LIVE Unofficial 2014
Updated 8:30 a.m. Saturday
Ever wonder what it's like to run a classroom during Unofficial. Our Julie Wurth spent time with one prof on Friday. Here's her report:
While Unofficial revelers partied outside, more serious students in Lincoln Hall Theater were intently watching a DNA demonstration.
To be fair, the proteins on the DNA strand were students in bright green Unofficial garb, in front of a backdrop with a shamrock reading “Happy Unofficial!!!!”
Professor Michel Bellini, who teaches a popular cellular-biology class, tried to accommodate the spirit of the day in his Friday afternoon lecture — though not as much as in years past because there was too much material to cover for Monday’s exam.
He chose a half-dozen students wearing green to come up on stage to portray nucleosomes, or proteins, on the DNA strand — actually a red-and-white rope to represent the double-helix (and complement Irish green).
Attendance was down a bit, perhaps by 10 to 15 percent, but “it wasn’t a huge impact,” he said.
Not like a few years ago when he was teaching in Foellinger Auditorium, before the campus started cracking down on students who came to class after partying a wee bit too much.
He remembers one year when a colleague showed up to do a peer review of his teaching on Unofficial.
“It was a riot. Kids would come in with beer cans. You would see a leprechaun jumping on stage,” he said. “It was truly a challenge to lecture.”
Since then, the campus has stationed hall monitors in large classroom buildings to deter students from coming to class drunk or to help instructors remove disruptive students if needed. Most are ushers from State Farm Center “who were used to checking for contraband,” said campus spokeswoman Robin Kaler. Volunteers and extra police officers also patrol the Quad and key classroom buildings for added security.
A campus mass mail last week reminded employees that instructors can report disruptive students to the campus discipline office, and that “students who interfere with the academic mission of the university will face serious consequences.” The goal is to allow the majority of students who want to learn to attend class without disruption, Kaler said.
Those steps “changed completely the dynamic,” Bellini said.
Students still come to class ready to party — “and perhaps some of them already have partied some” — but the atmosphere is much calmer, he said.
“These days, I think they have a lot of fun outside the auditorium,” Bellini said. “I lectured the same way I lectured on Wednesday.”
(How did his peer review turn out? Luckily, professors are observed twice. And it was a good case study, he said: “How do you behave when your audience is out of control? I think I did pretty good.”)
Bellini said some of his colleagues still dread this day, fearing they’ll waste a lecture.
Some professors make their classes optional, so “the kids who want to come to class, come to class,” said sophomore Prianca Patel.
And UI junior Scott Anderson said he showed up for his statistics class Friday only to find it had been canceled.
“School’s important to me. I wouldn’t miss class to drink,” he said.
Update 8:38 p.m.
As of Friday evening, local officials said the infamous daylong drinkfest seemed pretty uneventful. As in the past, plenty of students were ticketed for public possession of alcohol, but police reported no major injuries or accidents through the bulk of the day.
Champaign police spokeswoman Rene Dunn said that police broke up at least two parties where minors were being served alcohol — which is not particularly unusual for a typical Friday night on campus, let alone Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day.
Mayor and Liquor Commissioner Don Gerard credited the preparation by public safety and University of Illinois officials as keeping the day “pretty quiet” and “uneventful.”
Still, Gerard’s emergency order limiting the sales of alcohol at campus bars and liquor stores will continue through Saturday. In the past, some of the revelry has spilled over into the following Saturday night.
Only people 21 or older will be able to get into campus bars on Saturday night, above the usual entry age of 19.
Gerard said Friday “seemed more celebratory, wasn’t too crazy. I think it really pays off to get the word out about the consequences of underage drinking.”
The police, of course, will continue patrolling campus throughout the night.
"I'm hoping we can keep it a pretty quiet and uneventful night," Gerard said.
Update 7:45 p.m.
Area police agencies took to social media this week to warn students of the dangers and consequences of underage drinking on Unofficial St. Patrick's Day.
Champaign police Lt. Jim Clark was one of those people tweeting. Here's his most recent message:
— Lt. Jim Clark (@ClarkCPD) March 8, 2014
His efforts on Twitter earned commendation from Champaign City Council member Karen Foster.
"I thought that the way that Lt. Clark was sending out tweets, I thought those were interesting and they were short and to the point," Foster said.
But the Urbana Police Department took it to a whole new level when they started communicating directly with students:
@never_rong Make round three some water and food, would ya?
— Urbana PD (@UrbanaPD) March 7, 2014
And maybe the coup de grace:
@immikeman Yeah! Let us know too!!!
— Urbana PD (@UrbanaPD) March 7, 2014
There's plenty more @UrbanaPD.
Update 7 p.m.
City and police officials this week have compared Unofficial St. Patrick's Day to a football weekend — it's just that students trade orange shirts for green.
Austin Vukosa and Danny Hayes on Friday were visiting from Notre Dame for their first Unofficial experience. They said it's a lot like a football weekend there, but you trade parents and fans for more visiting friends.
"It's been fun so far," said Hayes, who was wearing a green hat, green bowtie, green T-shirt, green pants and green shoes. He said he's had the outfit for a while.
They said they hadn't see anything too crazy, except for an arrest late in the afternoon.
"Somebody just walking down the street got jumped by police," Hayes said. "That was interesting."
Update 6:35 p.m.
It's dinner time on the University of Illinois campus.
The line was out the door at Chipotle at Sixth and Green streets, the tables were full at Torticas Grill at 408 E. Green St., and customers clad in green crowded around the Cracked food truck and a Buffalo Wild Wings tent which had stationed at Third and Green streets.
Otherwise, the party is relatively tame, said Champaign City Council member Karen Foster, who spent a couple hours on campus this afternoon.
"It seemed calmer," she said. "It seemed there were still a lot of kids drunk, that part didn't change a lot. I just saw them walking around. The police presence was great. And I saw the state liquor commissioner going through the bars. I know KAM'S and Legends each told me that they'd been through at least two or three times by noon."
Other than that, Foster said she did not see anything odd. Well, except maybe this:
— Karen Foster (@kbfoster) March 8, 2014
"I didn't see kids being crazy," Foster said. "I did see one ticket being written. It was for two girls from out of state actually, and they said, 'Oh, we didn't know the rules.'"
Update 2:45 p.m.
WDWS reporter Tim Ditman tagged along with a UI official who was checking for class disruptions on Unofficial.
Update 2:40 p.m.
CHAMPAIGN — The meat was rotating on the spit at Zorba’s Restaurant and the macaroni and cheese bites were in the fryer.
“Besides Dad’s Weekend and Homecoming, Unofficial is one of the biggest weekends for us,” said Matt Mortenson, owner of Zorba’s on Green Street.
He opened a little earlier than usual for lunch and will stay open a little later too, depending on the crowds. The gyro sandwiches, French fries and deep-fried macaroni and cheese bites, are popular among the drinking set.
On a typical Friday, Zorba’s will sell about 200 to 300 sandwiches. On Unofficial, the number could be closer to 500 to 600, Mortenson estimated.
He wasn’t the only small business owner in Campustown who planned to work a long day and hoped to ring up a lot of sales.
“The kids already have a couple hours of drinking in them. They’ll be out looking for a sandwich soon,” said Dick Christenson, who was setting up his Mustard’s Last Stand food truck along Daniel Street around 10 a.m.
This is his 10th year of selling Vienna beef hot dogs, Wisconsin brats, Italian beef sandwiches and other food at Unofficial.
For taxicab driver Randy Russell, his business will be brisk, although a lot of it depends on the weather. On rainy or very cold Unofficials, he’s driving nonstop.
Because it was warmish and sunny out Friday, a lot of students were walking, he said, while waiting in front of Kam’s bar on Daniel Street.
He started around 10 a.m. and will work until 2 or 3 a.m. He’ll shuttle people between house parties and bars, with the busiest time during early evening and then when the bars close.
“The majority of them are well-behaved and respectful. They use good judgement. They take cabs or walk,” Russell said.
In six years of driving a cab around campus, Russell has more than once had to clean up after a few students who drank too much. The ones who don’t look so well? He’ll make sure they sit in the front seat by the door, or in the front row of the van also near the door.
“I know the signs,” when they’re about to get sick, he said. Usually it’s not subtle. Just, “Stop” or “Pull over!”
Update 1:30 p.m.
About 1 p.m., the first two Unofficial attendees to be taken into custody for running afoul of the law arrived at the Champaign County Jail in Urbana. Both were males, arrested for possession of alcohol by a minor.
Update 1 p.m.
At mid-day crowds of students could be seen coming and going from house and apartment parties, especially on the west end of campus.
“It’s not much different than a tailgate,” said UI senior Jeremy Revak.
Senior Eric Kane was coming from a friend’s apartment “where I might have had a
beer or seven.” He was wearing a hand-drawn T-shirt featuring SpongeBob SquarePants and the words “Unofficial 2014.”
"If you walk down the street you’ll find a party," he said.
“Once the semester begins, [Unofficial] is something to look forward to, like spring break and graduation,” said UI senior Max Crouse. He and about nine friends hosted a morning party at their house and brought out the yard games, like bags, for friends.
This is the first Unofficial for Emma Woods, a transfer student from the University of Missouri.
“It’s fun visiting all the parties. Some get really into the Irish, others are really into beer pong,” she said.
Update 10:30 a.m.
Under sunny skies and warming temperatures, student revelers, with their green glitter facepaint, green beads, green kneesocks and even a few top hats were out in full force as Unofficial St. Patrick's Day kicked off Friday morning.
The all-day drinking fest, said University of Illinois student Rohun Papa, "brings campus together. Everyone is in a good mood."
He planned on skipping class today. At 9:30 a.m. he and a group of friends were walking down Green Street. Decked out in a green Chicago Blackhawks jersey was Papa's friend, UI student Tobin Peters.
"We started drinking at 8:30 a.m., a little late, I know. We're going to eat breakfast at a friend's house, then drink some more," said Peters, who scheduled his classes this semester so none of them would be on Fridays.
"We're going all weekend," several friends cheered.
"Except I have to go to church," on Sunday, said Tobin Tito, a friend visiting from Marquette University.
At the Koinonia House, a Christian cooperative house at Fourth & Green Streets, Tim Overbye and Jonathan Urban, both UI freshman, were handing out water to those passing by.
"God bless you," Overbye said while handing foam cups to a group of students.
"People need to stay hydrated," Urban said.
Across the street, Dick Christenson was getting ready to sell Vienna beef hot dogs and brats to hungry students from his Mustard's Last Stand food truck. He started setting up around 9 a.m. and expected to sell until 4 a.m.
"Don't be a meanie, buy a weenie," he said to a group of students on the sidewalk.
Public urination will cost you $165. #Unofficial2014
— Urbana PD (@UrbanaPD) March 7, 2014
If you want to listen to police radio traffic, you can listen online here, or download an app for your smartphone.
Twitter is alive with posts about the event, with everyone from students to Chicago residents wishing they could be here to police and UI officials using the hashtag #Unofficial.
Already, there have been references to police cars outside apartment buildings, a parking enforcement officer driving slowly along John Street and a police K9 unit "making its way down Armory very slowly."
A student-run musical theatre company on campus is holding a bake sale at Sixth and Green streets and posted on Twitter about making the first sale of the day.
The UI Biology Library posted a link on Twitter to a report on alcohol abuse and blood-alcohol content from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism that includes signs of alcohol poisoning.
Police getting ready for the first shift of Unofficial:
Sgt. Ketchem conducting briefing for first wave of officers hitting street for Unofficial. pic.twitter.com/Dc98mBPQPB
— Lt. Jim Clark (@ClarkCPD) March 7, 2014
Here are a couple of warnings from police to participants:
If you call for medical help for an intoxicated person under the age of 21, they won’t get a drinking ticket. #Unofficial2014#UIUC...
— Champaign PD (@ChampaignPD) March 7, 2014
— Lt. Jim Clark (@ClarkCPD) March 7, 2014
Here's a look at the arrests and more from last year's Unofficial.
The day is good for campus businesses:
— Jill Guth (@jlguth) March 7, 2014