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State Patty’s Day: Community Building, or Public Safety Nuisance?

by on February 28, 2015 6:00 AM

Whether it’s love or hate, it seems almost everyone in the Penn State community has an opinion on State Patty’s Day.

The student-created drinking-focused pseudo-holiday started back in 2007, and grew steadily until backlash from police and community leaders started to curb arrests and alcohol-fueled offenses two years ago.

Penn State sophomore Rob Torino says this crackdown on State Patty’s Day antics prevented from going out last year, but he plans on having some fun this weekend. He understands why some people dislike the event, but he sees it a little differently.

“It’s a chance for us to all get together and have fun as Penn State,” Torino says. “It doesn’t compare to the way something like THON brings us together, but it’s still a way to feel connected to other students.”

The problem with State Patty’s Day, Torino says, isn’t Penn State students. It’s everyone else.

“It’s really not that different from what students do every weekend anyway,” Torino says. “The problem is all the people that come in from out of town that don’t respect our campus and this town and leave everything trashed.”

According to a Facebook event page, over 6,500 people plan on participating.

Fellow sophomore Amanda Mcilvain sees how the day can be a nuisance for some, but agrees with Torino’s position. She says “it seems like a tradition at Penn State,” and takes pride in the fact that her school has its own self-created holiday.

But unlike Torino, Mcilvain says she enjoys the attention the day brings from out-of-towners.

“How many people have the chance to have a holiday specific to their school?” she says. “It’s cool to have a tradition like that to share.”

Penn State senior Alex Grund says she “doesn’t mind” State Patty’s Day, but explains that she doesn’t get excited about it the way she used to. While she understands that it can help create a sense of community among students, she says the day has gotten old fast.

She recalls participating in State Patty’s Day in 2011 – regarded by some law enforcement leaders as the worst year in the event’s history – and says she watched people break open apartment windows and vomit on public buses.

“The whole idea is to go crazy and get really drunk,” Grund says. “That doesn’t reflect well on Penn State.”

Graduate student Anthony Vaudo has lived in State College since 2011, and has purposefully avoided State Patty’s Day every year. When asked why he disliked the event, his response was simple: “I’m 33.”

He says it seems to mainly to appeal to a younger crowd, and encourages excessive and overindulgent drinking. He stresses that people should be completely free to have fun, but says State Patty’s Day starts to cross a line into a public safety concern.

POLL: What do you think of State Pattys Day?

It's a good excuse to let loose and have fun.
It can be fun, but requires moderation.
I have no opinion.
I dislike it, but people are free to do as they please.
It's obnoxious, dangerous and should be stopped.

“Personally, I’d rather go to a party where I have a meaningful conversation or listen to some great music or do something enriching than one where I just get really drunk,” Vaudo says.

Penn State professor Jonathan Mathews says he feels there are absolutely no redeeming qualities to State Patty’s Day, but adds with a slight smile: “But I was young and foolish once.”

He says he was at Penn State when the event first started, and was surprised when it grew into an increasingly chaotic annual event. He says there are “plenty of excuses to get drunk in a college town” without State Patty’s Day, adding that the day encourages dangerous drinking habits.

“This is not something we should want Penn State to be known for,” Mathews says. “We should be known for our academics, our or research or philanthropy, but not for this.”

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Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for who covers local government, the courts, the arts and writes the Keeping the Faith column. He's a Penn State alumnus, a published poet and the bassist in a local indie rock band.
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