The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Opinion | Unofficial is officially changing — let it

Alyssa Shih
Lines start to form outside of KAMS on Greet St. for Unofficial on Friday.

Unofficial: the one day of the year when college students at the University have an excuse to drink profusely for an entire day and make as many poor decisions as they like. This tradition has a rich history going back to the 1990s, but in more recent times, it has become a shadow of its former glory. 

What once was a night full of shenanigans, tomfoolery and general revelry for students has become a last push by campus grifters to make as much money as possible before spring break. 

In the spring of 1995, 10 local bars jointly held a promotion aptly named the “Shamrock Stagger” in an effort to recoup their financial losses from Saint Patrick’s Day falling over spring break. The event was a hit, and the following year Cochrane Enterprise-owned bars advertised under the banner of “Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day” for the first time. The rest is history as the celebration grew into the campus-wide holiday it is today.

In following years, the first Friday of March became synonymous with groups of inebriated individuals stumbling through the streets clad in green apparel. Participation peaked from 2006 to 2011 when Unofficial began to change into an event where people go as crazy as they can for the weekend.

However, interest in the holiday has begun to dwindle due to efforts from the city and the University in response to several serious incidents. 

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In 2006, in response to the death of alum Caroline Yoon, the Office of the Chancellor created the Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day Task Force to develop recommendations to mitigate harm during the holiday. 

Additionally, in 2011, Champaign police issued 364 court notices to students after bolstering patrols during Unofficial weekend. 

Since then, two other students have died during Unofficial celebrations: 21-year-old Brad Bunte and 23-year-old University student Jonathan Morales

Champaign-Urbana has also pushed out efforts that include issuing an emergency order limiting beer and liquor sales in Champaign and raising the age to enter a bar during Unofficial to 21. 

All of these initiatives have contributed to the decreasing participation in the holiday; however, the true nail in the coffin was COVID-19. Because of the pandemic, Unofficial weekend lacked participants as many students chose to hold parties in their apartments instead of going out.

This was the start of Unofficial’s shift into something new, safer and more restrained. 

Even the man who coined the term “Unofficial,” Scott Cochrane, owner of The Red Lion and KAMS, said himself that it was dead after 2021 and claimed that he would no longer promote it in his bars.

Despite this claim, the Cochrane-owned bars still push and promote Unofficial on their website and social media pages. For example, KAMS held an event dubbed “KamRock” during this recent Unofficial weekend. This is also true for other bars on campus, such as Joe’s Brewery.

Unofficial is also currently promoted among popular Barstool-affiliated social media pages Illini Barstool and Illini Chicks, who actively encourage their followers to participate in activities surrounding the holiday. Barstool asks its followers for photos and videos of students acting “feral” during Unofficial to be posted on its page. 

Despite how entertaining these videos and images can be, Unofficial is becoming a more restrained celebration for a reason — because people were dying. 

The institutions on campus that have financially benefited from Unofficial in the past aren’t ready to let it go despite what they say. But given the preventive policies, police activity, deaths and COVID-19, Unofficial has changed. It is not the same celebration that it was in the past.

I am not saying that people shouldn’t go out drinking and have a good time during Unofficial. However, I am saying that these institutions should not be attempting to change Unofficial back to what it was 15 years ago. They need to let go.

Unofficial is transitioning into a day where friends can get together, drink and enjoy each other’s company before they leave for spring break, and we shouldn’t let these grifter institutions manipulate us into believing that it is anything else.


Grayson is a freshman in LAS.

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