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Police, University Prepare For State Patty’s Day

While you’re getting dressed in green and tattooing yourself with shamrocks, university administrators and police officers are preparing for their least favorite “holiday” — State Patty’s Day.

This year marks the tenth State Patty’s celebration. What started as a way to drink green beer, despite the fact that St. Patrick’s Day was over spring break, has turned into what Total Frat Move called “the nation’s best unofficial official holiday.” The nation’s best.

In its prime in 2011, State College Police made 234 arrests and fielded 480 calls while Penn State police issued 104 citations. Here’s what State Patty’s looked like the year after in 2012:

Kids insisting they hadn’t started drinking at noon, others that insist they hadn’t started drinking yet and then stumbling out of frame seconds later. It’s no wonder university administrators, Penn State Police, and Borough Police take the weekend seriously.

State Patty’s 2015 saw a slight increase in total crime, arrests, DUIs, and underage citations compared to the year before. But the numbers nominally changed, and it didn’t discourage police compared to previous years. “From a police activity perspective, there was nothing backwards or negative that occurred,” SCPD Chief Thomas King said at the time.

Lawrence Lokman, the Vice President of Strategic Communication, called Saturday the State Day of Service and was quick to pass along a list of events taking place. His only mention of State Patty’s Day was when he said the State Day of Service is now in its sixth year “on State Patty’s Day.”

When we tried to find out how they were preparing, University Police said they now refer to the weekend festivities as THAW, not State Patty’s. They refused to comment any further alongside State College Police, who said they wouldn’t talk about anything related to State Patty’s until after the weekend.

For the hoards of you who are unfamiliar with the failure that was THAW, it’s not synonymous with State Patty’s despite what University Police said. THAW was supposed to turn the faux holiday into a community-oriented event, something that could bring local families and students together for film showings, comedians, and musical performances. It missed the mark completely in its first year last spring and isn’t happening again this year.

The university has tried other efforts besides THAW in the past to combat issues related to the drinking-heavy student holiday. It paid bars off to close for a few years until they closed on their own last year. This is no longer feasible “since the vendors participating generally agreed that it was not a sustainable practice for them,” Lokman said.

But this year (at least as of right now), all the bars will remain open. Even apartments aren’t cracking down as hard as they used to by not banning parties. And where fraternities used to not allow parties and daylongs over the weekend, Greek life is now allowing limited social functions.

“College Borough Manager Tom Fountaine and Penn State Vice President for Student Affairs Damon Sims sent a letter to the Tavern Owners Association to encourage continued support through practices and limitations they may voluntarily pursue,” Lokman said.

State College Police Chief Tom King sent a letter to the landlords of downtown apartments to encourage restrictions on parties and strictly enforce any lease violations related to alcohol and partying.

“The usual substantial police and liquor control presence in town will continue, with vigorous enforcement of applicable laws and regulations,” Lokman added.

But it’s not just excessive drinking at bars and frats that made State Patty’s so dangerous in the past — it was the influx of kids from out of town and other schools. “There are some of them that are good and then there are a lot of them that aren’t good,” a drunk but smart kid told us in 2012 when asked about the out of towners. Sorority floors banned guests during State Patty’s Day in years past.

The numbers don’t lie and it’s clear the State Patty’s of today is different than the past. What’s less clear is why that’s the case when Penn Staters still love to drink. Closing bars and banning parties at frats and apartments helped, as did cutting down on the number of underclassman visitors. But this weekend is still different than others because of the higher number of alcohol-related crimes.

Aside from targeting kids in green, the festivities that coined the term State Patty’s is shaping up to be just like any other weekend during “daylong szn.” The university and police departments have gone so far as to eliminate State Patty’s Day from their vocabulary.

The moral of the State Patty’s story remains to be seen. While alums don’t think it’s what it used to be, freshmen are still hyped up from stories they’ve heard.

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