University Policy on Pioneer Days-like Events

Executive Memorandum 90-058

July 17, 1990

From: Robin S. Wilson, President

Subject: University Policy on Pioneer Days-like Events

Introduction

 On May 17, 1990, in the aftermath of the criminal disturbances occasioned by the city of Chico’s celebration of Rancho Chico Days, the Faculty Senate unanimously endorsed a “Resolution Against the Continuation of Pioneer Days-like Festivals.”

FS 90/26 (copy attached) expresses faculty consternation at the long record of “acts of drunkenness, violence, vandalism, and rape” associated with Pioneer Days and its successor event, acts which “have all too frequently besmirched the proud reputation of the University and community.” The resolution condemns “the perpetuation of any Pioneer Days-like activities while the University is in session and urges the community to reexamine its priorities”; and it calls upon the University president, “should the community… sponsor any such ill-fated Pioneer Days-like event in the future,” to undertake, among other actions

(1)   To seek…injunctive relief… to protect the University from such an event;

(2)   To exhort all members of the academic community to ensure that the academic goals of the University are foremost on the minds of students and not participation in any Pioneer Days-like activities, and

(3)   To withdraw University recognition from any student organization which chooses to participate and is thereby being exploited by the community.

Purpose

 Accordingly, this Executive Memorandum effectuates the Senate Resolution and establishes University Policy designed to discourage campus participation in future Pioneer Days-like celebrations and to lessen the impact on the university’s academic mission of similar or other disruptive celebrations should they occur. Broader questions pertaining to the quality of student life which were adduced in the senate discussions are addressed in a Letter to Faculty issued separately.

Background

Pioneer Days enjoyed a long and mostly benign history in Chico, although by the mid-seventies the attendant rowdiness had engendered criminal incidents which included gang rape and – on one occasion – homicide. The toll in alcohol-related injuries climbed steadily and the annual spring semester decline in student academic effort became alarming. Despite repeated attempts to reformat the event and repeated examinations by student and faculty committees and the implementation of their numerous (and usually quite sound) recommendations, the event continued to spawn wanton waste and woe.

 In 1987, after a dangerous riot, the University resolved to avoid any further involvement in the event, and in that year and again in 1988, 1989, and 1990 repeatedly exhorted those bent on reviving it to abandon it or at least schedule it at a time when the interests of students would not be so heavily damaged. Those pleas were not successful, and the 1990 event occasioned substantial property damage, several dozen injuries, and the arrest of some 108 persons, 26 of them Chico State students. In addition, as past experience had predicted, class attendance fell off very substantially. Most important, however, was the reinforcement of a widely held image of Chico State as a party school whose students, faculty, and curriculum cannot be taken seriously, thus directly and substantially damaging the fortunes of every member of the academic community.

 On the basis of comments aired at a special faculty convocation of May 10 and amplified in subsequent very valuable communications from several score faculty, of letters from staff, students and community members, and of a careful study of the past including analysis of heavy mail from alumni and parents in 1987, press and police reports over many years, the reports of special committees charged with assessing Pioneer Days in 1973, 1977, 1985 and 1987, and interviews with students arrested on the two nights of the most recent disturbance, I have concluded that the following elements have predominantly figured in the deterioration of the event over the years:

  • Large gatherings of drunken youth are likely to produce violence almost anywhere in the country (e.g., this year in Detroit, San Luis Obispo, Palm Springs, Fort Lauderdale, Daytona, Atlantic City and a dozen other resort and college towns).
  • Promotion of these events as tourist attractions with attendant media attention imports large numbers of visitors without local ties or accountability.
  • The careless sale of alcohol and juveniles’ easy access to it, coupled with some parents’ inability to control the movements and actions of minor children late at night, produce widespread drunkenness and bizarre behavior among youthful drinkers.
  • The growth of the University from a small state normal school of a thousand or so students to a modern comprehensive institution of over 16,000 students, and the addition to this population of some 12,000 community college students and (at celebratory events) an unknown number of secondary-school students, can rapidly precipitate a number of young people into the streets which – although only a small and unrepresentative fraction of the student population – readily overwhelms a police force suited to a city of 38,000 located in an underfinanced country.
  • When the voting age dropped to 18 a generation ago, colleges, courts and legislators abandoned parietal rules and codes of off-campus student conduct. Campus sanctions (expulsion or suspension) for most off-campus student misbehavior are now nearly impossible.

Policy

  1. It is the policy of California State University, Chico to institute legal action to restrain off-campus organizations, private or public, from conducting—while the University is in session—public celebrations dependent upon the use of university facilities or the exploitation of the university faculty, staff, or students in a manner likely to be detrimental to the academic mission of the University.

To make determinations of threat posed by either the nature or the timing of such celebrations, the Faculty Senate will be asked to constitute an ad hoc subcommittee to review and recommend approval or disapproval for proposed events which solicit participation by student organizations recognized and supported by the University

  1. University-recognized and –supported organizations which participate in public celebrations deemed by the Senate committee to be inimical to the academic interests of the University will suffer loss of university recognition and support as soon as their intent to participate is asserted. Organizations so proscribed may petition the Vice President for Student Affairs for university recognition. Such petitions will be accepted no sooner than two years after the withdrawal of recognition. A recommendation for favorable action from the Vice President for Student Affairs will include the endorsement of the Senate subcommittee. The VPSA will publish and distribute to new students each fall a list of proscribed organizations

University-recognized and –supported organizations will constitute local chapters of national organizations (e.g., most fraternities and sororities and certain religious, special interest, disciplinary, and partisan political groups) can expect university notification to their sponsors of actions taken under the provisions of this section. Insurance carriers for such organizations will also be notified of the university’s withdrawal of recognition and support.

Faculty and staff advisers to such organizations will not enjoy state liability protection for their service in that capacity.

Organizations which do not enjoy university recognition and support may not use university facilities in any way and may not use the university name or service mark to identify themselves.

(Attachment)

RESOLUTION AGAINST THE CONTINUATION OF PIONEER DAYS-LIKE FESTIVALS

Whereas, The faculty, staff, and students of California State University, Chico have endeavored to distinguished the University as a center of learning and scholarly activity; and

Whereas, The University and surrounding communities had long enjoyed the traditional University-sponsored Spring Festival known as Pioneer Days which began when the University had but a few thousand students; and

Whereas, With the growth of the University and the surrounding community, Pioneer Days became identified not for its celebration of history and family but rather for associated acts of drunkenness, violence, vandalism and rape; and

Whereas, The University found such associated acts of drunkenness, violence, vandalism, and rape to be antithetical to its academic mission and therefore, In 1987, banned all activities associated with Pioneer Days; and

Whereas, Several members of the Chico community refused to recognize that the unfortunate antisocial consequences of Pioneer Days had become inherent in the festival itself; and

Whereas, Those community members nevertheless chose to continue to sponsor all activities of Pioneer Days (transparently named Rancho Chico Days) as the traditional spring festival; and

Whereas, The best and well-intentioned efforts of those associated with Rancho Chico Days could not forestall the inevitable magnet that the festival creates for acts of drunkenness, violence, and vandalism, which have all too frequently besmirched the proud reputation of the University and community; and

Whereas, Assigning the blame for the most recent riotous behavior may assuage some consciences, it serves no useful purpose since such behavior is inherently intertwined with continuation of any Pioneer Days-like Spring activities; and

Whereas, Although it is unfortunate when the immoral and criminal acts of a few ruin the wholesome fun of many, the University can no longer endure the perception of affiliation with any Pioneer Days-like activities as such perception serves only to devalue the University, its faculty, its staff, its students, its programs and its degrees; therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Faculty Senate of California State University, Chico, condemns the immoral, irresponsible and criminal activities which occurred during the 1990 Rancho Chico Days; and be it further

Resolved, That the Faculty Senate of California State University, Chico, condemns the perpetuation of any Pioneer Days-like activities while the University is in session and urges the community to reexamine its priorities; and be it further

Resolved, That the Faculty Senate of California State University, Chico, urges President Wilson to render the most severe penalty available on those students found guilty of crimes and misdemeanors associated with the 1990 Rancho Chico Days; and be it further

Resolved, That should the community nevertheless continue to sponsor any such ill-fated Pioneer Days-like event in the future, the Faculty Senate of California State University, Chico urges President Wilson

(1)   To seek whatever injunctive relief which may be available through the courts to protect the University from such an event;

(2)   To exhort all members of the academic community to ensure that the academic goals of the University are foremost on the minds of students and not participation in any Pioneer Days-like activities, and,

(3)   To withdraw University-recognition from any student organization which chooses to participate, and is thereby being exploited by the community.