Unofficial plans should be announced soon

It’s hard to believe with the subzero temperatures outside, but Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day is officially one month away. And though students are already eagerly anticipating the “holiday,” the University has been relatively silent on the subject.

Unfortunately, for the safety of our campus, that’s the last thing we need.

Following last year’s festivities, local police used words like “tame” to describe the perennial campus party. Admittedly, on the surface, Green Street and the surrounding streets were much more subdued than in previous years. And if that’s what the University is going for, then kudos. But we’re not convinced fewer students participated in the event. Rather, they just didn’t take the parties to the streets, where the police presence was quite noticeable.

Maybe the budget crisis has everyone a bit preoccupied, but we haven’t heard much yet from the cities or the administration about what we can expect. What the administration and police have never understood about Unofficial is that the best way to keep it safe is to talk with students. While it might be comforting to think last year was a success, as students, we know there wasn’t much of a difference.

We understand why President B. Joseph White, Chancellor Richard Herman, Mayor Gerald Schweighart and the like want to curb Unofficial. We just don’t think it’s possible for it to simply go away. The policies in recent years have been more about trying to get rid of Unofficial than making it safer. If you get rid of kegs, people will drink more hard alcohol. If you shut down the bars, students will drink in unmonitored settings, like houses and apartments.

And if you write letters to our parents, well, that’s just laughable.

Students are interested, maybe more so than with any other campus issue, in what the consequences for irresponsible drinking will be. Harness that interest into a positive dialogue that creates some real solutions for keeping Unofficial safe. Work with the campus, not against it.

If this is a safety issue, then that’s the best advice we can give. But if it’s about the University’s reputation, then those concerns are misguided.

As a Big Ten school with a population of 40,000-plus, our reputation isn’t hurt because we may be labeled as a party school. Wisconsin has two giant parties, one that requires mounted police and tear gas, and they seem to be doing just fine.

In truth, students don’t need to be parented. Instead, treat students as adults and work with them to make Unofficial truly safe, not just perceptively safe. Open the lines of communication. We want to hear from you.

But with Unofficial just a month away, we’re not encouraged by what we’ve heard so far: silence.