UI: Take control, 'before things get out of hand'

URBANA – The Unofficial St. Patrick's Day event affects the safety of University of Illinois students and the conduct of classes, and Chancellor Richard Herman wants it to end.

Herman said both the UI and the cities have to play a part in taking control of the event.

"What all of us are saying is the status quo is unacceptable," he said.

"It appears to me things have gotten progressively worse. We need action now, before things get totally out of hand."

One death is tied to the event, held March 3 this year. A 22-year-old Glenview woman, Caroline Yoon, was killed after she fell off a motorcycle on which she was riding. The driver of the motorcycle, 23-year-old Samuel Park of Rolling Meadows, was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. Police said Ms. Yoon was participating in the Unofficial St. Patrick's Day event and was wearing an "Unofficial" T-shirt.

There was some vandalism on campus. Basins and faucets were torn from a bathroom wall at Foellinger Auditorium, and video equipment in Lincoln Hall was spray-painted, said Bill Riley, interim vice chancellor for student affairs.

Unruly students disrupted classes in Foellinger Auditorium, Lincoln Hall, Gregory Hall and the College of Business by yelling, running through the auditoriums and not allowing instructors to teach, Riley said.

Business administration Professor Mark Roszkowski has filed a resolution with the campus Senate calling for the UI to take action to end Unofficial St. Patrick's Day. The resolution, to be voted on Monday, says the event promotes binge drinking and disruptive behavior, reduces class attendance, disrupts classes and "seriously undermines the educational mission of the university."

In an e-mail, Roszkowski listed specific suggestions he plans to discuss with Herman:

– formally requesting that campus-area bar owners not promote the event.

– requesting that faculty schedule exams or mandatory activities on the day of the event.

– asking the Champaign mayor use his emergency powers as liquor commissioner to prevent bars from opening early on class days, restrict the operating hours of any bar refusing to honor the request to not promote the event and prohibit keg sales within a few days of the event.

Though the school and the cities have not agreed upon specific actions, Herman said the behavior of both students and bar owners must change.

"One of the things that troubles me is the rather craven attitude of certain bar owners in this town," he said. "Ultimately, (city officials) have to force more responsibility on bar owners."

And though the event allows students to network, "the primary thrust of the event is alcohol consumption," Riley said. "Our interest is trying to do something that doesn't promote alcohol abuse or binge drinking or volume consumption."

UI officials are also concerned that about one-fourth of those ticketed on Unofficial St. Patrick's Day were students from other universities.

"Are we becoming a mecca for this kind of event?" Herman asked, adding he does not want the UI to be a drinking destination like Carbondale once was for its Halloween celebration.

Riley said the UI wants to enlist bar owners to help solve the problem. "Some of the owners don't see themselves as supporting this activity, and they don't like to see people put at risk, either," he said.

The university also is looking at student suggestions, which said fines, the loss of a driver's license or community service would be effective deterrents to certain behavior.

Of the nearly 100 citations issued at Unofficial St. Patrick's Day, almost half went to UI students. Acting Dean of Students Ruth McCauley sent letters to those students, stating future violations of liquor laws will result in charges under state statutes rather than city ordinances.

What that means, Riley said, is they will pay a larger fine and risk losing their drivers' licenses if they are under age 21. Of the 49 UI students issued citations, 31 were underage drinkers. Copies of the letter also were sent to the parents of students under age 21.

"Parents continually ask to be involved in the lives of their undergraduate students," Riley said. "In this instance, the campus went to an unusual effort to encourage people not to participate in this program. A fair number of people chose to not respond positively to the request, so it's the university's conclusion that parents of underage students may be interested."

Those students also were referred to the UI's discipline office. Any violation of the law in which there is a significant university interest, including alcohol use or abuse, would make a student liable for sanctions, Riley said. And those who disrupted classes also could face a reprimand, community service or probationary status at the UI for more serious offenses.

Riley said he'll review campus policies on alcohol use and talk with leaders of student organizations. UI administrators will work with the managers and owners of UI-certified housing – fraternities, sororities and some private houses – about the standards for certification and if the current regulations on alcohol use there need to be revised.

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