Sunday, March 27, 2011

State Patty's Day at Penn State: Then and Now


Our Thesis
While State Patty’s Day started as an innocent day of celebration, it has since grown into a hindrance on both the Penn State student body and the surrounding community that needs to be curbed back to its roots to preserve its longevity and fun.

Growth of the Holiday

State Patty’s Day, if anything, has a mediocre creation with a following that has caught on like wild fire. It began back in 2007 when the actual holiday of Saint Patrick’s Day fell on a Saturday during Penn State’s spring break. One student named Joe Veltre felt that he needed to take matters into his own hands, by creating a new holiday called “State Patty’s Day.” Joe was able to create the event on Facebook, and use the advantages of this social network by inviting an unlimited amount of guests. It was agreed that this holiday would be held every Saturday before Penn State’s spring break is highly encouraged for participants to wear green outfits similar to that of Saint Patrick’s Day. 
As you walk outside during State Patty’s Day, it’s comparable to seeing a circus of green chaos. Even scarier, is that you only need to peek your head out the window at around 10 A.M. to see the madness begin! It’s almost unlikely to see  a group of friends stumbling through the streets of State College, with one of them not carrying a case of alcohol.
It’s sad to say that the main purpose of the holiday is solely based around drinking. There are no sporting events, shows or dances, just drinking. Because of its growing reputation as a significantly dangerous holiday, founder Joe Veltre has called for its end.  With the holiday’s main goal being to get as drunk as possible, it is no surprise that there has been a growth of criminal acts and drinking related arrests each year since it’s genesis.

Below are some statistics that show the growing danger of this holiday.


2008 Statistics: 45 arrests
- 5 for DUI
- 6 for disorderly conduct
- 7 for public drunkenness
- 17 for underage drinking
- Several assaults and fights.

2009 Stats and reports:
- 311 calls
- 79 summary criminal arrests (including 14 DUI arrests)
- 21 alcohol overdoses that required EMS
- 31 noise violations

2010 Stats:
- 365 calls (up 17%)
- 160 arrests (up 102%)
- 58 EMS calls, 31 alcohol related


2011 Stats:
-480 calls
-234 arrests
-14 alcohol overdoses
-14 DUI arrests.




The statistics don’t lie. There has been an increase in the number of arrests and police phone calls every year. In addition, the holiday will continue to gain exposure with the effects of social media.


Impact on Business


State Patty’s day was a holiday created by students, for student enjoyment.  However, in the holiday’s young career, we have seen a variety of external consequences – for better and for worst.  Naturally, some entrepreneurs and local stores have benefitted from the holiday by selling t-shirts, jerseys, beaded necklaces, and other paraphernalia.  The clothes and other wear prove to be very popular.  On State Patty’s day it was hard to walk outside without seeing at least a couple people wearing green shirts promoting the holiday.  One of the stores that was selling State Patty’s day apparel was the popular store McLanahan’s located on the corner of College Avenue and Garner Street, directly across from campus. When speaking to a Mclanahan’s employee, I asked if the State Patty’s Day merchandise was popular this year.  She responded, “Oh yeah, more and more sold every day as the holiday got closer.  Everything related to that day was very popular.



            Retail stores were not the only ones who took advantage to profit from this student created event.  Canyon Pizza famously sells green pizza throughout the day.  Wings Over Happy Valley also offered specials with State Patty’s Day themes.  Thus, stores and businesses have recognized the day as a holiday and even taken advantage of the popularity to benefit economically.

            Yet the businesses that could possibly benefit the most from the holiday are the bars.  However, many bars decided to not open during the day.  So why would bars close on a day in which they profit so much?  Many people believe they closed because of pressure felt by locals and the university who oppose the holiday.  One bar that was open was The Gingerbread Man (G-Man).  I spoke to an employee of the bar:

Me: Were you working during State Patty’s Day?

Employee: Yes.

Me: Was the bar crowded?

Employee: Yes.

Me: Any more crowded than an average Friday/ Saturday night or Football weekend?

Employee: We only allow a certain amount of people in the bar, and we were at capacity. The line and wait outside was long like one of those weekends with a lot of visitors.

Me: Did you experience a lot of alcohol related problems during the day?

Employee: Not more than on a usual night (inside the bar).  We do work at a bar, and anytime someone is too drunk or causing a disturbance, we solve the problem.

Me: Did you do anything to control the drinking in the bar?

Employee: Yes, we only allowed a person to buy two drinks at a time.

Me: So overall, how did the day go?

Employee: It was like a really bad football weekend.

Me: Well thank you for your time, we appreciate the insight.

Employee: No problem. Thanks for speaking with me.


The bars certainly benefit from the holiday, but at the end of the day it is the students that drive the holiday.  Fraternities and sororities are big parts of the student involvement and in the past year IFC/ Pan-Hellenic council have tried to put on restrictions to tame fraternity and sorority involvement.  For example, there are no fraternity parties allowed for the whole weekend, and on the Saturday of State Patty’s only one sorority can be allowed at a fraternity for a block of four hours.  I asked Jon Greig (a member of Kappa Delta Rho judicial board) what he thought of the sanctions.  “I believe they are a little excessive.  It seems like IFC/ Pan-Hellenic are overreacting to the holiday like everyone else.  At the same time, I understand where they are coming from and appreciate the time I do have to celebrate.”

At the end of the day, for celebrators and non-celebrators, that everyone just cares about safety.  The hype and build up of the holiday is the big scare factor.  Yet it may just be a lot more hype and a lot less in substance when it is all said and done.


Impact of Social Media and Students from Other Schools


     
The rise in crime over the past years of State Patty’s day has already been documented, but the question still persists: What is the reason for the steady upward trend in criminal activity?  It is not as if Penn State students somehow manage to get drunker every year. Every year students do not sit together in meetings and discuss how they can better terrorize the community more effectively. In this situation one cannot even blame old scapegoats like Four Loko.

The fact of the matter is that every year more and more students participate; and seeing as how Penn State has not opened the admissions floodgates as of recent, the only discernable explanation is that students from other schools flood State College for this one weekend every year. I can see the conversation occurring right now:

Penn State Student: Yo man, you have got to come to State Patty’s day this year it makes Mardi Gras look like a MADD meeting.

Friend from other school: That sounds great, do you mind if I bring some friends?

Penn State Student: Go ahead, the more the merrier.

Next thing you know, “friend from other school” shows up with 20 of his best friends and creates a Facebook group titled “JMU gets dOwN at State Patty’s Day!” or something of the sort.  It seems to be that the largest issue affecting the criminal downturn of State Patty’s Day is the considerable population influx that occurs every State Patty’s Day.  The story on State Patty’s Day is out at schools all over the east coast.  Multiple schools created Facebook events and groups organizing massive groups of students to invade State College. On top of this, despite the fact that Penn State students bemoan the police reinforcements that are brought in, law enforcement does not have the capabilities in this area to accommodate a few extra thousand kids whose only purpose to be here is to drink until they soil themselves.

Before any more is said, I do not want to mince words, I think State Patty’s Day is a great thing; and I think that the only reason Penn State freaks out about it is because they have to from a public relations perspective.  If you don’t think that the administration secretly loves the school’s status as a party school as a pull for tons of applicants you are missing something.  However, one issue that is wrong with State Patty’s Day and social media and word of mouth bringing in tons of other students each year is the way that said students act when presented with a terrific opportunity for uninhibited revelry.

It would be a very Penn State thing to declare all other schools’ students lightweights and terrible drinkers when exposed to the Penn State culture, but to some extent this assertion kind of holds true.  Referring to this year’s State Patty’s Day, one Centre Daily Time article reads “As with previous years’ festivities, many of those getting in trouble are not Penn State students. [Police Lieutenant] Fishel reported misdemeanors involving students from the University of Pittsburgh, St. Joseph’s University, Slippery Rock University, Virginia Tech and the University of West Virginia.”  On top of this, an overwhelming majority of the alcohol related hospital visits are from students who do not currently attend Penn State.


A more realistic explanation for why so many students from other schools cause trouble when they visit, besides their lack of drinking prowess, is the mindset of relative anonymity.  Most visiting students think to themselves “Well I am never going to see any of these people ever again, so I may as well try to bong a Four Loko and steal this stop sign.”  When students recklessly throw away their moral compass in such a way, you get a situation like State Patty’s Day where huge amounts of crime occur.

So, as much as it is a great thing that Penn State hosts an event that garners such regional attention, I believe I am not the only one that would prefer that no State Patty’s Day Facebook groups be made and no friends invited.  Students from other schools are the reason why liquor stores close, cops come from Altoona, and the sidewalk outside of Indigo looks like a Soviet bread line.  This is one holiday that needs to remain Penn State’s and Penn State’s alone.



Proposed Solutions

Due to the exponential growth of what was intended to be a seemingly harmless holiday, created a few years back by students, has grown into one of the most celebrated traditions here at Penn State in just a matter of four years. State Patty’s has picked up recognition over the years and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. It has become one of the most dangerous, yet talked about, days in campuses across the country. The question at hand remains to be how can this student made holiday be put under control.
           
As we sit and ponder different solutions in order to ensure a safe future for the holiday known as State Patty’s Day, many solutions come into play to help out down the road. While we understand that something like this really has no way of putting a complete end to it, there are measures that can be taken to help slow down the role in plays in our community as well as out lives.
           
Being well experienced in the holiday of State Patty’s day, we have been able to conduct four years of research that could help better this day along. Seeing what it was when we were freshman four years ago, to what it has become as seniors today, there are many different solutions and procedures that can be taken.
            

As you may or may have not noticed over the years, when it comes to being State Patty’s weekend, there are usually tons of tons of people around town that you may have never seen before. This year in particular, was one of the most heavily populated weekends that this town has ever experienced, with the exception of home football games. As you walk around the streets, the large increase in population mainly has to do with students and friends from other school visiting for the weekend.
           
Penn State is one of the largest student based campuses in the country to begin with. With nearing close to 40,000 undergraduate students, Penn State’s campus makes for one of the busiest campuses on a normal weekend. Now let’s say you take an additional amount of students thrown into the population of the Penn State campus and the streets are going to be virtually impossible to walk one. Well that is exactly what is and has been happening over the years. Penn State students have a large influx of friends visiting and other students stopping by for this weekend in particular. With so many students visiting from other campuses, why must Penn State take all of the blame when they are mainly the ones causing trouble for the community and Police Department.
           
Just this year in particular, University of Delaware bused in hundreds of students to come and visit for the weekend. Whether it was known by the University of Delaware or not that buses were set up to bring students here doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that this caused for automatically the population of the town to increase drastically. While we are aware that actions like this are not going to be able to be stopped, there has to be something done to try and prevent this many students from coming up just for this weekend alone.
           
While looking at the incident reports for the past few years, there was one statistic that stood out from the rest. While there were some of largest amounts of incidents reported for State Patty’s Day weekend alone, an overwhelming number of them were from students who did not attend Penn State University. Even though these students did not attend our fine institution, did not seem to really matter. Penn State is the one that is made to look bad and forced to be the scapegoat in scenarios like this. It is reasons like this to why State Patty’s Day and the University get a bad name.

           
In order to help put an end to the negative impact that the University takes, we have proposed a solution that would make students from other Universities accountable for their actions. By instituting disciplinary actions for students not from Penn State, by their own Universities would cause people to think twice before they undergo actions that they may feel to be harmless. If schools were to discipline their students who got in trouble while visiting Penn State during the weekend of State Patty’s, would not help to take some of the bad name that Penn State is given, but also potentially result in less students coming to visit for the weekend.
           
While we are aware that this solution is far fetched and would need a coalition among many other schools, there needs to be a start somewhere. Penn State students take the brunt of the blame, while it is not even them who are causing such disturbances. It’s little actions like this that could help State Patty’s Day and the University revitalize its image now and in the future.
           
Another proposal to change State Patty’s Day in the future could be to have bars close while the holiday is in full swing. While the trend of this seemed have started this year, it was only a few bars that actually partook in these actions. We are aware that something like this needs to start somewhere and by having a few bars show that their against State Patty’s Day is definitely a step in the right direction. However, it was only three of the nearly twenty bars around State College that closed their doors for the day.


           
Being that State Patty’s Day is one of the largest weekends at Penn State, may bars would feel that by closing their doors would be like turning away money and a lot of it. Students drink on State Patty’s Day from early morning until late into the night. While this is the first year that virtually no bars opened their doors until mid-afternoon, more bars need to band together and take a stand to all closing their doors for the entire day. Losing money for the day is worth the student body and the community’s safety to help make the holiday a little safer in the future. 
           
If bars were to close for the entire, not only would it give students less options for places to drink at, but also the number of younger students trying to get in with fake ids resulting in underage’s would be cut down significantly. Again, this would cause less students to come visit for the weekend and in the end possibly help to cut down on the number of people walking in the streets during the day due to the fact that there are less places to go.
           
A third proposal to change State Patty’s Day in the future could be to liquor stores, bottle shops, and beer distributors close the day before State Patty’s and during the day of State Patty’s. The main place to students to buy alcohol is obviously to go to one of the aforementioned locations above. The day before the holiday is one of the busiest days of the entire year. Sales for these places skyrocket due to the amount of alcohol that is bought in preparation for the holiday. There is no way that these locations are going to be willing to give up business during their most prosperous time of the year.
            

We are not asking that these places close down for the week, but simply that they take a stand with the community and close to day before and day of. There is no way to stop students from buying alcohol, but this will help to cut down on the amount that is bought during the holiday while most of the students are already heavily intoxicated. Running out of alcohol, through experience, is bound to happen throughout the day. By liquor stores, bottle shops, and beer distributors closing for these two days, will hopefully in less incidents throughout the day.
           
Since distribution to minors, transporting alcohol, underage drinking, and public drunkenness are some of the most reported incidents during the holiday, this will hopefully help to cut back on some of the arrests for the day. Again, losing money is going to be a big factor in order to get stores to agree to this proposal, but in the end it is worth it for the health and well being of the students and community.

If you are interested in getting involved in the movement to curb State Patty's Day, join the facebook group.

Works Cited


Written Sources:


"PennLive.com." Central PA Local News, Breaking News, Sports & Weather - PennLive.com. Web. 27 Mar. 2011. <http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2010/02/160_arrested_in_unofficial>.




"State Patty's Day 2009 Wallops State College - News Story - WJAC Johnstown." Johnstown - Altoona - State College - Clearfield-DuBois, PA News, Weather, Traffic & Sports - WJAC. Web. 27 Mar. 2011. <http://www.wjactv.com/news/18838077/detail.html>.




End the "State Holiday" Drinking Events | Facebook." Welcome to Facebook - Log In, Sign Up or Learn More. Web. 27 Mar. 2011. <http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=252076644511>.




Interview Sources:


Gingerbread Man Employee. Personal Interview. 23 March 2011


Greig, Jonathan. Personal Interview. 24 March 2011


McLanahan’s Employee. Personal Interview. 23 March 2011




Photos and Video Sources:


“State Patty’s Day” video courtesy of Youtube user amypsu2010


“Penn State McDonalds trashed on State Patty’s Day 2010” video courtesy of Youtube user justinb6003


Photo #1 courtesy of Pennsylvania State University


Photos #’s 2,4, and 9 courtesy of the Daily Collegian


Photos #’s 3 and 7 courtesy of Onward State


Photo #5 courtesy of Facebook


Photo #6 courtesy of www.kstatecollegian.com


Photo #8 Courtesy of Flickr


Photo #10 Courtesy of www.theramking.com

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