Ending unofficial: officially a bad idea

By Jeff Myczek

Looking at the stories that have been filling the local newspapers and evening news over the last few days, it is becoming clear that both the University and local governments wish to do away with the Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day celebrated by students here at the University. The University Senate has had several discussions on the matter, and Champaign mayor Gerald Schweighart has dismissed local campus bar owner Scott Cochrane from the Liquor Advisory Board for his alleged unwillingness to work to shut down the holiday.

Following the incidents that occurred on the last Unofficial, it is not surprising that the nervous forces of reaction would act to crack down on the annual celebration. Given the volume of open drunkenness on the streets, the amount of alcohol citations issued by local police, and the death of a visiting alumna, it is likely that many in governing positions thought that it was time to put this “holiday” to a close – and in their minds end this type of behavior here at the University. What many in the administration fail to consider, however, is that the celebration of Unofficial has less to do with that actual day than it does with the age-old feeling among students to break the mold of daily societal norms.

According to The Daily Illini, school administration has considered requiring professors to schedule mandatory tests on the day of Unofficial in order to discourage student participation in the holiday. Furthermore, local government is trying to ban keg sales around the holiday and get area bars to cease supporting the celebrations.

One look at these measures, however, reveals that they will do nothing to end the student participation of an Unofficial holiday. If the University goes through the effort of dictating curriculum and schedules tests two weeks before St. Patrick’s Day, something tells me students will simply move the celebration to a week earlier. Getting bars to stop supporting the holiday also won’t have the intended effect. While campus bars may make a lot of money on Unofficial, most students do not consider it to be a bar holiday, and most don’t go to a bar that day. Banning kegs “around” the time of Unofficial won’t work either, as all one needs to do is move the celebration another week earlier. I, for one, would have no problem celebrating Unofficial in either mid-February or mid-April. To most students, the actual day of celebrating won’t matter one bit.

In dealing with some of the more unsavory side effects of Unofficial, it is clear that banning the holiday will do little to end them. Rather than drive celebration of Unofficial underground and beyond the control of authority, the University and government authorities should instead attempt to co-opt and govern the holiday, the first steps of which they did this year. By changing bar times and effectively delaying the start of the celebrating, students were visibly better behaved in their classes and throughout the morning. To be sure, it would be impossible to eliminate all the negative side effects of Unofficial, but things such as drinking tickets, public intoxication, and stupid behavior don’t require a holiday to happen here at this University, as anyone can see on the average weekend.

After considering all of the facts and the measures that authorities are considering to end Unofficial, it becomes clear they will not only be ineffective, but also counterproductive. The celebration of Unofficial will not end, but rather be driven to uncontrollable private residences or to another day. Students may even come up with another holiday with another name if the term “Unofficial” becomes banned as well. The University and the City of Champaign need to understand that in order to stop an “Unofficial” it will take more than Stalinist tactics from the University, wacko delusions from the Student Senate, and the stifling of dissent at Liquor Advisory Board meetings – it would likely require the total prohibition of drinking here on this campus.

Jeff Myczek is a junior in LAS, and his column appears on Thursdays. He can be reached at [email protected] dailyillini.com.