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Risky business: Police increase regulations on Unofficial

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Risky business: Police increase regulations on Unofficial

A line forms outside KAM’s during Unofficial on March 4, 2016.

A line forms outside KAM’s during Unofficial on March 4, 2016.

Brian Bauer

A line forms outside KAM’s during Unofficial on March 4, 2016.

Brian Bauer

Brian Bauer

A line forms outside KAM’s during Unofficial on March 4, 2016.

By Erica Finke, Contributing Writer

Lindsey Tucker had firsthand experience with the campus holiday Unofficial as a bartender at KAM’s during her time at the University. Tucker, who graduated from the University in 2016, said at the beginning of her college career she enjoyed celebrating the holiday without much worry. However, it became more of a hassle as the authorities began to crack down on antics.

“As a bartender, it was nerve-wracking because you had to be extra careful about who you were serving to and in what proportions,” Tucker said in an email.

She also said it was difficult to keep the lines moving and customers happy while worrying about the fines and termination that comes with breaking a rule during Unofficial.

“People were warned to basically hide out in frat houses in people’s rooms to stay as far away from the cops as possible,” she said when referring to what the holiday was like outside of the bars.

Tucker said as the police department got stricter, people attending house parties were afraid to leave the premise for fear they would get a drinking ticket the minute they stepped off the property. She also said she knew people who did not want their friends staying with them that weekend to avoid trouble. Tucker thinks the main cause of the problem has not been with University students, but the people who come to visit.

Patrick Wade, communications director for the Division of Public Safety,said their scare tactic is intended for both students and visitors. Wade credits the large volume of police officers on campus as the largest deterrent of risky behaviors.

“Everyone thinks, ‘Oh man, if they see me I’m probably going to get a ticket. There’s just so many cops out on the street,’ and that’s part of it. That’s part of our strategy,” Wade said.

Wade said in 2011, the University Police Department gave out 364 tickets during Unofficial. About 75 percent of those tickets, were given to people who do not attend the University. Since then, the number of tickets has dropped to only 57 tickets in 2018. Wade connects this with fewer visitors coming to celebrate the holiday.

“This whole thing started as bar promotion in the ‘90s and it kind of grew and grew and the bars were still really promoting it on social media. Some people were even bussing people in from Chicago or other campuses,” Wade said. “So there’s this big effort to get people outside our community here to participate in this event that is completely centered around binge drinking and wreaking havoc and the people coming to our community for that, that’s all they wanted to do.”

Many participants are unaware of the ordinances and laws the cities of Urbana and Champaign have passed, as well as the University-enforced rules during Unofficial. These include raising the bar entrance age to 21, not allowing visitors in residence halls, allowing the sale of only one keg at a time to an individual and making parking difficult during the weekend.

“Our students know the rules; they know how to get help, they have a place to stay, they’re used to doing this so that has reduced a lot of the problems, because it’s turning into just any other night out on campus, just everyone wears green and that’s fine,” Wade said.

Wade, also a University alumnus, was a student from 2006 until 2009 and celebrated his first Unofficial in March 2007. However, the University showed great opposition to Unofficial after the first fatality in March 2006.

“It was after that that they really hit hard with the rules,” he said. “I remember my freshman year just how much they hammered us with ‘These are the consequences if you do something wrong,’ so that was around the time I think they really started cracking down on it.”

Wade said he is enthusiastic about the results they’ve seen in the decreasing participation in Unofficial activities in recent years.

“Some students may not like it and some students do, but Unofficial is definitely on it’s way out, so we’re going to kind of continue with what we know to work,” Wade said.

Many underage students will go home for the weekend during Unofficial since it has become more difficult to go out. Sarah Demas, sophomore in AHS, stayed on campus last year to attend her Friday classes.

She said she expected people to ditch their classes, but that was not what she observed.

“They’ve cracked down so much on it,” Demas said.

Demas didn’t try to go out for last year’s Unofficial festivities because she was afraid of receiving a drinking ticket. She did say some of her friends went out and drank, but she stayed at house or apartment parties rather than going to bars.

“I was expecting to see more drunk people (on Unofficial) because I walked down Green Street for food and even just by KAM’s and the bookstore and I was expecting a big, huge line like how it normally is, and it was less than normal,” Demas said.

Demas said she will be going home this year for Unofficial weekend.

“People can get drunk any other time of the year, but there are too many risks associated with this weekend,” Demas  said.

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