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University, Borough Again Hope to Prevent State Patty's Day Problems

by on February 23, 2018 12:05 AM

With State Patty's Day entering its 11th year this weekend, Penn State and State College officials are once again hoping to diminish, if not completely curtail, the problems that have come along with the student-invented drinking holiday.

They're reaching out to both downtown businesses and students for cooperation to help stem some of the negative impacts.

Penn State Vice President for Student Affairs Damon Sims and Borough Manager Tom Fountaine this week sent a letter to downtown bars, bottle shops and restaurants asking that they not feature State Patty's Day-themed promotions and drink specials and to treat the day like a normal Saturday.

“In past years, the collective efforts of many among us, including downtown vendors, have been effective in limiting the problems caused by State Patty’s Day,” the letter said. “Although we understand that responsible vendors in downtown State College are not at all responsible for the problems caused by this event, we also know that your assistance will be instrumental in limiting the harm caused.

"Treating State Patty’s Day like any other Saturday in State College may be all the help we need to minimize the troubles that worry us most."

Police and Mount Nittany Medical Center staff talk about how State Patty's Day affects the community. This video is produced by and for Centre County Report and shared through a partnership with StateCollege.com

The letter noted that even with town-gown efforts in previous years to address the issues around State Patty's Day, it still presents problems. It places a strain on police and emergency medical services, can discourage other patrons from visiting downtown businesses "and the community's reputation could be damaged.

"None of us want those outcomes and we ask that you once again join with us and so many others in doing what you can to combat the disruptive and destructive consequences of State Patty’s Day," Sims and Fountaine wrote.

A letter also was sent to downtown apartment landlords asking for their help to keep things under control.

Student residents in the borough, meanwhile, also received a letter of warning and advice from State College and Penn State police and Penn State's Office of Student Conduct.

“In past years, the weekend before Spring Break has been a challenge for our community,” the message stated. “Though much better the past several years, the weekend between THON and spring break as resulted in more crime, more criminal arrests, and more alcohol overdoses than a typical winter weekend.”

Last year, State College Police made arrests or issued citations in 143 cases between noon on Friday and noon on Sunday of State Patty's weekend. That was an increase from 127 in 2016 and the highest since 2013 when there were 184. Police received 471 calls for service during the weekend in 2017, down from 507 a year earlier. 

Centre LifeLink EMS responded to 95 calls during that period in 2017, up from 75 in 2016 and the highest in four years, though Mount Nittany reported a slight decrease in alcohol related cases at 53, down from 56.

The weekend was at its worst in 2011, when police received 656 calls for service and 367 crime reports, and made 337 arrests, including 20 DUIs.

In past years, many of the people engaging in excessive drinking on State Patty's Day were from out of town and visiting students and other State College residents, the letter to students stated. Because of that influx of people combined with heavy drinking, the letter explained, the borough has had problems with "the number and severity of alcohol violations, noise complaints, vandalism and fights..."

Students were encouraged to not invite guests to their apartments or houses for the weekend. If they do have guests, they should prevent them from yelling or throwing items from balconies or house; not serve large quantities of alcohol; and ensure property is cleared of all trash.

Noise should be kept to a reasonable level, and police will be strictly enforcing noise ordinances at all hours. The minimum fine for noise violations is $750 plus court costs.

No one under 21, of course, should be permitted to consume alcohol and students were advised that they can be arrested if anyone underage consumes alcohol while in their residences.

Borough and university police, along with reinforcements from Pennsylvania State Police, officers from other nearby departments and Liquor Control Enforcement, will have a "substantial presence" around town with a focus on rental properties. Both uniformed and plain-clothes officers will be out to "assertively patrol for violations of the law," according to the letter to students.

As is normal practice, police also will refer any student charged with a criminal violation to the university's Office of Student Conduct. The Student Code of Conduct applies on and off campus.

Fraternities -- which have been heavily scrutinized in the past year since Timothy Piazza's death and are subject to new restrictions on alcohol -- will not be hosting social events with alcohol. 

In the past the Interfraternity Council banned or limited parties on State Patty's Day weekend. This year, it was presented as adecision made by each of the organizations.

“We commend the maturity and leadership that they displayed with their collective decision,” a statement from the IFC said. “We fully support their decision. We are encouraged by their display of commitment to the safety of their members, and their continued commitment to being the change that the Greek community strives toward.”

On campus, Penn State Residence Life is limiting each room to one guest for the weekend.



Geoff Rushton is managing editor for StateCollege.com. Contact him at geoff.rushton@statecollege.com or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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