An Urbana professor is calling on university leaders to take action on an already approved 2006 senate resolution calling for a more concerted effort to end the practice of holding Unofficial St. Patrick's Day on an instructional day.
"(Unofficial) undermines the educational mission of the university," said Mark Roszkowski, a business administration professor and senator, at the March 26 meeting of the Urbana Academic Senate.
"My concern is to get drunk students off campus on a class day," he told senators.
Roszkowski initiated the senate's discussion of Unofficial, which he brought up initially at the March 5 Senate Executive Committee meeting. He also is author of the 2006 resolution.
"It's clear the university has done nothing," he said, noting the event has expanded each year since, and is responsible for a raft of classroom interruptions and undue enforcement expense for the university.
"The university's sole response has been increased enforcement," he said. "We're in a holding pattern and the classroom disruption continues to grow."
Roszkowski said, ideally, he would like to see the bars closed for the entire weekend of the event - the method he said eliminated similar problems associated with the Halloween celebration at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.
He said Unofficial was a "cynical construct" held prior to spring break and pushed by bar owners to make money at the expense of UI class time.
Some student senators indicated they felt university leaders should embrace the event and find ways to work with students to make the event safer and less intrusive.
Sam Barghi, Illinois Student Senate external vice president, suggested the university in essence "host" the event, with expanded roles for student and fraternal organizations.
Another student, not a senator, said he and others supported the ban because Unofficial makes non-drinkers fearful enough that they avoid campus altogether.
"I agree this event has run its course," UI Police Captain Skip Frost told senators.
Frost said the department had made strides to limit classroom interruptions and that rules prohibiting guests from staying in residence halls during the event had made the halls safer. Bar-hour restrictions have further added a level of control.
But he said it's not enough.
"We've already had serious injuries associated with this event and we'd like to avoid any more," Frost said. "Unofficial centers on one thing: the drinking culture. We need a holistic approach that includes education."
Frost said the most disturbing statistic to police is that 70 percent of participants this year ticketed for misconduct were not associated with the university.
"Enforcement has pushed kids to the perimeter," he said, which equates to more off-campus "house" parties and increases in local package liquor sales and spotlights an entirely different set of enforcement issues.
He said social media and returning alumni have added to enforcement difficulties and expanded attendance.
Roszkowski said university officials should use their considerable leverage to pressure city leaders to act.
In other business, senators:
- Heard a report from John Kindt, chair of the Faculty and Academic Staff Benefits committee, urging senators to support the selection of an "education advocate," a high-profile person with the ability to push employee-benefit issues from a statewide perspective.
Kindt said there are 37 bills currently on the Illinois Legislature's docket dealing with pension and health-insurance reform, and as a result, his committee believes the higher-education system needs an advocate and a "focal point" for protecting those benefits.
Kindt urged senators, in their role as citizens, to support the selection of UI Board of Trustees Chairman Christopher G. Kennedy as the "advocate."
For updates on employee benefits issues go to https://nessie.uihr.uillinois.edu/cf/benefits.
- Approved proceeding on an ethics review of psychology professor Lisa Troyer, who has been accused of improprieties based on her service as former President Michael J. Hogan's chief of staff.
She resigned in January and was appointed to the faculty.
Under university statutes, the review could conclude either with no action, sanctions or dismissal.
- Received thanks from Chancellor Phyllis M. Wise for their support during her first few months in office.
"It's been an interesting and challenging time," she said. "The level and extent of support ... has been moving."