A University Remembers, Four Years Later

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Speakers at the UCSB Candlelight Vigil in Anisq'Oyo Park on May 24, 2014. (Photo by Mark Brocher / The Bottom Line File Photo)

Sabrina Bui
Staff Writer

Four years after six UCSB students lost their lives in a shooting, community members continue to find ways to remember their lives.

Associated Students has planned a three-day anti-gun violence advocacy event from May 21 through May 23 in memorial, which includes an interactive art piece and a gathering in front of Storke Tower. Family members of the victims have organized their own private memorials in the surrounding area.

There are also talks of unadvertised events possibly taking place according to Melissa Barthelemy, the project manager for UCSB and the Isla Vista Memorial Archive, who works to collect and preserve condolence items and document events in wake of the tragedy.

While A.S. has planned the main memorial event for the week, The Beloved Community Isla Vista hosted their third annual conference over the weekend, which included advocacy workshops and events in memory of the six students who lost their lives.

Activists and community leaders have worked over the past four years to preserve memory of the tragedy and cultivate positive change.  However, sentiment regarding the event has also evolved as each incoming cohort of students becomes further removed. According to Barthelemy, people are less sensitive about what happened than before.

“Some of the tours we give on campus will actually go past the memorial wall,” Barthelemy said. “Some of the tour guides have mentioned that in the beginning, people would either not bring up the topic or try and be very sensitive in the way they brought it up, and now sometimes the visiting families will be like, ‘Oh, is that for the students who were killed?’”

Barthelemy also notes a decrease in the number of students who are aware of the story behind memorial monuments and objects.

But these changes are not seen negatively. For Katya Armistead, the dean of student life at the university, students should not have to carry the burden of remembering or feel guilty for not knowing.

“I don’t want students to live in trauma and I don’t need to knock them over the head [about it],” she said. “There’s enough markers where I don’t feel like we need to keep students in it.”

Armistead did express her wishes for certain traditions and organizations to continue, such as the annual paddle out hosted by the university’s surf team and Blunite, an organization created after the tragedy which works to promote solidarity and hope within Isla Vista and the surrounding community.

While the Isla Vista shooting has become less prominent over time, the issue of gun control and gun violence has remained strongly relevant. According to Armistead, advocacy work surrounding the issue is one of the political emphases for students this year. Political activism is also seen as one of the ways the community has been able to heal and move forward over the past four years.

“I can say that being able to pass legislation and feeling like that is something in your grasp makes people feel like they have agency,” said Monte-Angel Richardson, UCSB alumna and a graduate student at the University of Michigan studying the impact of the Isla Vista tragedy on the community’s growth.

While political work has been integral for the community’s growth after the tragedy, other social campaigns such as the “I [Heart] UCSB” pledge and an emphasis on keeping events exclusively to locals have also played a large role in fundamentally changing campus and local culture.

“After the tragedy and things that were happening that year, students really understood this is our community and we need to take care of our community,” Armistead said. “That sentiment became stronger than I had ever seen it after that year. I think it still continues because the culture has been forever affected and changed.”

With the university is oving on from the incident, memorializing has now evolved to be more inclusive to all the students UCSB has lost, not just to the shooting. According to Armistead, it’s a welcome change as the school continues its trajectory of growth out of the tragic event.

“I like that we’re moving towards inclusivity and thinking about all students,” Armistead said. “There’s something nice about the sense of us moving forward and thinking about how we can take care of all our students while still keeping tradition.”  

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