Students lead community efforts to curb excessive drinking event

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- A committee of Penn State student leaders, campus representatives and State College community leaders including Mayor Elizabeth Goreham has united against State Patty's Day, an excessive drinking event that has taken place since 2007 in downtown State College. The committee is asking local businesses to curtail their participation and instead join in promoting a weekend of community-friendly volunteer activities.

"Student leaders have shown admirable thoughtfulness in seeking cooperation from their peers and local businesses in not taking part in State Patty's Day," said Damon Sims, vice president of Student Affairs.

A letter drafted by the Student Alcohol Advisory Committee -- and signed by 17 student organization presidents and student leaders representing undergraduate student government and prominent social, cultural and service organizations -- was delivered Thursday, Feb. 9, to several downtown bottle shops and to retail stores selling merchandise promoting "State Patty's Day," an event contrived for the purpose of excessive alcohol consumption.

"Students are organizing an unprecedented number of service opportunities and other positive alternative activities, the IFC has decided to not hold any social functions on that day, and a growing number of students are signing a pledge not to participate in State Patty’s Day," the letter states. "However, the help of our community partners is critical. Last year numerous bars and taverns did not open or operated at limited capacity, and a number of vendors opted not to sell any State Patty’s Day merchandise or advertise the event in any way."

The letter concludes, "In the spirit of cooperation, we are reaching out to ask businesses to continue or adopt these measures. We represent a sizable and growing segment of the student body, and would appreciate any effort you would be willing to make. "

"Student leaders have really demonstrated leadership, reaching out to the community with efforts to minimize State Patty's Day. The borough truly appreciates the partnership we have with Penn State students and university officials to organize alternative events for this weekend," said Goreham. "The Interfraternity Council's decision to not hold parties on this weekend is especially important to reduce the most negative impacts of this day on our neighborhoods. I am grateful for the strong involvement from so many students."

Several of those student leaders, alongside State College Borough Manager Tom Fountaine, visited with members of the Tavern Association of State College, asking any of their members to close their doors early or entirely on Saturday, Feb. 25. Specifically approached have been establishments within the vicinity of downtown State College -- 27 bars/restaurants, four bottle shops and two distributors -- and three additional Centre Region alcohol distributors. So far, the owners of two local taverns, the Lion's Den and the Shandygaff, have announced they will be closed for business that day. As of today (Feb. 20), the owners of seven taverns have indicated to committee members that they also will keep their doors closed, the same number of establishments that remained closed during the 2011 event.

"We're grateful to our borough colleagues and a number of business owners for their cooperation in 2011 and their strong support of our student leaders' requests," said Sims. "For businesses to put their commercial interests aside for one day for the greater benefit of community well-being is noteworthy. Especially in this economy, it's not an easy decision to make, but we're hopeful that more businesses will follow our students' lead and close early, if not entirely, this Saturday.

"We hope reason, moderation, mutual respect and safety will prevail over the excesses that State Patty's Day has come to represent. Our community has been through much in recent months, and we face continuing challenges. Let us hope that visitors this weekend recognize our circumstance and behave with the restraint required," he added.

"This partnership, which includes law enforcement and community leaders, is another example where campus and community have come together to encourage and maintain public safety and responsible behavior, said Steve Shelow, assistant vice president for Police and Public Safety. "Those who are charged to uphold the law, on campus and off, are gratified that our students have taken the lead in demonstrating public responsibility."

Borough of State College Police Chief Tom King sent a letter to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) requesting its cooperation again this year. The PLCB has again agreed to close its four State College-area liquor stores early, at 6 p.m. Saturday evening. Local beer distributors also have been approached about closing early or entirely that day.

Borough of State College officials have organized a community volunteer weekend, dubbed "Peace Love State College," that offers several positive, community-building alternatives to dangerous drinking behavior. Scheduled are a Friday evening neighborhood dialogue; Saturday volunteer shifts between 10 a.m. and midnight during a daylong Community Walk to encourage a secure, responsible community presence, as well as Focus on Strong Families volunteer opportunities from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday; and "State Sweep," a Sunday cleanup event from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. led by student organizations. Events are listed at http://www.peacelovestatecollege.com, and members of the public are welcome to register for shifts online. Penn State's Council of LionHearts Service Leaders is coordinating student-developed State Day of Service projects for Saturday, Feb. 25 -- a dozen listed as of Feb. 17 -- through its website http://volunteer.psu.edu. Several Penn State student organizations have pledged volunteer hours to these community-service initiatives.

Parking is of concern on campus and in downtown State College during the Feb. 24-26 weekend, as more than 100 events will be held on the University Park campus alone. University parking officials are concerned that on-campus parking will reach full capacity, especially if many visitors choose to park overnight in metered parking decks, as several visiting the area for State Patty's Day chose to do. Borough parking officials have a similar concern, and both offices have made the decision to charge special-event parking rates. All on-campus parking facilities will charge a special event rate of $5 per day per vehicle. Digital signage placed around campus will direct drivers to lots and decks with available parking. Those who park in downtown State College garages also will be charged a special event parking rate of $1.75 per hour, after a vehicle is parked for more than three hours at the standard rate of $.75 per hour, for a maximum parking fee of $26 daily. State College neighborhoods will see increased enforcement against illegal parking, and policies regarding overnight parking, parking on lawns and all other parking regulations will be strictly enforced.

Family-friendly events scheduled during the Feb. 24-26 weekend on the University Park campus include several Penn State Athletics competitions and a state high school track championship. The Penn State men's basketball game against Northwestern at 9 p.m. Saturday at the Bryce Jordan Center has been designated "Stand Up for State Night." Organized Penn State student groups of 20 or more can buy a section of tickets for $1 per seat using an online reservation form, due Wed., Feb. 22, in the HUB-Robeson Center's IFC of UPUA office. All Penn State students in attendance can enter to win several prizes, including one of five sets of 2012 Penn State football student season tickets, an iPad and a pair of Beats headphones. The game includes a halftime performance by the Russian Bar Trio, a group featured on "America's Got Talent."

Roger Williams, executive director of the Penn State Alumni Association, noted concern about State Patty's Day to alumni in "Taking Action to Eradicate State Patty's Day," in his February alumni newsletter column. It can be read in its entirety here. The column also includes a mention of a Penn State student-created State Patty's Day Pledge, which commits signees to refrain from participation in the event. All Penn State and State College community members are encouraged to sign the pledge.

The Faculty Senate Student Life Committee, Faculty Senate Chair Dan Hagen and Sims issued a letter to faculty offering tips to discourage students' participation in State Patty's Day. The letter can be read at http://live.psu.edu/story/57860.

Last Updated February 24, 2012