Campustown’s very own William Wallace

“We are allowing Scott Cochrane to define this community, to define who we are and what we want to be,” said Chancellor Richard Herman speaking to the Champaign City Council Tuesday night.

Who’s we?

This campus is not defined by Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day any more than Wisconsin and Indiana are by their local celebrations. It’s just one part of it. It’s a phenomenon. It’s an experience. And for lack of a better word, it’s a tradition.

Taking a bar owner who took advantage of an environment that tolerates and promotes underage drinking and making him into a boogeyman is a cheap way to make it appear the administration and the government of Champaign is interested in safety.

The event is bigger than Scott Cochrane. He couldn’t shut it down even if he wanted to. And like the semi-accurate “Braveheart,” if Cochrane is made to answer for his “crimes” against the crown, the rebellion will continue unabated.

Half measures like restricting bars hours and outlawing pitchers and shots won’t do anything to help either. Students will go to house and apartment parties where it doesn’t even matter that the liquor commission has limited them to one keg because they’ve been buying different types of alcohol this week anyway. Not to mention that hosts need only drive over to Rantoul or Savoy to avoid the hassles of paperwork or ask their visitors to bring their own refreshments.

Champaign would do far better to make underage drinking tickets more financially discouraging then they already are and emphasize a new state law that allows for underage drinkers to have their driver’s licenses suspended.

Of course they could also tackle the elephant in the room and consider raising the bar age to twenty-one, year-round. But that would hurt more bar owners than just Cochrane.

After years of disagreement between the Council and the liquor commission on new rules, no one’s holding their breath for that alteration.

Approaching Cochrane and Unofficial like something to be conquered for the sake of this community’s image problems will be a battle no one can win. And the casualties will be students that, admittedly, need responsible people talking about real solutions.

If Unofficial is as serious a problem as the administration and Champaign say it is, then it deserves far more than the months late lip service that it is getting now. If they aren’t willing to follow fear-mongering rhetoric with something constructive that will keep things safer, than it’s something far worse than lip service. It’s free advertising.