Restrictions for Unofficial

ME Online

ME Online

By Patrick Wade

When Jon Doyle, president of Irish Illini and junior in LAS, celebrates Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day Friday, he said he will not tone down his celebration at all in the midst of new restrictions imposed by Champaign, Urbana and the University.

“I’m never that crazy, I’ve never gotten stopped (by police) anyways,” Doyle said.

The three authorities have taken action to curb the effects of Unofficial this year, including restricted alcohol sales, extra police force and threats of dismissal from the University if students are caught disturbing class while intoxicated.

The actions come almost a year after Caroline Yoon, a University alumna, died in a motorcycle crash at the intersection of Wright and Healey streets. Yoon, 22, was wearing a green t-shirt with the words “Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day” printed on the front.

“There should be some action to control the binge drinking and everything,” Doyle said. “It’s pretty hard to come up with things that are going to prevent it.”

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University responds to the ‘holiday’

The University Police Department will have teams of officers patrolling University properties Friday, working with representatives from the Dean of Students office and focusing on behavior and preventing disruptions in classrooms, Director of Public Safety Kris Fitzpatrick said.

“What we expect to happen is that the professors in charge of the classroom will initially address the behavior asking people to cease and desist if they’re being disruptive,” Fitzpatrick said. “If that doesn’t work they’ll call and ask for our assistance.”

The Illinois Student Senate Student Disciplinary Committee ruled Feb. 14 that any student caught disrupting class on Unofficial will be subject to possible dismissal from the University.

“This year, there will be people helping the faculty and asking students to leave classes or making sure students don’t bring alcohol into the classes,” said Renee Romano, vice chancellor for student affairs. Romano said that there will be volunteers confiscating any liquid in large lectures, like Lincoln or Foellinger auditoriums.

“If there are problems, it could result, for the student, in an arrest,” Romano said. She added that last year, the University was not prepared for disruptive behavior in classrooms, but this year it will be more responsive to problems.

Romano said that students will be subject to investigation and judicial actions by the University. If the student is found to “be responsible” for a violation of the Student Code, they could be subject to disciplinary actions ranging from probation to expulsion, depending on the severity of the case.

“It’s gotten to the point where it’s having a very negative effect on public safety, students who want to go to class and who want to maintain their regular activities that day, and also the physical property around the campus and on the campus itself,” Romano said.

Fitzpatrick said that University police officers will also provide support to residence hall staff, patrolling some residential hallways.

“In the interest of safety for everyone, to protect those that aren’t involved and to make sure those that do get involved and over-indulged don’t harm themselves or others, that’s why we have more officers out to be eyes and ears and address problematic behavior when it first occurs,” Fitzpatrick said.

Cities take action

The Champaign City Council approved an ordinance Feb. 20 expanding Mayor Gerald Schweighart’s Emergency Order Powers. The ordinance gives the mayor, who also acts as liquor commissioner, the authority to prohibit the sale of beer in pitchers and undiluted shots. These powers are intended to slow the process of binge drinking. Drinks will also only be sold in plastic cups as opposed to glass bottles.

Schweighart also has the authority to limit the number of kegs per residence to one and to allow only those age 21 or older to check IDs at bar entrances. Under the ordinance, he may also restrict bars from opening earlier than 11 a.m.

A Feb. 27 press release from the city of Champaign announced that Schweighart will exercise all of these powers and will only apply to Campustown bars.

The council also approved a “nuisance party” ordinance, which gives police more authority to shut down apartment or house parties. The ordinance also puts more blame on party hosts, making them more liable to receive citations. Sgt. Scott Friedlein of the Champaign police department said the “nuisance party” ordinance will be enforced.

Schweighart said that he does not believe the new powers will be effective in controlling Unofficial because students are determined to find loopholes.

“Students are very creative and have a mind of their own,” Schweighart said. “So, any roadblocks that (the city) puts up, they’re going to find a way around them.”

Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing said Urbana will be taking similar steps as Champaign to curb Unofficial festivities as far as restricted alcohol sales.

Prussing said the big problem is in Champaign, where most of the campus bars are located, but Urbana has problems too. Urbana is considering the “nuisance party” ordinance, as most of Urbana’s problems stem from parties and party-related disturbances.

“Long-term, it should be an education effort to students,” Prussing said.

Safety concerns

Champaign police are also increasing their force on Friday in the interest of public safety, Friedlein said. Police will be conducting frequent bar checks.

“Nearly every bar will be checked,” Friedlein said. “There is no doubt about that.”

Friedlein said that Illinois State Police will also be present to support Champaign and University police.

According to a report given to the Champaign City Council, Champaign police responded to 147 calls for service in the Campustown area during last year’s Unofficial – a 32 percent increase compared to the number of calls the previous year. 103 notices to appear in court were issued, 44 of which were issued to students attending Universities in other cities.

The report also said Carle Foundation Hospital and Covenant Medical Center treated as many as 34 individuals for over-intoxication.

“(Crowded emergency rooms) are not acceptable situations,” Friedlein said. He added that if a major emergency were to occur during Unofficial, hospitals would not have adequate space or staff available to treat patients.

“It’s not our intent to keep people from having a good time,” Friedlein said. “It’s our intent to provide a very safe environment, and these are measures that we’ve taken to help ensure public safety.”

Friedlein said that staying out of trouble on Unofficial is as simple as exercising responsible behavior and not drawing attention to yourself.

“Our attention will be drawn to you by your action,” Friedlein said. “If you don’t want our attention, moderate your action. We’re going to be drawn to you by something you’re doing.”