California State University Stanislaus administration members and ASI representatives held an open forum on Thursday, April 5th at the university to discuss the recent cancellation of the scheduled 2012 Warrior Day.
The forum was conducted with the intention of clarifying rumors amongst students regarding the events leading up to the decision of the cancellation of the 50-year tradition. The forum also provided time for students to have their questions answered regarding the disagreements between the Associated Students Inc. and administrators involved.
The forum panel included CSU Stanislaus Vice President for Enrollment and Student Affairs Dr. Suzanne Espinoza, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. James Strong, CSU Stanislaus Police Chief Steve Jaureguy, CSU Stanislaus Asst. Director of Safety and Risk Management Amy Thomas, ASI Representative Marvin Hooker, ASI President Mehran Khodabandeh, and Dean of Students Ronald Noble who was the moderator of the forum.
The meeting drew about 125 students and faculty to the CSUS Event Center, many of whom prepared statements in advance to share with the panel during the public hearing time.
The cancellation of the event was announced on March 27th after administrators and student government representatives disagreed on the measures being taken to avoid binge drinking amongst students and curb alcohol abuse that occurs on Warrior Day.
Dr. Suzanne Espinoza, Vice President of Enrollment and Student Affairs, denied ASI’s request to sell alcohol at Warrior Day after rejecting the two proposals the ASI Board of Directors had made on various methods to reduce the amount of binge drinking occurring on Warrior Day.
ASI President Mehran Khodabandeh wished to clarify the timeline of the events that led to ASI’s decision to cancel the event.
“Our board wasn’t involved until the fifth of March, when we had our legitimate first Board meeting to go over the concerns to meet the March 20th deadline,” stated Khodabandeh.
The ASI Board of Directors presented Vice President Espinoza with a five-tier plan, which they felt complimented the Vice President’s list of concerns. After being told the plan was insufficient, the ASI board worked on creating a new, more comprehensive ten-tier plan, which Khodabandeh stated it was again regarded as “not enough” by Vice President Espinoza.
“In the Vice President’s memo of not being enough, she completely did not address our ten-tier plan besides saying the fact of saying ‘good effort’,” explained Khodabandeh. “In her final memo she brought forward new concerns that our association had no idea about, ranging from Title 5 concerns with sexual assault and domestic violence reports to other city officials that we had no idea she was meeting with.”
Vice President Espinoza had received letters from various local officials, including City of Turlock Police Chief Robert Jackson, Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson, and Stanislaus County District Attorney Birgit Fladager. In these letters, concerns were expressed regarding the upcoming Warrior Day and serious reforms and changes to Warrior Day were encouraged to reduce the excessive alcohol consumption that occurs consequently.
“The decision for the cancellation of warrior day by our ASI was nothing more to preserve the tradition of Warrior Day in general on this campus,” shared ASI President Mehran Khodabandeh.
“In the meeting, and my directors can attest to this, we all met with the Vice President and the Dean of Students and we were told there would be no alcohol served at Warrior Day,” explains Khodabandeh. “We have 35 days to change the mindset, implement all of our plans, and if there’s still an issue with alcohol – so students drinking on their own – if that issue still exists then the next conversation we’ll have is ‘Is the event really worth it at all?’,” stated Khodabandeh. “So we had 35 days to change the mindset of 9,000 students to not ‘Drink-Responsibly’, which is doable. Our campaign was going to be ‘Don’t-be-That-Idiot-Who-Ruins-Warrior-Day, Drink-Responsibly’. The new campaign we’d have to launch now is ‘Don’t-Drink-at-All-Because-We’ll-Lose-it-Forever’, which is unfair position to put any student in.”
“The decision was never to say that alcohol is definitely affiliated with Warrior Day, that’s what’s floating around out there,” concluded ASI President Mehran Khodabandeh. “We’re a lot more responsible than that. The decision was made because we felt like it was a back-door attack on Warrior Day.”
ASI Representative Marvin Hooker explained his reasoning for voting for the cancellation of this year’s Warrior Day.
“I would rather not have it this year than not have it for 50 more years,” stated Hooker. “We don’t feel as a Board that we were given adequate time to change the mindset of 9,000 students. Who can do that? To tell 9,000 college students not to drink, it’s not possible.”
“We have a disconnect between administration and public safety of what our students are. I’m sorry that the people who make these decisions only see us students as what they read on paper,” explained Khodabandeh to the students in the audience. “What we try to do as ASI is try to get the point across that our students are more than just statistics. This police report, however valid or invalid it may be, does not adequately represent the CSU Stanislaus students. That’s the expertise that ASI brought to the conversation that was disregarded.”
The police report referenced included statistics such as 27 arrests were made in conjunction with Warrior Day. 17 of those arrests were visitors and not students. CSU administration additionally shared at the forum that there were hundreds of incidents not officially reported such as turning students over to parents to be taken home and such.
Many students in attendance expressed concern that the cancellation of Warrior Day would not lessen the amount of alcohol consumed, but rather just disperse the event throughout the community, as opposed to one centralized location. Other students believe that a Warrior Day without alcohol sales could promote more drinking to occur before attending the event.
Students Amanda Punzalan and Perla Guerrero drafted a student petition to ensure that Warrior Day still occurred this year as schedule, with or without alcohol sales provided at the event.
“We thought it was unfair, as students, that we couldn’t voice our opinions before they made the decision. That’s why we wanted them to bring it to the table again and revote on it,” stated Punzalan.
In only three days, the petition, which calls for a revote on the cancellation of Warrior Day by ASI Board of Directors, received 1,091 student signatures, which exceeds the amount needed as required by ASI to conduct a revote.
The petition also supports the ASI Board of Director’s resolution to endorse a Vote of No Confidence in Dr. Suzanne Espinoza, Vice President for Enrollment and Student Affairs.
“What she did wasn’t fair to the students,” stated Guerrero.
The Vote of No Confidence Resolution also requests that the University President consider the resignation or termination of Suzanne Espinoza as the Vice President for Enrollment and Student Affairs. The resolution also approves of the circulation of the petition to the students at large endorsing the resolution.
The Vote in No Confidence in Dr. Suzanne Espinoza as Vice President for Enrollment and Student Affairs comes from ASI’s understanding of how critically important it is that the Vice President for Enrollment and Student Affairs establishes a beneficial working relationship and level of knowledge and understand of the overall student population.
By observing that the decision-making process for Warrior Day was one sided, ASI Board of Directors believes they were not privy to the entire conversation and student input was disregarded.
ASI Board of Directors felt disturbed by Vice President Espinoza’s total disregard for shared governance (participation in the decision making process) in conjunction with the ASI Board of Directors, and distressed that there was not a collaborative or working relationship between ASI Board of Directors and Vice President Espinoza.
“The Vote of No Confidence is not something that the University is going to recognize, it’s more symbolic than anything, and that’s fine,” stated David Tonelli, Associate Vice President of Communications & Public Affairs. “It’s not something that will ever be considered.”
“I work at the pleasure of the President,” stated Vice President Espinoza, in regards to the vote of no confidence. “I am disappointed, and I was surprised. But I serve at the service of the President.”
As for the cancellation of Warrior Day, Assistant Director of Safety and Risk Management Amy Thomas shared her thoughts on whether or not alcohol consumption will still occur on the scheduled day, May 11th.
“We know there are going to be problems, we’re anticipating it,” stated Thomas. “We’re going to have just as many officers on duty as we normally would, just they won’t all be at the amphitheater.”
Thomas also shared her thoughts on CSU Stanislaus not providing alcohol at Warrior Day for this year and future years alike.
“No other campus has an event like Warrior Day where they’re serving the alcohol to their students,” stated Thomas. “I’m so thankful we’re not serving the alcohol this year, but I know it will still be problematic.”
ASI will meet at 5pm April 17, 2012, in the CSU Stanislaus Carol Burke Student Lounge to discuss reinstating Warrior Day for 2012.
Warrior Day Letters by Public Safety Officials:
Warrior Day Letter by Turlock Police Chief Rob Jackson