UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Penn State and State College Borough are ramping up efforts to improve safety as the annual State Patty’s Day drinking holiday nears.
Since its inception in 2007 through social media, the annual event has brought an increase in emergency room visits and crime, making downtown State College inhospitable and damaging the reputation of the student body.
Since Jan. 15, the State Patty’s Day Task Force has held weekly brainstorming sessions targeting the holiday. The task force is a town-gown collaboration, drawing input from the likes of University and borough leaders, law enforcement, students and downtown business owners.
“The ill effects of State Patty’s Day are pervasive, and we’ve been committed to a community-wide response,” said Borough Manager Tom Fountaine. “It’s not just a campus problem, it’s not just a borough problem, it’s not just a neighborhood problem. Only by working together will we bring an end to this.”
The participation of 34 downtown establishments in an alcohol-free zone played a significant role in last year’s gains. Those businesses agreed to close or prohibit the sale or serving of alcohol on State Patty’s Day 2013.
In 2014, no collective action by the businesses has been announced as owners continue to weigh their decisions. Restaurant owners who intend to serve have pledged to adopt restrictions to curb excessive drinking, such as higher cover charges.
State College and University police will be heavily mobilized throughout the weekend and be supported by officers from the Pennsylvania State Police, Liquor Control Enforcement and regional police forces.
As in years past, students are a driver in efforts to mitigate the holiday’s detrimental impact on the community and campus. This year, Penn State Interfraternity Council banned social functions during the State Patty’s Day weekend, and the Panhellenic Council adopted a no-guest policy for sorority floors at residence halls for the weekend.
“We have recognized how detrimental the event is to the Penn State community, and it is our hope that other students follow our lead and refrain from taking part in State Patty's Day festivities,” said Meaghan DeMallie, president of the Panhellenic Council. “Instead, we urge students to join us in the State Day of Service and work to better the community on March 1st.”
Students from Greek-letter organizations are expected to be a large presence during the State Day of Service, the annual student community service event coinciding with the drinking holiday. Approximately 1,000 student volunteers are expected to lend a hand at 835 locations in the State College area March 1.
Also, from Friday to Sunday, roughly 320 volunteers will be working with the borough on trash cleanup downtown. A group of student leaders are also at work on a safety initiative aimed at informing students on the University’s medical amnesty policy, which offers certain protections from disciplinary measures for students who report a medical emergency to authorities.
In the week before State Patty’s Day, the Off-Campus Student Union will mobilize students to urge those living in high-density student housing downtown to be responsible during the party weekend. In January, The Daily Collegian ran an editorial urging an end to the holiday that “forces both the university and State College Borough to pay for the destructiveness of the weekend.”
For the 2014 State Patty’s Day weekend, multiple activities will be taking place at University Park, providing students with a diverse lineup of alcohol-free alternatives. Among the events are women’s and men’s basketball games against Michigan on March 1 and Wisconsin on March 2, respectively; and the student-organized TEDxPSU event, which will present 14 speakers covering topics from science to technology March 2.
Other anti-State Patty’s Day efforts by the task force include:
-- Local court officials will be urged to again impose maximum fines during the weekend and immediately process out-of-town violators.
-- On Feb. 11, State College Police Chief Tom King met with a group of apartment owners, many of whom agreed to ban parties March 1 or notify tenants that parties are discouraged. A letter urging party restrictions is also being drafted to the holders of the borough’s roughly 10,000 rental unit licenses. King and Danny Shaha, senior director of the Office of Student Conduct, will be composing a letter discouraging partying and warning of potential disciplinary measures that apartment owners can distribute to tenants.
-- With State Patty’s Day attracting college students from throughout the state, administrators at other institutions will be asked to discourage participation and discipline students who are arrested or cited in State College within their own off-campus discipline policies.
-- After the first three hours of parking at normal rates, the fees in downtown parking garages and off-street parking lots will increase to football game day rates. Higher event parking rates also will be in effect on campus.
-- Director of Athletics Dave Joyner will encourage student-athletes to avoid State Patty Day parties and to participate in the State Day of Service. Informational packets provided to visiting athletic teams will also include information discouraging State Patty’s Day involvement.
-- The Alumni Association will advocate for avoiding the drinking holiday in emails and social media aimed at the alumni network.