It’s that time again – time for countless countdowns, loads of lists, and exhaustive accounts of all the things that made 2007 what it was. From television to tabloids, every pundit worth their weight in ratings is weighing in on the good, the bad, the ugly, and the Britney breakdown, making this the prime season for a little look-back at the year that was.
Here in Isla Vista, we don’t usually get that kind of collective, community-specific privilege. The Nexus is on break during New Year’s and the major local media outlets don’t tend to focus too much on the titillations, trials, tribulations, and triumphs of our tiny town. But never fear Isla Vistans, because Eye on Isla Vista is bored. With nary a soul in sight throughout I.V., I’ve been holing up in my duplex on Sueno all week – thanks mostly to a job that considers time off to be a luxury rather than a right. So, I’ve had plenty of time for reflection (in between Bravo reruns, of course).
The year started off with a bit of on-campus controversy, following the evictions of 55 tenants from the former Cedarwood apartment complex by the aptly-named Conquest Student Housing on December 1. When school started up again in the New Year, Associated Students turned its anger at Conquest into an aggressive campaign against The Daily Nexus, whose pages contained paid advertisements for the housing company. After threatening to do everything from pulling the pittance in school funding the Nexus receives – most of the paper’s funding comes through advertising sales – to calling for the resignation of the Editor in Chief. But A.S. proved to be more bark than bite and eventually called its anti-Nexus campaign off; but not before revealing its own newspaper, The Bottom Line, a publication all about A.S. that’s paid for by students and by the revenue from its own sales of advertising space – almost all of which is purchased by Associated Students’ own organizations.
Shortly thereafter, on-campus controversy was followed by a little off-campus legal proceeding. In late January, UCSB alumna Jessica Binkerd was sentenced to up to five years and four months in jail after being convicted of DUI and vehicular manslaughter. The victim was her friend and co-worker, 25 year-old UCSB student Alex Baer. The judge’s unusually harsh sentence was said to stem from MySpace photos shown in the courtroom that depicted Binkerd drinking and partying during the months after the accident. In April, a judge sentenced a second woman to two years in prison after seeing her MySpace photos. The woman, Lara Buys, was not a UCSB student, but she was convicted of DUI and vehicular manslaughter in Santa Barbara after causing a crash that killed her passenger and best friend. Once again, the judge cited MySpace photos of Buys drinking during her sentencing.
In other legal news, UCSB soccer star Eric Frimpong was arrested in early February for allegedly raping a 19-year-old UCSB student. After his arrest, another woman came forward accusing him of assaulting her, resulting in an additional charge of sexual battery. Although he was found not guilty of the battery charge, Frimpong was convicted of the rape in December and now faces up to eight years in prison. Also during spring quarter, a recent UCSB graduate narrowly survived a stabbing on Sabado Tarde Road and another UCSB student was arrested for allegedly violating immigration laws, prompting UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang to intervene with immigration on her behalf.
Meanwhile, in more uplifting news, the chaos of going to college in a seemingly permanent construction zone paid off for many UCSB students, as a series of new buildings and facilities finally opened up to students. In March, the new 35,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art Theater and Dance Complex opened where Snidecor Hall used to stand. And, over the course of the next few quarters, the Student Resource Building and the 1,075-space Parking 22 next to the Pardall Tunnel slowly but surely opened up, providing much needed office space and parking facilities for UCSB students and staff. And, the UCEN Hub got a makeover as well, making it a much more user-friendly venue for performances and events. Plus, construction crews broke ground on the plots that will eventually become the new Girvetz Graduate School of Education, the Carsey-Warner Center for Film, Television and New Media, and the headquarters for the College of Letters & Sciences, respectively.
Also on-campus, Dominoes replaced Paterno, UCEN dining started offering healthy snacks in all of its satellite stores, and the Arbor became the hot new place to see and be seen during lunch – not to mention the only place on-campus where you could get Subway, a slice of cinnabread, and a cup of coffee all within the same small store. Meanwhile, Fight Night shrunk in size, scope, spectators, and spirit, and local officials banned the annual All-Sorority Volleyball Tournament from even happening in Isla Vista. Instead, the tourney took place at East Beach in downtown Santa Barbara, forcing would-be spikers and spectators straight out of town, and onto the freeway – a great plan for city officials whose professed primary concern was the amount of alcohol consumption that usually accompanies the event.
In off-campus planning news, the Master Plan finally found its way through the bureaucratic system that spawned it, just in time for 3rd District Supervisor Brooks Firestone to announce his pending retirement from county service. Now, with the plan in place and no worries about reelection on his shoulders, what Firestone and the rest of the supervisors will do next is anyone’s guess.
In April, The Killers played a sold-out show at The Thunderdome. In May, Extravaganza brought Suburban Legends, Mickey Avalon, Ben Kweller, and T.I. to Harder Stadium. Spring also brought YouTube legend Gunther & the Sunshine Girls – with plenty of sex, love, and respect – straight to Santa Barbara. In the fall, David Cronenberg personally accompanied his new film, Eastern Promises, to Campbell Hall, and Tech N9ne hit up The Hub. And, in early winter, Arts & Lectures brought Queen Latifah to The Arlington as part of her Travelin’ Light Tour.
During fall quarter, UCSB students dealt with a series of wildfires affecting almost all of Southern California. Although the situation basically sucked, it did cause quite a few “kumbaya” moments, as students and staff came together to provide sympathy and support for each other throughout the wind-blown weeks. Then, just when the smoke was starting to clear, more violent windstorms blew all the ash and debris from the Zaca Fire straight into Isla Vista – just in time for pre-Halloween festivities. Fortunately for those of us looking to stay inside, Freebirds started delivering, Jerusalem Cafe turned into McMaster’s Steak & Hoagie, and Berrilicious brought frozen yogurt to I.V.
In October, a UCSB student survived a near-fatal stabbing, when fourth-year Eli Weiner was assaulted with a folding knife while leaving a party in I.V. Although the five-inch blade did a lot of damage, Weiner thankfully recovered and was eventually released from the hospital. And, in more pleasant police-related news, the number of arrests during this year’s Halloween celebrations decreased significantly.
In wildlife news, I.V.’s albino raccoon passed away – only to be succeeded by a series of sightings of what some students say could be his extra-pale spirit, and others believe to be a brood of albino raccoon offspring. And, I.V.’s beaches became the final resting place for one in a series of sad-but-smelly beached whales.
All in all, it was a year of great highs and lows, with more hair, eyebrow, and pulse-raising news than I can possibly remember recounting since moving here. But, overall, it was a year characterized by the unexpected, as beloved traditions like Fight Night and ASVT took a backseat to shocking news stories about everything from Frimpong’s arrest to the untimely passing of the town’s unofficial albino mascot. While institutions old and new, from ChillaVista to Halloween, Gaucho Sports to Extravaganza continued on without a hitch, the headlines heard the loudest tended to be the things changing the most in I.V. Gentrification, political infighting in A.S., unprecedented violence on our own streets, and the loss of a local soccer hero all made their way into the consciousness and conversations of Isla Vistans this year.
And while local arts and entertainment thrived, the collective spirit of the community shone and our favorite burrito joint finally started making house calls, Isla Vista residents ended the year with more questions than answers when it comes to the future of our little collegiate community. Here’s hoping that 2008 brings more positive headlines than negative news, that the coming year heralds a happier time for I.V.’s local heroes, and that Freebirds will keep up its delivery service for as long as UCSB has students. Isla Vista, I raise my glass to you. Happy New Year and may you have many more to come.