'Unofficial St. Patrick's Day' issue put on hold

URBANA – A University of Illinois Senate meeting on Monday came to a rather abrupt end when several student members got up out of their seats, backpacks and jackets in tow, and left the room.

As a result, the campus legislative body did not have a quorum, and UI Chancellor Richard Herman adjourned the meeting.

"We decided to get up and leave," said Ryan Ruzic, a junior in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and co-president of the Illinois Student Senate, "to buy some time to discuss the issue."

The resolution to eliminate Unofficial St. Patrick's Day will be taken up again at the UI Senate's April 24 meeting.

Before adjourning Monday evening, the senate did manage to pass a controversial proposal to merge two engineering departments. The proposal to merge the Department of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics with the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering to create the Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering passed 59 to 49.

An attempt to move the vote to the April 24 meeting, to allow more discussion on the matter, failed.

The merger, sponsored by the dean of the College of Engineering, but criticized by some faculty and students, now moves on to the UI Board of Trustees.

As for the topic of Unofficial St. Patrick's Day, UI Professor Mark Roszkowski introduced his resolution, a resolution with which Chancellor Herman said he was "very much in sympathy."

"The proposal here is very simple," Roszkowski said. It's not about controlling or monitoring Unofficial St. Patrick's Day activities. "Get rid of it," he said.

The resolution states that Unofficial St. Patrick's Day celebrations promote binge drinking and disruptive behavior, reduce class attendance and induce instructors to cancel classes. Plus, there is an increase in assaults, vandalism and other undesirable behavior, the resolution states.

Unofficial St. Patrick's Day "seriously undermines the educational mission of the university," it states.

"Most students would agree it's gotten out of hand," said Josh Rohrscheib, third-year student in the UI College of Law and co-president of the Illinois Student Senate. But most students are in favor of eliminating the disturbances created by Unofficial, not the "holiday" itself, he said.

Basically, Rohrscheib said he wants more opportunities for students to share their opinions on the issue. He and Ruzic plan to spend the next few weeks talking to administrators and faculty and pushing for an amendment to the resolution that will have more of an educational direction.

"To have this brought up and rushed through is patently ridiculous," Ruzic said.

The Senate Executive Committee endorsed the resolution in principle on March 6 and the Senate Committee on Educational Policy endorsed it in principle on March 13.

The UI Senate is made up of 200 faculty members and 50 students.

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