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Drug-fueled Sun God chomps into UCSD budget

Task force says another committee needed for more study

Ricky Ambriz

How much did it cost to stage this year's Sun God, the annual drug and alcohol-plagued rock festival at the center of an ongoing internal controversy at UCSD over the May 17 drug overdose death of undergraduate Ricardo "Ricky" Ambriz?

A cool $869,514, according to a recently released report by the school's Sun God Task Force, set up by university chancellor Pradeep Khosla after local hospitals complained that their emergency rooms had been overburdened by alcohol and drug poisoning cases during 2013's blow-out.

As a result of last year's casualties, the school set up the Sun God Task Force and set out to reform this year's festival by barring non-students, so-called non-affiliates, from the grounds.

Other changes included beefing up law enforcement, adding a second on-campus detox center, and providing a substantial financial assist to the Associated Students, whose mission, says its website, "is to facilitate and encourage students to grow and develop through their involvement in student government, its services and auxiliaries."

"In previous years Sun God has been funded by [Associated Students], using a combination of student fees and revenue from non-affiliate ticket sales," noted the August 31 report from Alan Houston, interim vice chancellor of student affairs.

"To ensure that the quality of Sun God was not diminished during this transitional year, the [nterim vice chancellor of student affairs] agreed, on a one-time basis, to both backfill lost revenue from the elimination of non-affiliate tickets and to underwrite additional security measures in north campus," the document said.

"Backfilling lost revenue from elimination of 3,000 non-affiliate tickets" cost the vice chancellor's office $165,000, according to the report.

Other expenses listed for Houston's office included $4500 paid to Kim Fromme, a Texas expert on student drinking problems who consulted with the task force, and $30,000 for "fencing and security Infrastructure to enforce no-guest policy."

According to the report, Associated Students came up with $657,364 for the event, including artist fees of $9450 and security and ambulance costs of $181,400. The remaining expenses of $212,150 were covered by the vice chancellor's office.

"We received assistance from 15 law enforcement agencies, both regional and mutual aid," the report said, though it's not clear if those costs were shown in the budget.

"In comparison with 2013, the overall number of student conduct violations during Sun God weekend decreased in absolute numbers," the report said, "but remained constant when calculated per 1,000 attendees."

In addition to the Ambriz overdose, ten drug-related arrests and citations were reported, including one for mushrooms and another for "less than 1 ounce marijuana." Ecstasy and hydrocodone pills were also confiscated.

UCSD chancellor Pradeep Khosla

Noted the report: "Approximately 85% of all Sun God incidents involve alcohol. Almost half (48.6%) involve the student being admitted to our on-campus detox centers. Around 13% of all academic year incidents occur during Sun God weekend. "

Before UCSD chancellor Pradeep Khosla decides the fate of next year’s Sun God, the report said, "We recommend that a new committee be charged to assess its future, as well as to address the broader concern of drug and alcohol use on campus."

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Ricky Ambriz

How much did it cost to stage this year's Sun God, the annual drug and alcohol-plagued rock festival at the center of an ongoing internal controversy at UCSD over the May 17 drug overdose death of undergraduate Ricardo "Ricky" Ambriz?

A cool $869,514, according to a recently released report by the school's Sun God Task Force, set up by university chancellor Pradeep Khosla after local hospitals complained that their emergency rooms had been overburdened by alcohol and drug poisoning cases during 2013's blow-out.

As a result of last year's casualties, the school set up the Sun God Task Force and set out to reform this year's festival by barring non-students, so-called non-affiliates, from the grounds.

Other changes included beefing up law enforcement, adding a second on-campus detox center, and providing a substantial financial assist to the Associated Students, whose mission, says its website, "is to facilitate and encourage students to grow and develop through their involvement in student government, its services and auxiliaries."

"In previous years Sun God has been funded by [Associated Students], using a combination of student fees and revenue from non-affiliate ticket sales," noted the August 31 report from Alan Houston, interim vice chancellor of student affairs.

"To ensure that the quality of Sun God was not diminished during this transitional year, the [nterim vice chancellor of student affairs] agreed, on a one-time basis, to both backfill lost revenue from the elimination of non-affiliate tickets and to underwrite additional security measures in north campus," the document said.

"Backfilling lost revenue from elimination of 3,000 non-affiliate tickets" cost the vice chancellor's office $165,000, according to the report.

Other expenses listed for Houston's office included $4500 paid to Kim Fromme, a Texas expert on student drinking problems who consulted with the task force, and $30,000 for "fencing and security Infrastructure to enforce no-guest policy."

According to the report, Associated Students came up with $657,364 for the event, including artist fees of $9450 and security and ambulance costs of $181,400. The remaining expenses of $212,150 were covered by the vice chancellor's office.

"We received assistance from 15 law enforcement agencies, both regional and mutual aid," the report said, though it's not clear if those costs were shown in the budget.

"In comparison with 2013, the overall number of student conduct violations during Sun God weekend decreased in absolute numbers," the report said, "but remained constant when calculated per 1,000 attendees."

In addition to the Ambriz overdose, ten drug-related arrests and citations were reported, including one for mushrooms and another for "less than 1 ounce marijuana." Ecstasy and hydrocodone pills were also confiscated.

UCSD chancellor Pradeep Khosla

Noted the report: "Approximately 85% of all Sun God incidents involve alcohol. Almost half (48.6%) involve the student being admitted to our on-campus detox centers. Around 13% of all academic year incidents occur during Sun God weekend. "

Before UCSD chancellor Pradeep Khosla decides the fate of next year’s Sun God, the report said, "We recommend that a new committee be charged to assess its future, as well as to address the broader concern of drug and alcohol use on campus."

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Comments
5

So depressing. Give the kids an inch, they take a mile. Clean up the overdosing and deaths at UCSD's Sun God Festival or drop the bacchanal altogether. Oh, and do "address the broader concern of drug and alcohol use on campus." It's past time.

Sept. 26, 2014

Higher education? The school should be held liable for all the expenses for the emergency responders and all the taxpayer costs associated with the school sponsored festival. Pardeep Ksohla should be removed. All adults/supervisors who are part of the approval of this idiotic festival should be fired. Parents should demand part of the tuition to be returned to them. Higher education is expensive and parents should expect the focus of the school to be education. This is an example of why those in charge of higher education are as dumb as a box of rocks.

Sept. 27, 2014

Whew. Lighten up, Alex. Didn't you read the story all the way through? They're going to have a committee look into it.

Sept. 29, 2014

If the university put more cops on campus during Sun God, how many more "incidents" would happen? The officers are so busy they can't even deal with many of the drunken idiocy that goes on. #tipofthefreakiniceberg Oh, BTW, all those extra cops from 15 different agencies? Their work was grant-funded, which means the taxpayers footed the bill. Again.
Remember in previous years, university officials hinted that Sun God problems were the work of those off-campus agitators, not from their own fair-haired student body. So they eliminated 3000 tickets for 'non-affiliates,' and the rate of incidents remained the same. "...Address the broader concern of drug and alcohol use on campus" indeed. This year maybe they should hire TWO consultants.

Sept. 29, 2014

Yep, when you don't know what to do about a huge embarrassment like this one, you "study" it endlessly, make proposals that sound great but lack any specificity, and set up committees. The only thing that will really work is to end the celebration, and make sure the students know why. But if that is done, many of them will find another time/place for some sort of blow-off. That would just move the dangers around and dump them in some other set of laps to deal with.

Oct. 6, 2014

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