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Officials assess weekend fueled by IUPatty's Day

by on March 10, 2014 11:00 AM

With another rowdy IUPatty’s Day celebration on the books, officials are now working to put some numbers behind the level of disruption caused by the weekend’s drunken revelry.

But borough police said this morning it would be at least a few days before they had a complete picture of the early St. Patrick’s Day celebration. But this much is clear — the event, which is relatively new and not endorsed by IUP, has taken firm root in some students’ social calendar.

Although police don’t have overall figures to report, they have begun releasing details about some individual incidents.

[PHOTO: Hundreds of students from various fraternities and sororities Sunday morning helped clean up after the weekend’s IUPatty’s Day celebrations in Indiana.Sophomores Chris Disciullo, left, Tanner Patton, center, and Phil Hannam removed debris along South Seventh Street. (James J. Nestor/Gazette photo)]

In one case, a pedestrian walking along the 1200 block of Philadelphia Street was struck by a suspected drunken driver early Saturday morning. The driver was taken into custody and placed in Indiana County Jail. He is facing counts that include aggravated assault by vehicle while driving under the influence.

Police said an acquaintance of the driver, who was not identified, drove the vehicle from the scene before officers arrived. Officers later located that second person, and charged him with driving under the influence as well.

The pedestrian, who was not identified, suffered head injuries and was taken to Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center in Johnstown. His condition was not known at press time today.

In another case, a person reported that he was assaulted and that his wallet was stolen early Sunday while along the 700 block of Gompers Avenue. Police said the assailant is white, 6 feet tall and may have red hair in a buzz cut. Police also said he was wearing a green shirt with the image of a leprechaun on it and a gray jacket.

In a third incident, an officer suffered an unspecified injury while trying to take a New Jersey man into custody. Police said the man reportedly had been damaging vehicles along the 300 block of School Street, and when confronted fought with officers.

Though students have observed IUPatty’s Day over the past several years, this is the second year that it has been celebrated en masse. Last year, the revelry caught authorities off guard, but they were prepared for this year’s go-round, having developed a formalized response plan that included help from state police, IUP campus police and municipal departments.

Borough Police Chief Bill Sutton has said the scale of the event is approaching that of homecoming weekend, but it hasn’t yet reached the same size. Sutton wasn’t available for comment this morning.

While police brought on extra hands to patrol the revelry, the university had organized alternative events to counter the parties. And President Michael Driscoll sent a tweet to the students, reminding them of their place in the community and to act responsibly.

Administrators also had been out monitoring the celebrations.

“We were prepared as best we could be,” said spokeswoman Michelle Fryling.

Nevertheless, the partying got out of hand at times, as evidenced by the pictures and videos that have been posted via social media.

One YouTube video shows two men trading punches as a crowd cheers. Another shows a vehicle passing by on Seventh Street being surrounded by revelers wearing green. Some jump onto the roof and hood of the vehicle. The crowd quickly disperses when officers approached.

Fryling said those images are appalling.

“This is not our expectation of our students’ behavior,” she said, adding that students who were caught acting out of line will face sanctions through the university’s judicial process. Those sanctions may include expulsion.

She also said that police report arrests of students to the university, which is cooperating with officials as they try to sort out who among the arrestees attends the university.

Fryling said that while some students were clearly acting out of bounds, their behavior is not reflective of the students as a whole.

“This is not the vast majority of our students,” she said.

Additionally, she said that not all responsible for the disruptions were IUP students — the celebration drew many from out of town, she said.

Borough Council President Nancy Jones said that argument doesn’t hold water with her. After all, it’s the IUP students who organized the parties that drew them here in the first place, she said this morning.

She said her phone rang incessantly on Sunday, and people in the community implored her to move against the event.

Jones said the problem centers on the off-campus houses, not the Philadelphia Street establishments. Therefore, she said, it’s time to begin looking at ordinances that address that fact.

“We do have to hold our landlords accountable,” she said.



Sam Kusic is a staff writer for The Indiana Gazette.
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