If not César Chávez Day, when?

Let’s face it: Students want a spring party tradition

Chico State University President Paul Zingg is disappointed in his students, or at least many of them. He’s upset that they’ve turned César Chávez Day, on March 31, into an excuse to party. That’s no way to respect a great man and his culture, he says.

Worst of all, he writes in a recent e-memo sent out to the entire campus community, is “the flaunting of alleged stereotypical Mexican dress or items and thinking nothing of it. This is repugnant behavior, and ignorance of César Chávez … is no excuse.”

It may not be an excuse, but it explains a lot. Pretty much all the kids know about César Chávez is that because of him they get the day off from school. Many of them have no idea that he was a dignified man, deeply spiritual and abstemious in the way of his idol Gandhi, and a civil-rights leader of Mexican heritage but very much American (he was born in Arizona).

Zingg is of course right to want to nip this racist tomfoolery in the bud. As he writes, “César Chávez Day is not a ‘traditional Mexican drinking holiday.’ It provides no more an excuse to get drunk, put on fake mustaches and parade around in the alleged costume of a migrant farm worker than Martin Luther King Jr. Day gives license to put on black face or insinuate that African-American culture is defined by ghetto gear and gang signs.”

The kids just want to have fun. They used to do so during Pioneer Days in the spring, but that’s long gone, a victim of its own excesses. More recently, St. Patrick’s Day was the best excuse for a spring boozefest, but it went crazy a few times, and several years ago the university started sending students home for spring break that week.

So what did the kids do? They latched onto César Chávez Day as a replacement. Which tells me that, if Zingg is somehow successful in getting them to end the partying on March 31, they’ll find some other day, even if it’s Daffy Duck’s birthday (April 17).

Another option: The university could return spring break to April and work with students to keep things mellow on St. Paddy’s Day. For some reason nobody gets upset when students put on leprechaun hats and drink green beer till they puke to celebrate Ireland’s patron saint. Go figure.

Mystery upon mysteries: I confess, I can’t quite wrap my mind around Meredith Cooper’s cover story this week. It’s that kind of story: rigorous reporting on an infamous unsolved murder case overlaid on a story about a psychic whose paranormal perceptions may end up solving the case. You’ll be scratching your head, too. This much I do know: It’s an amazing tale, one that offers a whole new look at one of the most mystifying missing-person cases of the past 40 years, as well as its infamous companion case, that of Colleen Stan, the young woman who spent seven years as the sex slave of the Red Bluff sadomasochist Cameron Hooker.