However well-intentioned the latest efforts to combat State Patty’s Day might be, we worry that the measures in place will do little to truly create a safer environment in town this weekend and, instead, misplace prevention efforts on combating controlled drinking environments.
With the bar closing agreement announced just days before the event’s scheduled date, the student-created holiday will most likely bring in out-of town visitors and result in hundreds of calls to police, just like it has in years past.
Students from other universities in Pennsylvania probably already have their bus tickets purchased for State College, and many Penn State students have agreed to offer up their couches for the weekend despite the efforts of leaders in the community.
Those endeavors include announcing on Tuesday that 34 establishments will either close entirely or serve only food and non-alcoholic drinks on Saturday. Part of the rationale was that bars and restaurants closing or limiting hours last year contributed to fewer arrests.
But if that was the intent, plans to curb drinking alcohol on State Patty’s Day should have been announced weeks, if not months ago. Announcing that bars will be closed four days before the “holiday” will most likely not deter anyone from coming that already planned. And underage students who are a large contribution to the number of arrests each year are not affected by bar closures anyway.
Why did the university and community take so long to announce these regulations for State Patty’s Day? It is still unclear at this point as to specific rules of operation for the establishments that serve food. It almost seems like the plans were thrown together at the last minute when an announcement should have been made a long time ago, as it should not have come as a surprise that State Patty’s occurs every year.
If Penn State students and visitors want to drink on Saturday but can’t go to a bar, the reality remains that many will still find a way to drink — most likely at apartment complexes or elsewhere downtown.
If the goal is to eliminate as many possible avenues for destructive behavior as possible, a more unified effort is required of a range of stakeholders: liquor stores, fraternities, apartment complex management, local police, bars and restaurants serving alcohol, the university, as well as other colleges in Pennsylvania.
Officials are usually quick to point out that a majority of arrests are of non-Penn State students. Why not reach out to state-related schools, like the University of Pittsburgh and Temple University, to make sure school leaders have zero tolerance for those who travel to Central Pennsylvania?
What is even more ridiculous about the arrangement between Penn State officials and State College leaders is that participating businesses will be given a $5,000 subsidy, paid for by parking fees from previous State Patty’s Days, to make up for potential lost income. That is a combined $170,000 that will be dished out because — frankly — a reckless group of students and friends have proven incapable of taking care of themselves.
Trying to manage the “holiday” has resulted in the wrong people shouldering the burden for others’ destructive behavior.
The stipend that these establishments will be given will most likely only cover the operating costs whereas if the businesses stayed open, some would make a profit.
Bartenders and waitstaff will not earn the tips they would have been given. Resident assistants will be under tremendous stress to enforce safety in the dorms.
The bottom line is that efforts need to begin sooner to end State Patty’s Day 2014 because the 2013 “holiday” is already upon us.