Saint Patrick’s Day is a few weeks away, but the party started bright and early Friday, March 2 in Champaign, Ill.
Students from the University of Illinois and from universities all over the state came together for the school’s annual Unofficial Saint Patrick’s Day Bar Crawl, an event that glorifies alcohol consumption like nothing many of us have ever seen.
For Francis Boyle, a law professor at Illinois, Unofficial marks one of the most inauspicious weekends of the entire year, and he has attempted numerous times to have the event shut down completely.
Boyle sent a letter to Illinois Governor Patrick Quinn Feb. 8, 2012, that blasted the U of I’s condoning of Unofficial. He described the celebration as one that will be “publicly desecrating Saint Patrick” and claimed that local officials have “refused to terminate this orgiastic defilement of Saint Patrick, but have rather tolerated it for well over a dozen years.” In the letter, Boyle requested that Governor Quinn exercise his emergency powers and “suspend every bar and liquor license within the city limits of Champaign” the day of March 2.
While such a request may seem ridiculous, Boyle said that he meant every word. “I’ve been a law professor since 1978. I don’t waste my time. Governor Quinn acknowledged that he received a copy of my letter.”
Boyle’s complaints are rooted in the chaos that ensues every year during Unofficial. During the party in 2011, police issued 328 notices to appear in court, and more than 20 people were admitted to local hospitals with alcohol poisoning. The 2009 and 2010 versions produced a combined 620 court notices.
“I send these letters, but they fall on deaf ears,” Boyle said. “The city councils and mayors are in cahoots with the bar and liquor industry. They make tons of money off of getting these kids stinking drunk.”
Tom Lesny is a sophomore at U of I. He said Unofficial is somewhat hit or miss. “Unofficial was a little overrated last year, especially since it rained a lot. But this is year I have no obligations, so it’s definitely looking better,” he said.
But the party is not exclusive to students who go to school in Champaign. DePaul students take part as well, taking a weekend away from school to join the celebration.
“Last year was pretty exciting even though it rained. It’s a bunch of people your age stumbling around and having a good time,” sophomore Michael Doherty said.
Despite Boyle’s best efforts, students from all over the Midwest partake in the festivities. But it’s not all about the alcohol.
“This year is my first time,” said sophomore Jeremy Stevenson. “It’s a good time to have fun and visit old friends you haven’t seen in a while. It’s a rousing time that officials hate but students love. It allows people to create amazing memories and just have a good time.”
Boyle won’t be able to stop Unofficial this year as the celebration turns 16 years old, but he’s not going to stop combating the event. And he has a warning for DePaul students who consider going down to Champaign to take part.
“I would ask the kids from DePaul to reconsider going,” he said. “DePaul is named after the venerable Saint Vincent DePaul. I’ve read his work. I don’t want them to come down here and desecrate Saint Patrick.”