BEACH BLANKET BABYLON: About 12,000 people-mostly Isla Vista residents-packed the beach for this year's Floatopia, an event that seems set to rival I.V.'s infamous Halloweens in terms of whopping attendance and debauchery. Some are already planning Floatopia 2.

Despite the community outrage that Floatopia left in its wake, students are pressing for more fun, more sun and more drunken revelry atop the ocean blue. Upward of 12,000 people have responded in the affirmative to a Facebook invitation for Floatopia 2, and have expressed excitement at the prospect of spending May 9 floating under the influence.

Wednesday morning, Michael D. Young, UCSB’s vice chancellor of student affairs, sent a lengthy email to UCSB students, warning of the hugely destructive impact another beach bash will have on the ocean environment. He applauded UCSB students for their social, political, and environmental contributions to the local community, and expressed concern at their willingness to participate in yet another ecologically destructive event. The email urged students to “organize against the event,” to discourage their friends from participating, to launch a community awareness campaign and to host less harmful alternative activities.

Plenty of students, for their part, have made efforts to disband Floatopia 2 – both on and off Facebook – and have requested that Facebook event coordinators cancel the party proceedings. On Facebook, there has been a surge in the number of “Keep Floatopia Local” and anti-Floatopia Facebook groups, and also in the number of committees who plan to pitch in with the next-day cleaning.

Brian Dunlay, a second-year computer engineering major and the creator of a “Keep Floatopia Local” group, said he feels that discouraging out-of-towners from participating in Floatopia 2 is the first step toward making a positive change. “I don’t know if it’s the solution, but it’s a step in the right direction,” he said. “I think everyone here tends to respect the area a little bit more. People from out of town don’t respect the area as much as we do. They just come and they leave.”

Megan Glatzel, a fourth-year Environmental Studies major, suggested that same-day cleaning would perhaps lessen the environmental impact of the beach bash. “Cleaning the beach the day of Floatopia would obviously be more effective,” she said. “But there’s still going to be a lot of damage done. It’s fun, but we have to consider what we’re doing to the environment.”

Though Floatopia is not necessarily the product of a single organization, Del Playa Entertainment, an informal network of partygoers, was responsible for creating the Facebook invitation for this year’s second installment of the event. Del Playa Entertainment – whose online presence seems to be limited to a Facebook page, with the administrator for the page being listed as biochemistry major Yehya Chawich – has also assembled a cleanup committee for the morning after the May 9 event. The invitation also urges students to be more environmentally conscious this time around. It encourages partygoers to “get wet” in true Floatopia fashion, but more responsibly.

Young’s email, though, counters that a cleanup committee will not be sufficient to reverse the damage Floatopia 2 will likely cause. It deems the Floatopia successor “negligent and short-sighted, no matter how much ‘cleanup’ is planned.” The email maintains that the sun-drenched celebration is not “inevitable” and urges students to assume responsibility for nipping it in the bud. “Floatopia 2 does not have to happen if the UCSB community and, particularly, the UCSB student community decide that they do not want to be complicit in needless, wanton, and irreparable destruction of the environment,” the email reads. It goes on to say that “there is no way to spin this as anything other than a frivolous, self-indulgent, destructive, and irresponsible event.”

The email calls attention to other, equally harmful effects of a day spent floating, frolicking, and heavily imbibing. Young warns against the alcohol poisonings and injuries, the violence and sexual assaults, and the massive budget drainages that Floatopia 2 will cause.

And though students look forward to repeating the drunken debauchery that was Floatopia, a good portion of the student body recognizes the destructive nature of a massive beach party, and plenty of students are taking steps to prevent it from happening. A host of campus organizations and student activists are rallying against Floatopia, in hopes of protecting their little stretch of sea, sand, and sky.

As Young’s email points out: “One of the students involved in promoting the last Floatopia is alleged to have boasted that UCSB is the ‘only campus in the nation with its own beach.’ What an extraordinary privilege that is. But, as is often the case, with great privilege comes responsibility. Don’t we have the responsibility to protect this extraordinary gift we have been given?”

Yehya Chawich or any another representative of Del Playa Entertainment could not be reached for comment.

NOTE: This an amended version of the story. After this story was posted online, Del Playa Entertainment representative Yehya Chawich contacted The Independent and explained that the email from UCSB administration had, in fact, prompted him to rescind his group’s sponsorship of Floatopia 2 on grounds that he and his associates did want to be responsible for the event. Furthermore, Chawich said he believed that the previous Floatopia drew as much flack as it did because the associated expenses came from county funds and instead of UCSB funds drawn from students. Chawich also said he felt students will show up on May 9 anyway, even without any group formally endorsing the event. Because of this possibility, Del Play Entertainment – which Chawich described as “just a group on Facebook” – did not cancel is planned post-Floatopia cleanup.


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