an alumnus of UCSC who graduated in 1988 and who declined to
give his last name, was watching the event from one of the hills. He
laid in the grass surveying all that was around him, relating what he
saw to how it was when he used to attend UCSC.
"At that time marijuana was totally illegal and much more prosecuted
by the city police in particular," Ben said. "So it's really nice to
see the shift to this because I feel that marijuana is absolutely
harmless, and probably quite beneficial for the majority of people."
However, Ben was not happy to see Comedy Central's Upright Citizens
Brigade. The television channel invaded the UCSC campus, pitched a
tent, and lured people in.
"There were people from Comedy Central here today, [who] I had hoped
would come and speak to me, because I am really not cool with
commercializing this event," Ben said. "I witnessed this happen:
they got this person involved in their whole thing, and put him in
this spot where he couldn't really say no when they asked him to
consent to a series of rather demeaning tests."
Ben began to get noticeably worked up as his firsthand account continued.
"They asked him to thread a needle, fold a sheet of paper, and timed
him to see how stoned he was I thought that was kind of fucked up."
Overall, Ben supports the celebration of 4/20 festivities, but
downplays its importance.
"I honestly don't know how big of news all this is," he said.
Yet how could it not be? Whenever thousands of people come together
in a peaceful manner, and take part in an event deemed "unsanctioned"
and illegal, it has to be news.
"I think it's a good statement on the harmlessness of marijuana, it's
a real peaceful statement of the acceptance of something that has
been defined as a drug but is really something simple," impromptu
entrepreneur Bovice said. "Alcohol is legal but that's killing
plenty of people, but out here we're all being safe and we're not
fighting each other."