AMHERST, Mass. (AP) — The chaos at the University of Massachusetts over the weekend during a pre-St. Patrick’s Day celebration brought new attention to an old problem affecting colleges across the country: How to deal with alcohol-fueled revelers during the March festivities.
Celebrations near the UMass campus in Amherst spiraled out of control Saturday as police dealt with thousands of drunken and unruly people during the annual “Blarney Blowout.” More than 70 were arrested and four officers suffered minor injuries.
Like other colleges and towns, UMass and Amherst officials took action to try to prevent problems. The university warned students last week that there would be an increased police presence Saturday, and Amherst police prepared for large-scale disturbances based on past problems. Six people were arrested in Amherst last year.
At Penn State, the school paid licensed liquor establishments to stay closed this month during the unofficial drinking holiday known as State Patty’s Day for the second year in a row. State College, Pa., Police Chief Tom King said the strategy, along with a fraternity ban on parties, helped lead to a 75 percent decrease in arrests and citations this year compared to 2011 — the fake holiday’s heyday.
In Champaign, Ill., University of Illinois and local officials have been dealing with the so-called “Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day” for years.
The News-Gazette newspaper reported there were dozens of arrests and nearly 260 tickets issued for city ordinance violations in Champaign on Saturday, but no major injuries. Students were told of the dangers of binge drinking and the consequences of being arrested during pre-celebration educational campaigns.
In Amherst, this year’s celebrations became unruly in several areas around town despite efforts by UMass officials and local police.
Amherst police Capt. Jennifer Gundersen told The Republican newspaper of Springfield that the daylong partying was “extremely disturbing and unsafe.”