The Daily Illini

To my drunk and happy children

By Claire Hettinger

Editor’s note: This story was reported from the point of view of Alma Mater on Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day.

Students at the University have excelled at most things in their lives prior to college, a great contributing factor to their acceptance. Because this is the case, then wouldn’t it make sense that they would also excel at having fun and, yes, drinking alcohol? 

Our campus overall is award-winning across the board: Can we really expect a campus drinking holiday to be mediocre when the students are taught to be exceptional in all they choose to do?

“Her children arise up and call her blessed”

The morning of Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day arrives with mixed emotions. Judging by the number of people on the street at 8 a.m., it seems that all of my children have arisen early, preparing for the day. As students pass my pedestal, their motion is subtle and calm as they head to class.

Across the street, in stark contrast, a rambunctious group of green waits to be let into an apartment complex.

In the residential area, some students pack their bags for a trip home to avoid the craziness, while others load bags of alcohol to be the craziness. As groups of people walk down the street with straight faces and duffle bags, it’s impossible to tell which faces are sincere and what they’re actually carrying.  

At 8:30 a.m., the first group of open beer carriers walk by — their arms and bags overloaded with the glorified substance. A few friends walk alongside them but don’t shoulder any of the cargo. Most of my underage children are trying to avoid a drinking ticket today. 

The green garbage truck rumbles down the street and collects the garbage — an ordinary task that seems very festive. The stumblers ebb and flow, ever increasing as the sun rises in the sky. 

I know the children miss me — throughout the day they climb upon my pedestal and pose like me. Three juniors in particular try to climb on my stand and two of them have a hard time. They keep slipping off but make it up eventually. 

“We really want it (the Alma Mater) back,” they said as they rested after their effort to take a picture. “We just want it back by the time we graduate.” 

“Learning and Labor”

Tradition is very important to my campus, and Unofficial is no different. With 17 previous tries, the campus seems to have gotten the hang of it. Police know where to look for trouble, students know how to avoid the police and Girl Scouts know how to use the holiday to their advantage. 

Two of my students, Nora Marino, a freshman in LAS, and Vivian Robison, president of Campus Girl Scouts and a senior in LAS, set up a table on the quad in preparation for a good day of business. Their forward-thinking and ingenuity are the topics of many College of Business lectures. The fact that they have seized such an opportunity would likely make any business professor proud.

“People open their wallets wider when they are drunk,” Robison said — knowledge she gained from past presidents. 

She said two years ago they sold 576 boxes of cookies, making about $2,304 for the general Girl Scout fund.

I next focus my attention on students who decided to go to class and noticed that the University’s warnings did not entirely come to fruition — uniformed security guards leisurely stand at the entrance to the classroom but they do not check backpacks, ask for i-cards or demand that students throw away their liquids. 

I realize why the security guards seemed unconcerned.

In the Food and Nutrition class of 750, only about 70 are present. It’s too bad the students can’t transfer their unused tuition money into their alcohol budgets.

Focusing back at my pedestal near Green and Wright streets, Saman Moniri, senior in LAS, passes by, very ready to talk about Unofficial. 

“(Alma Mater) definitely wouldn’t approve,” he said. 

Unofficial “brings down the reputation of the school” and is “not a good thing for the future of students,” he said. The poor decisions made on Unofficial can follow people for a long time, he said. He hopes to go to grad school and have a good future so he doesn’t want anything to get in the way. 

I may or may not approve of the holiday, but as the nurturing mother of the University, I need to make sure my children were safe while having fun. I understand that my children must have some sort of release if they are expected to handle the stresses of academia paired with all other activities demanded for a successful future, while keeping their sanity long enough to accept their diploma.

“To thy happy children of the future those of the past send greetings”

A lone violinist stands at the end of the patch of grass at my pedestal. After a few hours of playing, a few dollars and some loose change rest in his open case.

One lady stops to listen to the violinist. She stands, then sits on the curb in front of him. She pulls out her laptop and seems content just chatting with the violinist while he takes a break, listening closely when he strikes the bow to the strings.

Soon, his new friend has to go. She chats once more with him, telling him how much she likes the music. A new friendship made amidst the craziness, like so many other relationships across campus during the holiday. Many officials don’t approve of this fun, but my children are more friendly and welcoming toward each other this day than they had been in a long time. It seems one of the best ways to promote diversity is to place a glass in their hands.

Throughout the entire day people swarm across the Green and Wright intersection. They wait impatiently at the corners for the light to turn before hurrying across the street. The faster they reach their destination, the more fun they think they’ll have.

The violinist plays, the bells chime, and the crowd once again swirls around me. In that moment, I feel drunk on the vivacity of the life swirling around me. The sensory overload of motion, sound and sunshine sweeps me up in the freedom of it all. 

Around 2 p.m., as the violinist packs up and disappears into the maze of bodies, a general funk seems to settle on the passing crowd. An unbelievable amount of girls in skinny jeans and tall boots walk by, all with their arms crossed. With the wind blowing, it seems at first their arms are crossed against the cold, but one look at their faces told me otherwise.

They all look mad.

They aren’t all together, a few are in groups, a few by themselves. It’s been a long day for the girls who rose and chose to look good for kegs and eggs. Even the click-click of their fashionable boots and their curled hair blowing in the wind — the wannabe model’s dream — did not seem to help the mood.

As the sun sinks in the sky, the stumbling children continue on their way. Green Street is packed with celebrators looking for the next good time, as it would be long into the night. I say good night, and I can’t help but feel that I have successfully experienced the day thousands swarm our campus for. 

The entire day has been disjointed like my body is as it rests and repairs for posterity’s enjoyment. As my little ones recover from their alcohol consumption, or the scarring scenes they’ve seen that day, I am recovering from years of watching over them and preparing for many more years to come.

Happy Fake Patrick’s day to my drunk and happy children.

Claire can be reached [email protected]

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