Student leaders at the University of Colorado say they're uncomfortable with the administration's decision to close campus April 20, which means using a "massive police presence" to enforce the closure.
For the past two years, university administrators have closed campus in an attempt to quash the annual 4/20 marijuana smokeout on the Norlin Quad.
Though campus officials won't say how many police officers and other security personnel have been present April 20 in years past, last year the university spent $107,794 to close the campus, which includes the cost of having extra police and other agencies on hand.
That money comes from insurance rebates, campus officials have said.
From noon to 6 p.m., faculty members, students and staff members will be required to show their university identification cards to enter the campus.
CU Student Government leaders said they have heard from students who don't feel welcome on their own campus.
"It's caused a lot of distress," said Chris Schaefbauer, CU Student Government president of student affairs. "Especially in the marginalized communities, where when you have a big police presence on campus, there's a really long history and a relationship between those communities and the police, and that's really hard for those students to see when they're coming to campus just to be a student."
Student government officials have been actively involved in meetings and discussion about 4/20 over the last three years, and Schaefbauer said the administration has listened to some concerns brought forward by students.
But on the issue of the police presence on campus, university administrators haven't budged.
"At the end of the day, we didn't get the situation resolved in a way that we felt was appropriate," he said. "They made their decision, and it was really hard for us to be a part of those meetings and to not see the kind of progress we would've wanted. We agree that a large gathering, like what has happened in the past that involved the active consumption of marijuana, was not in the best interest of our campus and our students, but neither are the tactics they have used to try to get rid of the gathering."
In a letter to the campus in February, Chancellor Phil DiStefano addressed why it was necessary to close the campus again, saying it lets the public know that the university is serious about eliminating the "disruptive gathering."
Last April, it appeared that the university had successfully killed off the large outdoor tokefest, which had reached 10,000 people at its peak.
CU spokesman Ryan Huff said the administration has listened to students when making decisions around 4/20.
This year, because 4/20 falls on Easter Sunday, Huff said student leaders were concerned that their classmates who are being picked up or dropped off by family members could have difficulties getting onto campus.
The university has designated a special parking lot, Lot 436 North, as a drop-off and pick-up zone April 20. People passing through that parking lot won't need to show an ID or visitor's pass, Huff said.
"We certainly appreciate their concerns, however, there's no real way to close a campus without that law enforcement presence," he said. "We will have officers there as we have the last two years. But just like the last two years, they're going to be polite and professional when asking for IDs. It'll be a quick process, and we have actually not received any formal complaints from students or other affiliates about police activities on those days."
On Wednesday, students hosted the inaugural "Cannabis Symposium," an event intended to "repurpose" the annual 4/20 smokeout.
Though the crowd was small, Schaefbauer said the event shows potential.
"The reason we put so much effort into the Cannabis Symposium is because we feel like trying to harness this energy in a positive way is the way to a long-term, sustainable solution," Schaefbauer said. "I really don't feel like closing campus every year is a sustainable solution."
Huff said while it's too early to tell if the administration will close the campus in 2015, the university hopes that someday 4/20 in its past form "no longer exists."
"We hope there's a time in the years ahead where we don't have to close campus anymore," he said. "We are working toward that goal. I can't tell you when that might be, but we hope it's soon."
Contact Camera Staff Writer Sarah Kuta at 303-473-1106 or firstname.lastname@example.org.