Saddened and uplifted spirits alike filled the plaza below Storke Tower Wednesday afternoon as thousands of students piled into the cement bowl, sitting on steps and watching from afar. Refreshed from a summer break that began just days after Elliot Rodger’s shooting rampage devastated the campus community, students gathered in the same manner as they had less than 24 hours after the horrific mass murder. But this time, alum Jack Johnson made an appearance, lighting up the crowd with tunes and joking he had played in the same spot 20 years ago when he was a freshman, but only 10 people showed up.
But just before Johnson performed, a moment of silence was held for the six slain students — Katherine Cooper, Veronika Weiss, Weihan “David” Wang, George Chen, Christopher Michaels-Martinez, and Cheng Yuan “James” Hong. Several acapella groups also warmed up the crowd, and Vice Chancellor Michael Young gave a powerful speech.
Young, who will retire after 25 years in January, spoke about the confusing elements of the “senseless act,” adding bits about the moving Harder Stadium memorial, the strength in unity, and the aptitude for change in Isla Vista. His 10-minute speech took on a serious tone when he spoke of the “darker” and “more sinister” elements of I.V.
“Do we really want a community where almost anything goes? Do we really want a community where it’s okay to trash and victimize in the name of fun? Do we really want a community where it’s okay for strangers to come in our midst and to come into our homes and destroy our property and steal our possessions and prey on us physically?” he asked the crowd, which responded with a resounding “No!”
Young ended his speech on a lighter note, saying most UCSB students love their college years, thanks largely to Isla Vista. He said a lot of students he’s spoken to want to see change happen, and he urged students to use this time as an opportunity to define what “we’re going to stand for” and “what we’re going to be.”