Deltopia’s Anti-Outsider Legacy

Photo by Juan Gonzalez

Natalie Plumb

Contributing Writer

As any Gaucho knows, the first weekend of spring quarter is synonymous with Deltopia. While it may have looked slightly different this year due to smaller crowds and a few face masks, one Deltopia tradition remained unchanged. In the weeks leading up to the infamous Isla Vista-wide party, students were bombarded with one message. “Keep I.V. Safe. Keep it Local.”

This catchy slogan has appeared every year in UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) administrative and student organization messaging around Halloween and Deltopia since 2014.  

“If you are going to party, keep it local,” said Katya Armistead, Dean of Student Life, during our interview in mid-February. “It’s definitely clear that when you live in Isla Vista, you take better care of it and each other. And those who come from the outside tend to be the ones who will trash the place…It just becomes more problematic and more dangerous when outsiders join.” 

According to Armistead, a vicious gang rape of a UCSB student, Deltopia turning into a riot, and a mass shooting in Isla Vista all within the 2014 academic year signaled that the “Keep it Local” campaign was a necessary step toward protecting UCSB students from the increase in crime and community degradation caused by surges of visitors from out of town during Halloween and Deltopia. 

However, such “anti-outsider” rhetoric has found its way into recent UCSB administrative and student discourses surrounding the pandemic, much of it targeting students from other universities — namely Harvard — who have moved to Isla Vista since last March. 

“They don’t care because when it’s all said and done, they get to go back to wherever they’re from,” said an anonymous UCSB transfer student about students from other universities living in Isla Vista during the pandemic. “They don’t have to deal with the damage that they have done in Isla Vista.”  

Similar comments appear across Free & For Sale, student-run Instagram accounts such as UCSBBarstool, and in statements by UCSB administrators. 

“Most house violations were not UCSB students,” stated Margaret Klawunn, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, in September of last year. When I asked who made up COVID-related reports made through both UCSB and I.V. Foot Patrol reporting portals, Dean Armistead echoed this sentiment. “They’re not all UCSB students.  There are many different colleges, from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Cal Poly, USC, UCLA…more often than not, they are not a UCSB student.”

Thanks to a UCSB Barstool post from July depicting a direct message between a Harvard student and a UCSB undergrad, Harvard quickly became the face of the “anti-outsider” pandemic narrative. In the post, the Harvard student expresses interest in moving to Isla Vista following Harvard’s announcement of plans to hold fall classes online. At the same time, UCSB administrators and students became aware that the leasing company Playa Life I.V. had been advertising Isla Vista rentals to students in Los Angeles. 

“However, such ‘anti-outsider’ rhetoric has found its way into recent UCSB administrative and student discourses surrounding the pandemic, much of it targeting students from other universities — namely Harvard — who have moved to Isla Vista since last March.”

Such events prompted UCSB administrators and I.V. Foot Patrol to expect a surge of visitors to Isla Vista during the pandemic comparable to previous Halloweens and Deltopias. Deputy Justin Schroeder, Community Resource Deputy for Isla Vista Foot Patrol, explained during our interview in early March that such expectations sparked discussions of installing police checkpoints at Los Carneros, the 217, and Storke to prevent out of town visitors from entering Isla Vista during the pandemic. However, such plans never came to fruition. 

“When COVID first started, Harvard was cited for loud music…and we in this office went, oh boy, here we go, we are going to get a bunch of houses with kids going to school online renting these houses to throw these big parties,” said Deputy Schroeder. “But we didn’t see that happen at all.” 

Schroeder explained that the Harvard students’ citation was not for a large party, but for violating noise ordinances with loud music. Upon arrival, sheriffs discerned that there were less than ten people inside the house, all current residents. According to Deputy Schroeder, over 75% of all partying related reports to IV Foot Patrol during the pandemic have been for UCSB and SBCC students.  “I have seen locals partying more than the people from out of the area.”

Despite receiving hundreds of reports and photos of UCSB students violating COVID protocols, UCSB has yet to expel or suspend a single student for pandemic-related misconduct. Instead, administrators and students alike have placed significant blame on students from other universities. 

How has this cycle of blame continued virtually unquestioned for over a year? The answer may lie in the legacy of Deltopia. However justified the “Keep it Local” campaign was for the Halloweens and Deltopias of the past, there is no data to substantiate perpetuating this slogan. “Keep it Local” has no place within a pandemic context and certainly no place in official administrative communication. Deltopia 2021 has come and gone, but its legacy of anti-outsider sentiment remains.