I got into an interesting discussion last Friday with another student about the editorial the Collegian published that day.
On the topic of State Patty’s Day, the message of that editorial was simple, spelled out in large, bold letters: “Don’t be stupid.”
With this editorial consensus, the student said he felt that the Collegian had lost sight of its true audience, and sided with administration and “townies” — State College’s permanent residents.
His comments got me thinking, what do students owe the townies when it comes to drinking? And, how do we reach a drinking holiday impasse where both sides get what they want?
My conversation illustrated a big divide on the issue of drinking holidays even among the ranks of students. One side empathizes with the townsfolk; one side does not. Students belonging to the latter group assert their status as temporary residents with the right to get belligerently drunk like anyone else. State Patty’s Day opponents vs. State Patty’s Day defenders can often feel like what Heath Ledger’s Joker described in “The Dark Knight” — an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. For now, students do not have the upper hand, but they certainly could.
Let’s face it: A forbidding Penn State administration concerned with the university’s image, combined with a diligent police force committed to state drinking laws, have effectively ended State Patty’s Day. Preliminary data indicates that arrests, charges and overall police activity are down from the previous year. I believe they will continue to fall into oblivion until State Patty’s is no more.
If history is any indication though, the Penn State drinking holiday will rise again and again. The composition of the student body changes so much that it is inevitable. The University Park campus’s reputation as a drinking school has made that much certain. That doesn’t mean a drinking holiday will stick around for long.
In Jay Paterno’s popular 2010 column for StateCollege.com titled “State Patty’s Day: Reflection of Indiscretions,” the former Penn State quarterbacks coach writes that public condemnation of a drinking holiday like State Patty’s Day is not anything new. He notes that State Patty’s “is filling a void that was once filled by The Sy Barash Regatta, Gentle Thursday, The Briarwood Bash” and Phi Psi 500 — the day-long bar tour and race for charity.
Most of these days evolved out of sheer spontaneity, as State Patty’s did as a Facebook event to replace St. Patrick’s Day in 2007. Many of them began with positive intentions, but did not dovetail with evolving attitudes toward open containers, which hastened their respective demises.
But, State Patty’s reached its climax before other student-created Penn State holidays, leading me to a pretty logical conclusion. For drinking holidays to hold any lasting power, they must not be inherently destructive and they must not attract hostile guests.
That is what we owe the fine permanent residents of State College. A drinking holiday comparable to the greatness of the Phi Psi 500 may rear its head once more when it is both philanthropic and Penn State-centric, in the spirit of Greek Week.
It would take the careful planning of student government, administration and townies. Compromises would have to go down.
It would also not appear awkward if placed near the weekend of the Interfraternity Council/Panhellenic Dance Marathon in the spring.
I don’t know how or when this ideal drinking holiday could arise, but until then, the students will settle for State Patty’s knockoffs, keeping the chain of intoxicating knockoffs going forever.
Mike Hricik is a senior majoring in print journalism and is The Daily Collegian’s Monday columnist. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.