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Photo by Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications

Students Gear Up for 33rd Annual Sun God Festival

Message to students: have fun, look out for each other and act responsibly

Anticipation for this year’s Sun God Festival is strong with many students looking forward to the event from the very first day of the fall quarter. It is expected to draw as many as 20,000 students to RIMAC Field from 2 to 8 p.m. on Sunday, May 3. In order to preserve the 30-year-old tradition, festival organizers have made health and safety a top priority.

“The Sun God Festival is one of UC San Diego’s most revered traditions, and it enjoys strong student support,” said Juan González, vice chancellor for Student Affairs.  “Yet, health and safety problems associated with the Sun God Festival have increased significantly in the last several years. This year, we made a number of changes to the event to reduce risky behavior and have increased education and programs around the festival that focus on drug and alcohol safety.”

González, who chaired the Sun God Festival Health and Safety Task Force comprised of students, faculty and staff, added, “Our message to students is: have fun at the festival and behave responsibly. If the Sun God Festival is to continue, students need to participate in the event in a way that is safe for themselves, their friends and the campus.”

All attendees at Sun God, which is open to current undergraduate and graduate students, will be screened at festival entrances, which will include pat downs and scanning of pre-registered student ID cards prior to admission. Heightened enforcement will occur at festival entrances to prevent access to visibly intoxicated students and to block prohibited substances and items from entering the event. No re-entry for attendees will be allowed.

Over the past three decades, the Sun God Festival has continually redefined itself – constantly changing to fit the current population at UC San Diego, and this year is no exception, said Associated Students Associate Vice President of Concerts and Events Seraphin Raya.

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“While a majority of students attending the festival act responsibly, it has been deemed that too many high-risk activities occurred at recent Sun God events,” Raya said. “This year, we assessed the event and created a new festival model based on successes and failures identified at similar events, with health and safety being of the utmost importance to our decisions.”

The event, which is largely student-run, will include two stages: the Sun God Stage, featuring a variety of national touring musical acts, such as Snoop Dogg, Jhené Aiko and OK GO, and the North Stage, featuring variety acts including student organization performances and acrobatic performers. Additional attractions have been added to the event, including carnival-style rides and games, interactive art and crowd performers.

“We want the festival to be as engaging as possible so even if students aren’t interested in the music, there will be plenty for them to do,” Raya said.

The festival grounds are designed to be a safe space for students. Similar to other large music festival entrances, drug recognition experts will be present to intervene with any intoxicated students, and security staff will use drug-detection dogs as a safety measure to ensure the festival is a drug-free space. Students who do show up under the influence of drugs or alcohol will be unable to enter the Sun God Festival. They also can be subject to arrest or other consequences related to violation of the UC San Diego Student Code of Conduct and/or taken to appropriate medical care.

In addition, the “floaties” bystander intervention training program from last year has been expanded. The role of a student “floatie” is to maintain a bystander position during the festivities to keep their fellow students safe. Students who have gone through the training program are anticipated to again have a large presence at this year’s Sun God Festival.

Festival organizers have also added a beer garden for students of drinking age who choose to drink responsibly and in reasonable amounts. The beer garden will have limits on the quantity of beer served per person and other safety measures to provide for responsible consumption.

“Most of the extreme intoxication we have seen in past years is related to drinking large amounts of hard liquor with accompanying high blood alcohol levels,” said Karen Calfas, executive director of Student Health and Wellbeing at UC San Diego. “A public health harm reduction approach teaches students protective strategies to still enjoy drinking alcohol but in a way that reduces the level of risk. Other universities have included a beer garden to promote limited and paced alcohol consumption with good success. This is a promising method to reduce the perceived ‘need’ by students to consume large amounts of alcohol prior to attending the event.”

According to Calfas, studies of college student drinking behavior indicate that prohibition models are ineffective at changing student behavior related to binge drinking. “For students who drink, moderation is our goal, not prohibition,” she said.

Leading up to the Sun God Festival, several events are planned to offer opportunities for all students to socialize and get involved in campus life in safe environments where drugs and alcohol are not a primary source of fun.

These events include:

  • Senior Sendoff with Magic Man and FMLYBND
    April 23, 8 p.m., Price Center Ballroom West
    The Boston-based band Magic Man will play their distinctive Americana-inspired synth-rock for graduating students at the Price Center Ballroom West. Tickets are free but must be picked up at the Box Office.
  • Muirstock
    April 24, 3 to 10 p.m., Muir Quad
    This annual outdoor music festival features free food and activities such as henna, tie dying and more. In previous years, artists have included Imagine Dragons, The Cab, Justin Nozuka and various student bands.
  • The Moon God 5K Run
    April 30, 8:30 p.m., Triton Statue
    This event allows participants to traverse UC San Diego’s campus in the moonlight and will end with music and food at the finish line.
  • The Filmatic Festival
    April 30 to May 3, various times and locations
    The second-annual festival transforms the traditional passive film-going experience into active, immersive and inspiring experiences.
  • The Good Life Festival
    May 2, 7 to 11 p.m., Town Square and Matthew’s Quad
    This free event is designed to celebrate healthy living and engage students in fun activities that support their wellbeing.

The Sun God Festival is free for all undergraduate students and $46 (plus Box Office fees) for graduate students. In order to attend, students need to register by April 24 or before full capacity is reached. Visit sgf.ucsd.edu for more information.

For more safety information in relation to drug and alcohol consumption, click here.