The Llama Scribe

February 28, 2008

Beware the Beer Riot

Filed under: Uncategorized — antoinette jeanine @ 5:00 am
Tags: , , ,

If you live in Champaign-Urbana, attend the University of Illinois, or know anyone who falls into either of those categories, no doubt you are aware of Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day, and the nonsense which is sure to appear whenever the holiday approaches.

It would seem that some clever university president or administrator, at some point in the last century, devised the notion of planting spring vacation solidly over St. Patrick’s Day in order to avoid drunken reveling on campus.  Unfortunately, this stuffy old suit did not take into account the indomitable spirit of the college imbiber (well, bar owner), and hence was born Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day- simply “Unofficial” in abbreviated form.

Personally, it’s not a holiday I would have invented.  To me, St. Patrick’s Day is a reverent holiday thanks to green food dye and corned beef and cabbage (much, much more corned beef than cabbage).  Not only is 8:00 a.m. far too early to be awake, it is also an absurd hour to indulge.  I do love Unofficial nonetheless; it provides an excuse to bring non-UIUC students to campus, and stages an unbeatable (and free!) form of public theater- with costumes included (traditionally, imbibers identify themselves by wearing green- and being publicly drunk). 

I bring this up to link to an article by the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette (famous for its many hyphens): Our Chancellor, Richard Hermann, demands action from the city council on the horrendous problem of Unofficial. 

Hermann, naturally, establishes his argument by bringing up the girl who died by falling off of a motorcycle on Unofficial, mentioning that her accident was deemed by police to be “alcohol related”- and states with remarkable certainty that such a tragic death would not have occurred but for this devious holiday.  My objection to his logic is not to say, of course, that I don’t believe her death was a tragedy, or that it was caused by drunkenness, but that drunken accidents happen everywhere, all the time, and if Chancellor Hermann wanted to advocate awareness of the dangers of drunken driving, well, he’d have to stand behind a long line of people who have been hurt by other stupid people.Fortunately, our mayor was the voice of reason; he surmised that upping the age of admittance into bars to 21 and delaying their opening until 5pm would only result in “beer riots.”  Thank you, Mr. Schweighart.

Ultimately, it is a dumb holiday, and whenever large numbers of young people drink heavily, dumb shit is bound to happen.  It is the natural order of the university environment.  But it is a fun day, a day when kinship is born of inebriation and proximity, and that is something that no amount of fearmongering is going to alter. 

For the record, I have an exam at noon, and work from 1-5, so I won’t be participating in the festivities until sundown.  However, it is my last day at the School of Music, so I can’t make any promises as to my condition on Friday evening. 

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