By Logan Hullinger
INDIANA – A concerted public-private effort to dampen what Indiana University of Pennsylvania officials describe as “celebratory tendencies” among students in early spring met its match against warm dry weather for most of the IUPatty’s 2017 party weekend.
Swarms of student revelers and party tourists drawn to the day-and-night “alcohol culture on campus,” as one university administrator put it in a March 21 email, overflowed sidewalks and streets from Frat Row to Grandview Avenue in seas of shamrock-green T-shirts and go-cups.
On Grandview, four police cruisers and eight or more officers rolled up at 1:25 p.m. on Saturday to break up a party attended by roughly 250 people. Police arrested one young man as he crossed the street.
At 2:30 p.m., a party drew between 250 and 300 people to the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house at 220 S. Seventh St. Fraternity members asked a photographer and a reporter to leave the property. No police were in the vicinity.
On Wednesday, Indiana borough police reported weekend assistance from state police, campus police, the county sheriff’s office and officers from Punxsutawney, Homer City and Blairsville. “There were no significant shifts in manpower or assignments from years past,” Indiana police Lt. Justin Schawl wrote in a March 29 email.
But police were “unusually busy” during the weekend revel, The Indiana Gazette reported. Police reported one man shot dead and three people wounded by gunfire in two Saturday morning incidents off-campus.
The bad news ran counter to coordinated efforts by university administrators, various police agencies, landlords and others to prevent the sort of mayhem that has bruised the campus’ public image over the six- or seven-year run of unsanctioned annual celebrations that have coincided with dwindling enrollments.
On March 8, for example, university President Michael A. Driscoll delivered a mid-semester speech in which he said “celebrations around St. Patrick’s Day seem to have a lower visibility online than in previous years, which may indicate that fewer out-of-towners will be coming to party,” according to The Gazette.
Other top campus officials joined the effort in the week before IUPatty’s to lobby faculty members to maintain student focus on academics and to avoid “high-risk celebration.”
Spokeswoman Michelle S. Fryling acknowledged that the university tracks social media as part of its IUPatty’s strategy.
“We monitor the IUP social-media community by following IUP-affiliated accounts and #IUP,” Fryling wrote in a March 22 email interview.
She bridled at the word “surveillance.”
“We do not follow individual students,” Fryling wrote.
She added that the name “IUPatty’s” is neither sanctioned nor acknowledged by the university.
“There is no such thing as ‘IUPatty’s’” Fryling wrote. “That implies that the university has planned some kind of event called ‘IUPatty’s.’ We do not and have not.”
In his March 8 speech, for example, Driscoll used the phrase “infamous weekends.”
A March 2 email from IUP Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Timothy S. Moerland and IUP faculty union President Nadene A. L’Amoreaux urged professors to resist any urge to give students “a break” for upcoming “celebratory tendencies.”
“If this pressure visits you, we both ask that you consider this an opportunity to reaffirm that IUP’s primary mission is academics,” the joint email read.
L’Amoreaux elaborated in a March 22 email in which she echoed administrators’ desire to protect the university’s reputation.
“I hope students are responsible to themselves, each other and to their community,” she said. “When things get out of hand and people are hurt or property is damaged, those images and impressions hurt all of us.”
THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY enlisted in the party-pooping effort, as well.
Oak Grove Realty, a local agency that rents to university students, emailed an “IUP Patty notice” on Wednesday that warned tenants that police would be present in “full force” at house parties.
A letter attached to the email said agency employees would perform “random/multiple inspections Friday through Monday, as well as throughout the following week if necessary.” The letter added that the agency was permitted to “enter the property immediately without any notice.”
On March 21, Rick Byerly and Dick Clawson, co-chairs of the Indiana Landlord Association, emailed the group’s members with a similar appeal.
“Landlords, please remember that just because there will be extra Police presence that doesn’t relieve us from our duties as a Landlord or Owner,” the message concluded.
ONE LOCAL BUSINESS owner welcomed the weekend celebration. Tim McQuaid, owner of the Philadelphia Street bar and restaurant The Coney, underscored the financial benefits of the festivities.
“A lot of people see the negatives, but not the positives, like the business it draws in,” McQuaid said in a March 22 interview at his restaurant.
McQuaid added that the layers of police forces deployed for IUPatty’s every year “goes a little overboard.”
This story was updated at 8:25 a.m., March 29.
Logan R. Hullinger, junior journalism major at Indiana University of Pennsylvania from Clarion, is a staff reporter for The HawkEye. He may be contacted at L.R.Hullinger@iup.edu
Ethan C. Brogan, a senior journalism major from Pittsburgh, contributed drone and 360-degree video. He can be reached at E.C.Brogan@iup.edu
Cody S. Minich, a sophomore journalism major from Ford City, contributed reporting. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org