The University of Colorado Boulder has decided to close campus to unauthorized CU personnel on April 20 for the second straight year.
Last year, CU’s administration decided to put an end to the gathering by closing campus to non-affiliates to anybody for most of the day on 4/20. The administration spent $124,561.34 to achieve this, including $699 on fish fertilizer to spray on Norlin Quad to keep people from trespassing and creating a huge gathering on the field.
“We tried a lot of other things that didn’t work, and we wanted this thing to go away once and for all and we felt that this was about the only option open to us,” said CU Spokesperson Bronson Hilliard. “We had to send a clear message that this event is simply not wanted on the campus because we don’t want 10,000 to 12,000 people clogging up the Norlin Quad in a disorganized group that stays for most of the day.”
This number was much higher than the $55,000 Hilliard estimates CU spent on 4/20 in all recent years. In the past, this was spent on “police, security and logistical operations,” according to Hilliard.
None of the money comes from student tuition, Hilliard said. Instead, it comes from an annual insurance rebate, which has also been used in the past for events such as President Obama’s visits. CU spent $110,000 for one such visit by the president in the spring of 2012.
“The insurance policy has an estimate in it of the number of incidents or safety risks that the university is likely to experience in a calendar year,” said Hilliard. “If the university experiences fewer than we project, we get a rebate. We take that money and we reinvest it into public safety equipment and enhancements for the campus.”
In addition to the spending of the administration, CU Student Government spent $154,236.18 to put on a Wyclef Jean concert in the Coors Events Center in an effort to reduce the size of the annual 4/20 gathering. CUSG Legislative Council President Colin Sorensen said the concert “failed.” Sorensen said this is the only time CUSG has spent any money on the 4/20 gathering. This brings the total spent in 2012 to curtail 4/20 to close to $279,000, or the same price as 155 brand-new iMac computers.
In the end, the money may have been worth it to meet the university’s objectives.
The gathering was much smaller in 2012 than in recent years, only drawing about 300 participants and 400 observers. In the past, the gathering usually consisted of 10,000 to 12,000 participants, estimated Hilliard.
The university has tried a number of ways to put an end to the gathering, including turning on sprinklers, spraying fish fertilizer on Norlin Quad and even having a system in which CU posts pictures of students smoking in the hopes that their friends will see these pictures and turn them in.
Disturbing classes and learning is a big concern for the administration. CU is a college campus and views 4/20 as a distraction to learning.
The annual gathering takes place on a Saturday this year, so there has been much speculation about how many may show up to participate or watch. Regardless, Hilliard said there is still academic activity on campus even on the weekends, including researching, teaching, lab experiments, auditions, and term papers.
“The primary purpose of a university is to conduct research and teaching, and provide a learning environment for students who are paying to come here,” said Hilliard. “Having 10,000 to 12,000 people on the Norlin Quad disrupts the fundamental purpose that the university exists to engage.”
Some CU students share the same views as the administration, although Kevin Bell, a junior, believes the university may have gone too far with the police checkpoints for BuffOne cards and fish fertilizer on the quad.
“As much of a right that we have to protest peacefully, it is the school’s responsibility to keep a good name and a good reputation for themselves as an academic place,” he said. “I’m for the legalization and decriminalization of weed, but I think it’s important to maintain that on a college campus.”
Robert Regan, a CU junior who has been to the 4/20 gathering every year that he has been at CU, believes CU administration is doing what is necessary for their interests.
“They (CU) definitely have their own interests and they’re keeping that alive,” he said. “They just view this as a celebration and not a protest, and that’s the issue. If students want to make this a protest, as it should be, then they should find ways in creating that and not making it a party.”