The town-gown task force trying to tamp down State Patty’s Day is taking steps to curb the appeal of the student-organized drinking day to outsiders.
More than 2,100 people have clicked “join” on the State Patty’s Day Facebook event page to confirm their attendance on March 1.
Bill Zimmerman, of Penn State’s Office of Strategic Communications, is in his second year on the task force. He said that substantial participation on State Patty’s Day comes from those not associated with the university.
“We have the statistics available to us, but it’s not always easy to identify where people are coming from,” Zimmerman said. “But there definitely are a significant amount of visitors who come from other towns.”
The State College Tavern Owners Association will meet Thursday to discuss actions to be taken on State Patty’s Day, Zimmerman said.
“We’ve tried to make contact with schools who seem to have the most visitors (come to town),” he said. “We’ve tried to get their cooperation, and we encourage them to discipline (students) in their own channels.”
Zimmerman said a letter soon will be drafted, and that Damon Sims, Penn State’s vice president for student affairs, will have a role in what it will say. Zimmerman did not specify the schools that will receive the letter, but said it will be sent to most colleges and universities in Pennsylvania.
University Park Undergraduate Association Vice President Brenden Dooley recalled an instance a few years ago when a bus full of students from one school came to Penn State specifically for State Patty’s Day.
“I don’t want to see that happen (again),” Dooley said. “(We) are asking the administration to join in the fight and ... follow through with discipline with visitors.”
Dooley said visitors tend to cause the most destruction of both public and private property. Visitors here to party for the day “have no vested interest and accountability in the State College community,” he said.
“They come in and think it’s like Las Vegas,” Dooley said. “They don’t treat the locals with the respect and dignity we deserve.”
Part of the effort on safety involves increasing the presence of police, Dooley said. However, State College Police Chief Tom King said it’s not just a police issue.
“We will do our part,” King said, “but I’ve been very pleased with other community groups, and the university has been very instrumental in helping to combat this day.”
The university reinstated its yearly policy of allowing only one visitor in rooms in the residence halls for State Patty’s Day. It has also sent letters to large-apartment owners asking them to shut down parties.
Penn State Interfraternity Council already banned all social functions for the weekend of March 1.
As for downtown bars, Zimmerman said there have not yet been any commitments to close, but owners are willing to help curb excessive drinking.
He said tactics could include limiting drinks, possibly not allowing anyone wearing green into an establishment, setting occupancy restrictions, and charging higher prices for bar covers and drinks.
If last year’s downward trend in crime and arrests are an indication, Dooley said, he thinks these measures will once again prove successful.
“I think these preventative measures have really chilled the holiday at its roots,” Dooley said. “(If we) continue them, it will allow the town to possibly get past this holiday and hopefully establish something more family-friendly that people will enjoy.”
Paulina Cajigal is a Penn State journalism student.