Keeping a lid on Unofficial

By John Bambenek

It’s that time of year again for the annual festival of drunkenness called “Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day.” The University and the cities of Champaign and Urbana have put out their annual “We’re gonna get tough on Unofficial.” There is one word to describe these efforts: excrement. If the day was named “Tacos and Tequila” or a “Compton Block Party,” you’d see the University and cities publicly flogging the organizers. But it’s OK to stereotype and hate on Whitey “Honky” McCracker.

The fact is Unofficial was taking place for years before the authorities started to take it seriously. It wasn’t until there was a body count that they decided to do anything about it. The problem is that both the cities of Champaign and Urbana cash in on increased sales taxes from the day and the University quietly wants the “party school” reputation that it has because it attracts students as if the “college experience” were more about liver damage and venereal disease than about educational advancement. Perhaps it’s time to have a serious discussion about repealing the 26th Amendment.

If the cities and University wanted to keep a lid on Unofficial they have all the power they need to. No emergency orders need to be proclaimed. No sermons from Richard Herman need to be sent over mass e-mail. Here is the magic trick that will make sure the event doesn’t get out of hand: Enforce the rules and laws that are already on the books.

It’s not hard, really. When you don’t enforce the laws you have, you get exactly what any rational person would expect, lawlessness. So while the cities and University did nothing for years, the festivities got more out of control until someone died. And even now, they still aren’t doing anything effective.

Last year they said they issued 176 tickets for drinking. Congratulations! Have a cookie. More people got the clap last Unofficial than got a drinking ticket.

Students do, in fact, have a limited right to enjoy themselves. However, as part of being in the “grown-up world” they have to obey the laws just like the rest of the grown-ups. Here is the John Bambenek plan to control Unofficial.

Start by rounding up all those MTD air buses that roam around town for no discernible reason. Start parking these buses around the intersection of Sixth and Daniel streets at 8 a.m. on Friday. Then you have all the police you can find patrol Campustown. If they find someone under 21 stumbling around drunk, arrest him for underage drinking and put him on the bus. Someone urinating in the bushes, on the bus. Drunks running around and causing general trouble, that’s disturbing the peace, on the bus. Out-of-control house parties, load every guest onto the bus.

As you fill up buses, drive these sardine cans to a nice warehouse converted to makeshift holding cell. In fact, you could use many of the public schools in the area; they basically look like prisons anyway. This is where our drunks who were not able to obey the law get to stay until they are arraigned Monday at 1:30 p.m.

Now what to do with these people for a few days? My suggestion is to play Gaelic bagpipe music. If they are going to “drink ’til they’re Irish,” they might as well sample some other aspects of my culture besides drinking and scrapping (that’s Irish for fighting, stupid).

Come Monday, charge ’em, fine ’em and let them go. The University, for its part can enforce the student code. If they don’t go to class on Friday or Monday say, because they’re in jail, it’s an unexcused absence. Instructors should schedule tests for these days.

Lastly, take all the extra revenue from fines generated from actually enforcing the law and issue rebates on property tax payments for area residents. You know the law-abiding ones who can drink at home without breaking things.

In the end, law-abiding students can enjoy themselves, order is maintained and maybe my property tax bill will be more manageable this way. At least the MTD buses would finally get used.