A large St. Patrick’s Day gathering on March 25 in the student neighborhood ended in 17 arrests. Photo by Keegan Gupta, director of digital media & photography.
Zoë Hill | Print Editor-in-Chief
There is an alleged quote attributed to legendary late night host and comedian David Letterman: “There are four places to be on St. Patrick’s day: Dublin, New York, Chicago and the University of Dayton.”
This year, the 2023 University of Dayton “St. Paddy’s” day-drink celebration brought a sea of green to the student neighborhood and to the Montgomery County Jail.
The celebration ended in 17 arrests, only four of which were students at the university, and most picked up misdemeanor charges of rioting, failure to comply, disorderly conduct, misconduct at an emergency, criminal trespass, obstructing official business, underage drinking or falsification of information. Nine of the arrests were related to a single incident on Lowes Street as several people destroyed and flipped a car parked on the street, according to university officials. Only one of the nine was a UD student.
A heavy police presence responded to the gathering on Lowes Street around 4 p.m. March 25 as UD Public Safety and local law enforcement worked to clear the street following the car flipping. Students in attendance also reported being tear-gassed by police in an attempt to disperse the crowd.
“As officers tried to bring that situation under control, bottles, cans and other objects were thrown at them. Additional law enforcement resources were called to the scene,” the university said in a statement. “Officers then broadcast orders to clear the street from both police cruisers and a loudspeaker. The university also sent email and text messages asking people to leave the area.”
University of Cincinnati student Paul Belanich, 19, was arrested at the gathering on nine charges, including felonious assault and obstruction of official business, as well as seven misdemeanors.
UD officials said students involved in the celebration getting out of hand will be referred to the student disciplinary system and accountability will be upheld for those who broke the law and UD code of conduct.
“We do want to acknowledge those students who stayed away, acted responsibly and immediately followed law enforcement orders [March 25],” said Savalas Kidd, assistant vice president and chief of police. “However, there’s no excuse for the destructive, unsafe behavior we saw from some people in the student neighborhood. Jeopardizing the safety and security of our community cannot and will not be tolerated. When our officers witness behavior that is unsafe or violates the law, it is their duty to take action to protect our campus community.”
In a conversation with Flyer News, university president Eric Spina said UD officials will do a full post-incident report to understand what transpired at the gathering and potential plans to prevent and respond to large student neighborhood gatherings.
St. Patrick’s Day celebrations at the university have been a time-honored tradition including annual St. Paddy’s rituals of “40s at 4”— drinking a 40-ounce alcoholic beverage at 4 a.m.— a red-haired student race coined “The Ginger Run” and a day-drink on Lowes Street.
The celebration has been rescheduled by students for the past four years following St. Patrick’s Day arrests in 2018 and spring break falling over the holiday for the subsequent years. The 2020 celebration was canceled and unintentionally replaced by a chaotic street party dubbed “Corona Fest” the night UD students were asked to leave campus due to the pandemic.
Concerns for next year’s St. Patrick’s Day celebrations have been raised in the wake of this year’s day-drink. Because of an earlier Easter in 2024, university spring break and Easter break have broken the five-year streak of sending students away for the holiday. Next year’s St. Patrick’s Day also falls on a weekend.
“The university’s academic calendar is not based on one event or date,” university officials said in a statement responding to concerns. “The academic calendar differs year-to-year and is set around our students’ educational needs, academic requirements and the dates of Easter and spring graduation.”
Spina added that a weekend St. Patrick’s Day opens the celebration up for even more outsiders to join in. Non-students involved in the celebration don’t have to abide by the UD code of conduct and some were there for malintent, as indicated by the arrest numbers, Spina said.
“In addition, there were numerous calls for welfare checks, and first responders, including our student-run EMS service, had to transport multiple people to the hospital for alcohol-related issues,” university officals said in a statement. UD EMS declined to provide exact numbers or details on the types of emergencies.
Days prior to the mass-gathering on Lowes Street, Vice President for Student Development Bill Fischer and Kidd sent out a joint email to the campus community warning students about keeping spring celebrations safe.
“Campus safety remains the university’s top priority,” Fischer said following the St. Paddy’s chaos. “We know and appreciate the overwhelming majority of our students are here to learn and positively contribute to our community.”
Photos taken by Flyer News’ Director of Digital Media and Photography Keegan Gupta and submitted through social media by students Jenna Johnson, Dylan McNamara and a few who asked to remain anonymous.