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Officials working for quieter IUPatty's Day

by on March 06, 2014 11:00 AM

Indiana Borough is battening down the hatches — it’s a party weekend at IUP.

The 2014 version of the unofficial IUPatty’s Day unofficially begins this evening, and, officially, campus administrators are well aware of it. So they and students have organized a variety of events that they hope will help to dry out the fun over the next three days.

Packaged under the banner “Spring Fever 2014,” the events, IUP administrators said, are intended to provide an outlet for the excitement over the coming spring break and for the pent-up energy that may have accumulated throughout a bitterly cold winter.

Among the events: a laser tag tournament, a trivia contest, bingo, a performance by a Celtic band, a talent contest, Zumba classes and an open mic night. The HUB Fitness Center also has set aside open court time. The events begin tonight, with most of them taking place Friday and Saturday night.

IUP’s Center for Health and Well-Being, which is organizing Spring Fever, also printed T-shirts bearing the name of the event. Those T-shirts are meant to counter others in circulation promoting IUPatty’s Day. While those tees are mostly sold as fundraisers for student groups, the Spring Fever shirts are being given away. And some downtown businesses are extending discounts to students who wear them.

Kate Linder, associate dean in the Center for Student Life and Community Engagement, said they hope to help students understand that they are members of the community and that it is important to be mindful of the place in which they live.

The effort results from last year’s IUPatty’s Day, in which rowdy parties and heavy drinking drove a spike in public disturbances and trips to the emergency room. And although some IUP students and out-of-town guests had observed IUPatty’s before 2013, last year was the event’s tipping point, with warm weather and social media having driven participation, officials say.

Unlike IUP’s homecoming, the event is not, and never was, an official IUP event. Its origins lie with a schedule change that placed spring break over St. Patrick’s Day, and it takes its cue from State Patty’s Day, the Penn State version of the event and the elder of the two.

Last year’s celebration caught the police off guard, and officers were kept busy responding to complaints about raucous house parties, general commotion and excessive drinking.

In State College, the event had become such a problem that last year the borough began paying taverns to shut off the taps. Officials renewed the program this year — State Patty’s was last weekend — and were able to sign on 34 of 35 downtown establishments. Five beer distributors also participated. In addition, area state stores agreed to close.

That and other initiatives resulted in a significant decline in problems, according State College officials, who reported that the number of arrests and citations have dropped 76 percent over the last two years. The number of reported crimes and ordinance violations dropped by 56 percent, they said.

“The campus and the town have been vexed by State Patty’s Day since its inception, but we’ve found a formula that has whittled it away to the point that it is no longer the problem it once was,” said Damon Sims, Penn State’s vice president for student affairs.

Seeing that program, some Indiana residents have asked whether borough officials have considered setting up a similar program. Speaking at a recent forum between the borough and the university, Bill Sutton, Indiana’s borough manager and police chief, said they hadn’t. And, other borough officials added, it probably wouldn’t work anyway.

For starters, the borough doesn’t have the money to support such a program. Secondly, the presence of bars and beer distributors outside but near the borough would make such a program ineffective. Beyond that, it’s not likely that the downtown tavern owners would even agree to participate in the first place.

Tim McQuaide, owner of The Coney, said the Philadelphia Street establishments are the livelihood for the people who own them. And the bigger IUP-related events help sustain them through the slow summer months.

Additionally, he said that whatever problems there were last year, they weren’t with the bars or their patrons. The problems, he said, were with underagers drinking at off-campus house parties. The bars, he said, were taking care to card patrons and to refuse service to people who were intoxicated.

Regardless of where the trouble occurred, police said they will be ready for it.

Sutton said his department, in conjunction with IUP campus police, state police and its Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement, has prepared an operations plan for dealing with the weekend.

“The plan is similar to that for homecoming-period evening activities, however not as large a scale,” he wrote in an email to the Gazette.

Sutton declined to discuss specifics of the plan, including to say how many extra officers are being pressed into duty.

“I cannot provide details as this would circumvent planning efforts,” he wrote. “The operational plan, which is not for public exposure, mainly enhances deployment efforts.”



Sam Kusic is a staff writer for The Indiana Gazette.
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