By Logan Hullinger
INDIANA — Indiana University of Pennsylvania students who join annual IUPatty’s parties this weekend won’t notice much change in policing, according to local officials attending a strategy session on Monday at the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex. But revelers should expect to see an increase in campus-sponsored, alcohol-free alternate activities.
Members of the Indiana Area Collaborative Team, a town-gown group of public and private officials, emphasized deterrence of alcohol-fueled parties off campus and encouragement of alcohol-free alternatives on campus.
I-ACT formed shortly after the 2014 IUPatty’s weekend that made national headlines for its rowdiness. The group represents police, landlords, borough officials and university administrators.
On Monday, IUP administrators unveiled an “IUPLeads” program that offers financial incentives to student groups that encourage sobriety and personal responsibility. The March 19-25 “positive engagement campaign” offers up to $250 to each student organization that satisfies a six-point checklist of requirements:
complete a registration form
attend a sign-making workshop on emphasizing safety and responsibility
chalk messages on campus sidewalks
tweet from their organization’s Twitter account
refrain from selling T-shirts with pro-drinking messages
distribute water in the Wallwork quad on Saturday, March 24.
As of Monday, six student organizations had expressed interest in the incentive program, said IUP President Michael A. Driscoll.
“It takes all of us working together to impact the behaviors and keep people safe,” Driscoll said. “As we’ve seen, we can take many positive steps forward. We’re never going to be perfect about this, but hopefully we make incremental progress.”
Driscoll added that he is hoping for bad weather. He was “looking forward to a foot of snow” to tame celebrations, he said.
One long-range forecast predicts low probability of precipitation and high temperatures in the upper 30s to low 40s during the coming weekend.
ROBIN A. GORMAN, assistant to the president, said the committee’s emphasis was not on prohibition but rather on personal responsibility.
“Students say they are of age and can do this legally, she said. “We always say, ‘We’re not telling you that you can’t have fun, but you need to do it responsibly and respect other people’s property.’”
The prohibition option was raised in April following the 2017 IUPatty’s weekend. State Rep. Dave Reed called for an end to the annual event and invited “all in our community to make it happen.”
Instead, university officials said they will be posting signs throughout the borough with responsibility-and-sobriety messages aimed at students and visitors.
IUP Student Government Association President Brian H. Swatt asserted that students usually are not troublemakers.
“It’s important to note that that every time this event comes around, the students aren’t the primary wrongdoers,” Swatt said. “I’ve witnessed the students beginning to get weary about individuals, especially those from outside of our community creating a stigma. But it’s up to everyone to be good stewards and create a welcoming community for constituents.”
THE UNIVERSITY IS PLANNING 19 campus-sponsored events, an increase from previous years. The alternative events include workshops, sports-watching parties and bingo.
Past efforts have not been popular. In 2016, a post-IUPatty’s email survey of students reported 92 percent said they attended none of the university-sponsored events. Of the 8 percent of students who reported attending one or more of the university-sponsored alternatives, most of them — 85 percent — reported consuming alcohol either before or after attending the on-campus events.
Gorman complimented the I-ACT committee’s transparency and said the university is “unique in approaching the issue of partying in a public committee hearing.”
However, only Monday’s I-ACT meeting was open to the public. The executive committee, which includes IUP President Michael A. Driscoll and Gorman, meets monthly behind closed doors. Subcommittees, such as the Community Relations Committee, meet at their own discretion, Driscoll said.
UNIVERSITY-AFFILIATED representatives avoided the term “IUPatty’s.” Instead, IUP spokeswoman Michelle S. Fryling used the phrase “anticipated high celebratory weekend.” Other committee members followed suit.
Borough and state police officials said they will increase their presence as usual, including deployment of mounted officers. However, IUP police chief Kevin Thelen said campus police will increase patrols in residence halls.
Landlords said they will perform police-adjunct practices as last year, including cracking down on crowded rental units and putting authorities on speed dial.
Landlords at larger rental complexes will heighten private security, said Dick Clawson, president of the Indiana Landlord Association. He said students should not hesitate to call police or rescue in case of emergency.
Dana Turgeon, interim borough manager, was less empathetic.
“If we show up, that’s going to be the ambulance,” Turgeon said.
THE ANNUAL St. Patrick’s celebration is student-scheduled, privately organized and unaffiliated with the public university. This year, an IUP-based Twitter account named “As Seen at IUP” announced that the 2018 IUPatty’s will start Thursday, March 22 — “or starting Monday for most of us” — and extend to Sunday, March 25.
The account claims nearly 10,000 followers.
Logan R. Hullinger, a senior journalism major at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a staff reporter for The HawkEye, is from Clarion. He may be contacted at L.R.Hullinger@iup.edu