Indiana, PA - Indiana County

IUPatty's Day discussion topic during forum

by on February 14, 2014 11:00 AM

Taking a lesson from last year, Indiana Borough is planning to better police an upcoming party weekend at IUP, Chief Bill Sutton said during a panel discussion between the borough and the university Thursday evening.

Sutton, one of 11 borough officials and students who served on the panel, allowed that he and other officials were caught off guard by last year’s IUPatty’s Day, the unofficial student celebration of St. Patrick’s Day.

The relatively new event takes place on the weekend before spring break dismissal. So this year it will be Friday, March 7, and Saturday, March 8.  But like with homecoming, the partying is expected to start on Thursday.  

[PHOTO: George Stewart, a rental property owner in Indiana, addressed the panel of borough council members and IUP students Thursday at Indiana Area Junior High School.

Serving on the panel, from left, were William Sutton, police chief; Nnaemeka Okolo, student; John Petrosky, borough council; Elijah Rosenthal, student; Jamie Smith, student; Richard Thorell, borough council; Julie Kilgus, student; Larry DeChurch, borough council; Jamie Czech, student; Ryan Egan, student; and Nancy Jones, borough council.

Mark Bertig, standing, was the emcee. About 40 people were in the audience.  (Teri Enciso/Gazette photo) ]

IUPatty’s Day is a copycat version of an unofficial drinking holiday at Penn State called State Patty’s Day.

Although Indiana University of Pennsylvania students have been celebrating IUPatty’s Day for the last few years, it took off last spring, driven by social media and unseasonably warm weather. The event, which is not sponsored or sanctioned by IUP, drew a number of out-of-town visitors and drove a spike in police incidents and emergency room visits.

Police were caught off guard by event, which some likened to a spring semester homecoming.  

Sutton, who is also the borough manager, said Thursday night that comparison, and the police response to it this year, isn’t too far off the mark.

“It’s not at that caliber yet, but it’s not far from it,” he said.  

Sutton said his officers, university police and state police are working out an operations plan that calls for what he described as enhanced police coverage. He declined to provide details.  

Sutton and the other panelists, a mix of borough officials and IUP students, were asked if anyone had considered asking the beer distributors and bars, which helped fuel last year’s event by running specials and promotions, if they would close for the event.   

Sutton said no one had. And, he said, he didn’t think those businesses would agree to anyway.

“That’s their livelihood,” he said. “We could certainly ask them, but I don’t think we’d get a very positive response unless they were going to be financially compensated.”  

State College last year paid bars and taverns $5,000 to close entirely or forgo alcohol sales over State Patty’s Day.  That, along with other campus efforts, seemed to have been successful in reducing the rowdiness that had been associated with the event there.

But borough councilman Richard Thorell said he didn’t think such a plan would succeed here, pointing out that there are plenty of places to buy beer beyond Indiana.

“It would be an exercise in futility to try to do that,” Thorell said.

IUP students on the panel said they and their classmates are scheduling a variety of campus events to counterbalance the event and take the focus off of drinking for the sake of drinking.

And student Jamie Czech, a member of the Delta Zeta sorority, said the problem last year wasn’t so much with IUP students as it was with guests  who came  for the weekend.

“It’s usually not the IUP students who are causing the issues,” she said.

The forum was the second such gathering the university and the borough have held this school year. It’s intended to be a way for the borough and the university to air problems and work together on solutions.

IUPatty’s Day, and student partying in general, was the focus of the conversation Thursday, although the panelists did touch on other matters, such as student housing.



Sam Kusic is a staff writer for The Indiana Gazette.
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