This Friday, green colored drinks, apparel and costumes will decorate campus as students, friends and visitors celebrate Unofficial, an annual unofficial holiday that consumes the University whole for the weekend.
The day originated when students and businesses realized that Saint Patrick’s Day fell on Spring Break, when most of the students would be out of town. Therefore, students celebrated Saint Patrick’s Day before spring break and named the day-long celebration, Unofficial.
“I remember celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day on campus in the early 70’s,” said Carol Nunn, House Director of the University YMCA. “It was nothing like it is today. Now it’s more advertised, which can be a good thing or a bad thing. … Back then there was no policing—it was out of control, people were drunk… with no rules or limits.”
The celebration does not come without stipulation or controversy. Since its adaption, there have been several deaths on the day; some as a result of heavy drinking and reckless behavior. Since the deaths, the community has enforced strict policies and procedures in an effort to keep the campus community safe.
“I think the biggest problem with Unofficial, is Unofficial itself,” said Michael Evans, co-worker at Campus Pantry.
“Besides that, the cops are another huge problem on the day. I think police should be focused on helping the impaired—those who cannot make decisions for themselves. Instead, you see police focusing on parking violations and other minor activities to make more money.”
Champaign Mayor Don Gerard, issued an order on February 17 outlining the rules for the weekend. Some of the guidelines prohibit the sale of alcohol from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. on March 6th-7th. Bars are required to check IDs at the doors and drinks must be served in an aluminum container or paper cups starting March 6 from 10 a.m to 2:30 a.m. on March 8.
“It can be a good thing or bad thing for the University, depending on how people choose to celebrate and interpret the holiday,” said Michal Walewender, a freshman in LAS. Walewender, has never experienced Unofficial and can only formulate perceptions about the celebration based off of what he has heard.
“I’ve been getting the newsletters about unofficial clothing and the warnings about what not to drink. … I think that by advertising the day like this, it makes Unofficial more ‘official,’” he said.
But Walewender also recalls hearing about the strict street policing for the weekend and is relieved he doesn’t have a car on campus to fret about.
“I have heard of police giving out more parking tickets just to make more money over the weekend—and I don’t think that’s right.”
Unofficial has evolved to become a profitable day for businesses everywhere, and its success has warranted more policies and procedures on campus to take effect.
Dorms, private housing and other housing facilities restrict visitors from staying overnight during the weekend—making it difficult, if not impossible for students staying in apartments to have visitors for the weekend.
“I think there needs to be limits and policing on Unofficial, definitely. I mean, just working on the day I have seen crazy things, from the Green Suite Man, to painted green faces, to people just being rude and loud. … It’s a crazy day,” Evans said.
But despite the chaotic day and the harsh policies to limit drinking, everyone has their own opinions on the annual celebration.
“I personally just don’t think it’s healthy to be drinking for 24 hours straight. That’s not good for you body—that’s not good for your mind,” Evans said.