What is Unofficial? A background on the local tradition
It is that time of year again when bar owners rake in the currency and students consume copious amounts of alcohol. “Unofficial” is a celebration that commemorates St. Patrick’s day and is “officially” only recognized by students.
However, the immenseness of the festive activities associated with “Unofficial” weighs heavily on the town. Police, store owners, even people who happen to live around student areas deal with the impact that this annual celebration has on the surrounding community.
The attitude that students must drink to celebrate “Unofficial” is precisely why many school administrators and community authorities want it banned from this college town. Computer Science major Hayne Ryu believes that what students have been doing on “Unofficial” is the reason behind why authorities want to do away with the celebration altogether.
“I think they are trying because of illegal activities. You heard about that body they found, right? I think it is because of those dramatic instances,” Ryu explained.
The inappropriate behavior synonymous with “Unofficial” has been notorious throughout the years. Associate Professor of English Paula Boyd believes the community, as well as classrooms, are highly affected by student activities associated with the event.
“A number of reasons, student skip class. Also, less here, but more so at the U of I, students think it is fun to go to class under the influence,” Boyd explained. “That is very dangerous. There is also a safety factor outside; (Unofficial) it is not safe to the community. We don’t want to be crashed into by drunks.”
Students coming to class under the influence is such a concern that Parkland College has had to develop a policy for professors to follow in case the situation occurs. Boyd informed her students of this policy during the classes leading up to “Unofficial” but she still thinks that not all students take it seriously.
“I had one student in class who may have been under the influence. I also had very low attendance,” Boyd added. “This is because I warned that it is against Parkland policies. I would have to report to public safety.”
Although “Unofficial” does bring along with it some distractions and chaos to the community, it is also economically beneficial. The economic boost provided by the celebration is perhaps one of the reasons the tradition lives on.
“To be honest, it attracts a lot of tourists, the bars profit a lot. For businesses it is good, but ethically it is not for the best,” Ryu said.
Green t-shirts, many alcoholic beverages and sales of green accessories are all examples of the commercialization of “Unofficial”.
The main concern for those students who choose to partake in the celebration of “Unofficial” is their safety. June Burch, Wellness Coordinator at Parkland College, explained the efforts her department takes to raise awareness about celebrating in a safe, responsible manner.
“We distributed information as well as the U of I. This information is about what your risks are, legality, fines and consequences. How can we look out for each other,” Burch said.
This packet includes other information and additional guidelines for students to follow to ensure that they remain safe when they are under the influence. “Unofficial” is an annual tradition that will likely continue on for years to come and Parkland wants to make sure that students are making wise choices when it comes to their safety, as well as the safety of others.
Those interested in learning more about celebrating in a responsible manner can pick up one of these packets in the Wellness center on Parkland’s campus, located in Student Life, Room U-112.