Professor Dennis Shea is calling upon the Penn State faculty to demand an end to State Patty's Day, saying it is the only responsible thing to do.
A health policy and administration professor, Shea has frequently posted on the wall of the "End The 'State Patty's Day' Tradition" Facebook group, engaging other group members about the harm the day can cause. The group had more than 1,100 members at press time and aims to stop at nothing less than ending the event before it "brings a bad name to the area again."
"We absolutely have to talk about this," Shea said. "The impact of this type of stuff goes way beyond the students. It impacts alumni, faculty and the university community in every way. I think part of the problem is faculty don't talk out about this."
Shea, who lives just outside of State College, recalled one conversation he had with a member of a local church who was considering changing the date of a major fundraiser because many members won't venture downtown on State Patty's Day.
"It's really important to talk about appropriate behaviors," Shea said. "If we're not really willing to talk about those sort of things, we're stepping away from our ability as faculty to be responsible."
Though some students may feel that a professor's role is to teach in the classroom, university spokeswoman Jill Shockey said it is encouraging to see a faculty member involved in the fight to curb high risk drinking.
"He obviously cares about the health and welfare of the students," Shockey said.
University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA) Student Life and Diversity Chairman Christian Ragland is encouraging more faculty and members of the Penn State community to come forward and express their concern for the holiday, scheduled for Feb. 27 this year.
And students have also attempted to limit the illegal activities that go along with the day. At Wednesday's UPUA meeting, Ragland introduced the "State Patty's Day 'Safe and Responsible Actions' Pledge," which has already been co-sponsored by about 33 student organizations.
The pledge includes a list of crime and alcohol-related statistics from last year's State Patty's Day celebration in an attempt to remind people of how a day of harmless alcohol consumption can turn into an arrest -- or worse.
Ragland said as a UPUA representative, he speaks on behalf of the students first, but that doesn't mean the organization won't welcome the opinions of the faculty.
"If a professor or any other faculty member wanted to come to our committee meetings and suggest an idea, we're open to it," Ragland said. "We want passionate people. I advocate strictly for students, but faculty involvement is definitely a bonus."
Shea said he has been pleased with the efforts of the greek community and student government to bring change to a population of students that is typically resistant, especially in regard to drinking.
He said the UPUA pledge is a good gesture, but that it takes more than a gesture to change behavior.