UI, Champaign impose regulations for Unofficial events

The Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day celebration is now less than one month away. The day-long binge drinking holiday has attracted students from the University and other campuses for years.

In recent years, the event has attracted disapproval from the University administration and the city governments of Champaign and Urbana.

“‘Unofficial’ is not the University’s event, so handling or controlling it is not our primary responsibility,” said Peg Rawles, associate chancellor. “However, because of past problems, personal injuries and property damage, we take on the task of planning our response with our community partners to problems created by others during this day.”

In 2006, a University alumna was killed in a motorcycle accident on Green Street. She was wearing a green “Unofficial” T-shirt at the time.

Champaign Mayor Gerald Schweighart plans to pass a program that will require all bars east of State Street to restrict entry of students under 21. A contingency of police forces from Champaign and neighboring areas and representatives from the Illinois Liquor Control Commission will monitor the bars.

“If there’s a violation by the bars, they can impose strict penalties up to revocation on the bars,” Schweighart said.

“One of the things that helped last year was there was a bar that committed a major violation and we imposed a two-day bar suspension. That sent the message that bars should be more careful.”

According to Rawles, there will be additional staff available to monitor classrooms and auditoriums for people trying to disrupt academic activities.

Because the University and city officials strongly oppose Unofficial, they had hoped that students would soon become disinterested with the happenings.

Still, Unofficial remains a popular event.

“Before I came to this school, I had heard about Unofficial,” said Brandon Jane, freshman in Aviation. “People were always talking about it; I basically had an idea of what it was before I even applied to this school.”

With the popularity of this event growing and the increasing amount of students participating in it, Rawles said that there is no way that the University supports the activities that go along with the event.

“I want to be very clear that the university does not sponsor, condone or support activities related to ‘Unofficial,'” she said.

“Unfortunately, we and the local governmental agencies are forced to protect public safety, incurring expense so that bar owners and private party holders benefit.”

Many students from other college campuses visit the University campus on that day to join in on the festivities.

Schweighart said non-University students are careless when it comes to respecting the community.

“I don’t care if you have special events inside your bars,” Schweighart said.

“What I don’t want you doing is promoting this to outside schools and bringing buses in. When they bring in all outsiders and promote getting drunk, (outsiders) really don’t care about your community. They’re going to be disruptive.”

Rawles said local agencies are forced to protect public safety during this event, which leads to unnecessary expenses.

“While the original bar owner who promoted this event has now indicated he will not be promoting this event we still must plan for other bar owners or private individuals to take over,” Rawles said.