IUP students’ unofficial — and sometimes unruly — St. Patrick’s Day celebrations kept police officers busy over the weekend.
Under the banner of an event called IUPatty’s Day, students and out-of-town guests partied throughout the weekend at homes and the uptown bars, driving a spike in police incidents, although largely minor and related to excessive alcohol consumption.
Indiana Borough Sgt. William Vojtek said the department took 155 calls for service between Thursday night and Sunday evening. By comparison, it handled 98 and 100 calls the two previous weekends, Vojtek said.
He said the volume of incidents generated by IUPatty’s Day was similar to the volume that occurs during homecoming weekend, the university’s pre-eminent party weekend.
“The general consensus was that this was the spring homecoming,” he said.
University spokeswoman Michelle Fryling said the weekend’s mild weather, the first stretch of springlike days this year, probably helped add to the number of people who were out and about.
Vojtek also reported that the department’s detectives are investigating a sexual assault that took place Friday night at a location along the 200 block of South Seventh Street, but he declined to provide further details, citing the open investigation.
In addition, there was an incident in which an officer was injured as he tried to break up an alteration somewhere near the Seventh Street Giant Eagle Express. Vojtek did not elaborate on that incident, again citing the open investigation. The officer was not seriously injured, he said.
IUP campus police also reported having a busy weekend.
Sam Clutter, IUP’s public safety director, said that in terms of activity, the homecoming comparison is apt. He, however, was not able to provide any specific numbers of incidents, as those were still being tabulated, he said.
He also said his department is investigating an aggravated assault that occurred during the weekend, but he did not provide details, citing the ongoing investigation.
IUPatty’s Day is the students’ take on Penn State University’s unofficial St. Patrick’s Day celebration, State Patty’s Day. The celebrations, which came into being through social media, are held the weekend before the beginning of spring break, which, at IUP, starts Saturday.
Although this is the second year IUP students have observed IUPatty’s Day, it is the first to have achieved widespread acceptance on campus.
Vojtek said officers were aware of the event and had been making preparations for it. In fact, the borough scheduled six extra officers to work over the weekend, he said.
Also, IUP President Michael Driscoll emailed students directly last week, telling them to be careful.
“It’s no secret that the weekend before you leave for spring break and before St. Patrick’s Day may tempt many IUP students to celebrate up town or at any number of house parties,” he wrote to students.
“Remember, 1) if you’re underage and get caught, you probably won’t enjoy your spring break very much, and 2) regardless of your age, you need to be responsible for yourselves and watch out for your friends. Needless tragedies have a way of spoiling the fun and sticking with you for a very long time.”
Some, apparently, did not heed his warning — Indiana Regional Medical Center reported a spike in emergency room visits during the weekend.
According to hospital spokesman Mark Richards, the numbers of patients who were brought to the emergency room overnight Friday and overnight Saturday easily exceeded averages. On Friday, there were 29 patients seen; emergency room staff on average see 18 that night, according to Richards. On Saturday night, 35 people were treated; the average is 19, he said.
He said the spikes in visits were mostly attributable to excessive drinking.
And, as Indiana Borough Council President Nancy Jones, will attest, the partying that occurred over the weekend was unabated. Jones lives along Fisher Avenue, near several student homes, and said students were partying morning, noon and night.
“I am appalled by what I saw this weekend,” Jones said. “It was out of control.”
She said she plans to address the matter with the university, even though she’s not sure whether there is any recourse.