For the past seven years, The Partnership - Campus and Community United against Dangerous Drinking has been working to address the harm caused by State Patty’s Day. Since its inception in 2007, State Patty’s Day has become the single most challenging day of the year for our community. This event creates a significant strain on local public safety and emergency medical resources. It also has a negative impact on the local economy, by providing a disincentive for local residents and visitors alike to venture to Downtown State College. Changing the outcome of this social media contrivance will not be an easy task. It will take a substantial effort from the Penn State community and the State College community, both of which are willing to take a stand and put forth this effort.
Despite the community’s efforts, State Patty’s Day continues to be the busiest day of the year for public safety agencies. There are more calls for service and more arrests on State Patty’s Day than on any other day of the year, including all home football weekends and the Arts Festival. The statistics are startling. In 2012, more than 300 patients entered the emergency room during the weekend, approximately half of which were students. The average age of all patients was 20.69 and the average Blood Alcohol Content was 0.282.
State Patty’s Day has been a draw for visitors who come to State College on this day with the sole purpose to drink to excess. In 2012, law enforcement agencies cited individuals from 65 different colleges and universities. Participants have come from as far away as the University of Alabama and Miami of Ohio University. Though normally, State College would welcome these visitors, on State Patty’s Day, they are contributing significantly to the problems experienced in our community. These visitors do not have the same concern for the community as do Penn State students or residents of State College.
This event benefits the few at the expense of the many. Other than a few T-shirt shops and a small handful of businesses that may realize an economic benefit from the event, downtown State College does not see any benefit and most downtown businesses are actually harmed. Additionally, many of the organizers of activities that previously brought visitors and business opportunities to town have chosen to cancel or reschedule their events to avoid State College on this day, further damaging the local economy. This event has now caused some local retail businesses to close their doors on State Patty’s Day altogether.
In recent years, Penn State students have recognized the great harm created by State Patty’s Day to the community and the reputation of Penn State University. Over the past several years, students have been at the forefront of efforts to reduce or end this event and the serious negative impacts that result from this day.
The role of student leaders has been a major influence behind the various initiatives to discourage participation in State Patty’s Day and bring an end to this destructive day. Student leaders from University Park Undergraduate Association, Council of Commonwealth Student Governments, Graduate Student Association, Interfraternity Council, Association of Residence Hall Students, Off-Campus Student Union, Council of LionHearts and many more student organizations have led efforts to end State Patty's Day. This year, for the third year, the IFC will not hold any social events on State Patty’s Day. A video has been produced by student leaders calling upon their peers to avoid State Patty's Day participation. The Council of LionHearts has expanded their State Day of Service, a State Patty’s Day alternative, by organizing a multitude of community service opportunities that are available to all students on volunteer.psu.edu. Additionally, the Off-Campus Student Union is working with the community to encourage off campus residents to refrain from participating in State Patty’s Day. Many of these students have also played an active role in The Partnership - Campus and Community United against Dangerous Drinking task force on State Patty’s Day.
Perhaps most importantly, this year, Downtown State College will be an Alcohol Free Zone on State Patty’s Day. In a remarkable collaboration between student leaders, downtown bars, restaurants and bottle shops and the Community Partnership, there will be no alcohol sales in Downtown State College. Many of the downtown establishments will be open for food service only. This is an extension of the strong stand taken last year by the Tavern Association of State College and individual bars and restaurants to close or significantly reduce operations on this day. Through these actions, The Partnership intends to restore the downtown and State College neighborhoods as a place for all residents and visitors to enjoy.
Tom Fountaine is the State College borough manager and is The Daily Collegian's guest columnist. Email him at tfountaine