What’s Going To Happen On St. Patrick’s Day This Year?

Sean Newhouse  
News Editor

Article in brief:

  • The 3 p.m. return time from spring break on St. Patrick’s Day may either worsen or ameliorate student activities on the traditional party day for UD students, but there’s also a possibility that students will celebrate on a different day
  • SGA tried to change the 3 p.m. return time back to the usual 8 a.m. at a meeting with administration on Jan. 24
  • Chief Chatman said students will be unable to enter their residences prior to 3 p.m. but also that students can return to campus before the return time
  • Students will not be on campus at all for St. Patrick’s Day next year because it falls in the middle of the scheduled spring break

On Jan. 24, a lot of people went to a meeting.

Following the announcement on Jan. 15 that students were not permitted to return to their residences from the week-long spring break until 3 p.m., instead of the usual 8 a.m., on March 17 (St. Patrick’s Day), Student Government Association (SGA) President Bryan Borodkin requested a meeting with administration.

Borodkin was joined by SGA Vice President Erica Szczechowski and SGA VP of Communications Rhyan Pearson, along with SGA advisors Amy Lopez-Matthews and Chris Fishpaw. Administration officials who attended the meeting were Vice President for Student Development William Fischer, Director of Housing and Residence Life Steve Herndon and Dean of Students Christine Schramm.

At the meeting, Borodkin presented a 28-page document to the attendees with student concerns about the 3 p.m. return time.

“Some [concerns] were legitimate, some of them were illegitimate, some were legitimate but for illegitimate reasons,” Borodkin said. “And obviously I understand that and I want to be there on St. Patrick’s Day just as much as the next student does.” 

In his role as the primary liaison between students and administration, Borodkin said he had hoped that he could have convinced the university officials to change the 3 p.m. return time back to 8 a.m. so students could be on campus for most of the traditional party day for UD undergraduates. It seemed, to him, that the time change was what the majority of students wanted. But he quickly realized that wasn’t going to happen.

This anecdote represents one instance of the overt tension that has existed between students and administration this year, which could reach a climax on St. Patrick’s Day regardless of the 3 p.m. return time. Or St. Patrick’s Day 2019 could prove to be a relatively uneventful one. Or, even yet, the Irish Catholic feast day could be celebrated on campus on a day other than March 17.

What’s unquestionable is that the way students celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this year will have the potential to set the tone for student-administration relations for years to come and permanently alter UD’s campus culture.

Showdown between students and administration

Last year, police in riot gear had to break up the large crowd that had gathered on Lowes Street in the Student Neighborhood for St. Patrick’s Day. Body camera footage shows partiers throwing beer cans at the officers.

According to a statement from a university spokesman, 12 students, four of whom were from UD, were arrested for a variety of misdemeanor alcohol offenses between March 15-18. An additional three UD students were referred to the student disciplinary process. Nine individuals, one of whom was a UD student, were taken to the hospital.

In an email to students, President Eric Spina wrote “…today I am deeply disappointed in the behavior of many of you.”

Borodkin says he called his dad and told him, “This is the first day…that it’s been a sad day to be a Flyer.”

On Jan. 22, university officials confirmed to Flyer News that the 3 p.m. return time from spring break on St. Patrick’s Day was due to these events that transpired last year.

In an interview with Flyer News, Campus Police Chief Rodney Chatman said that the university will be securing student residences so that students cannot enter them until 3 p.m. on March 17. However, students can return to campus before then, but they will not have access to their residence, according to Chatman.

Chatman also said that the city of Dayton is assigning city police officers to UD’s campus for St. Patrick’s Day this year, which the city has done historically.

Despite the increased police presence and the fact that students will not be able to get into their residences until 3 p.m., at least one individual is trying to make St. Patrick’s Day 2019 “the biggest [one] in history!”

As of last Sunday morning, 536 people say they are going to, and 481 have said they are interested in, a Facebook event titled “St. Patrick’s Day 2019.”

The event, which was created by a page called “UD Events & Parties,” says it will last from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m. on March 17. The page “UD Events & Parties” seems to have been created this January and features only information about St. Patrick’s Day.

The creator(s) of the event also wrote, “The UD Events & Parties team is striving to ensure safe participation and respect towards the community. Please act responsibly and don’t ruin it for future events!”

March 17 also is “Selection Sunday” – when UD’s men’s basketball finds out if the team will be competing in the NCAA tournament.

Relatively uneventful

Chatman said his desired outcome to St. Patrick’s Day is his desired outcome for each day at UD.

“I would like students who are here to be safe, to be responsible, that’s my number one priority as law enforcement for the campus,” Chatman said. “And that doesn’t change because it’s St. Patrick’s Day.”

Chatman also asked students to police themselves and call out behavior they know is unacceptable. He said he’s previously seen students do this.

“I think our Flyer students who value being in community with one another can do that. And that’s what I’m looking for.”

Borodkin expressed a similar desire. He recalled a story from his first year on St. Patrick’s Day in 2017 when he witnessed someone throw a glass bottle in the street. The individual was called out by onlookers, and one student came out soon after and swept the glass shards into a dust pan.

The SGA president has “faith in the students” that they will monitor and control their behavior like they did in 2017.

Borodkin further commented that, from his perspective, most students who participated last year did so safely. But a few didn’t.

“A small group of people can ruin it for everyone,” he said.

St. Patrick’s Day celebrated on a different day?  

Barstool Flyers, a UD affiliate of Barstool Sports with more than 15,000 followers on Instagram, has been asking followers to vote on when students should celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

On Feb. 26, they posted, “March 17th will still be a big celebration but we need to know when to carry on our other sacred traditions such as 40’s @ 4 and the day drink.”

Vice President for Student Development William Fischer said the university will be ready if students celebrate on a day other than March 17.

“We’re prepared to manage that situation should it arise on another day,” Fischer said in an interview with Flyer News.

Borodkin similarly expressed confidence in the university’s ability to manage a St. Patrick’s Day celebration on a different day, but he also has his concerns.

On St. Patrick’s Day, the university sponsors alternate programming. For example, SGA provided hot dogs, which they ran out of, and water bottles last year.

The alternative programming might not be there if students celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on a day other than March 17, according to Borodkin.

Implications for the Future

“This has been the biggest challenge I’ve had this year,” Borodkin said about St. Patrick’s Day.

He told Flyer News he even teared up at the meeting on Jan. 24 with university officials out of concern that this year’s St. Patrick’s Day would be more unsafe than last year.  

The attendees of the meeting on Jan. 24, when SGA representatives were unable to change the spring break return time back to 8 a.m., had another meeting on Feb. 11. At that meeting, they agreed to three changes to promote student-administration relations. These changes were announced to the student body in an SGA email on Feb. 14.

The first change was that administration will be prompt when responding to student concerns. This was manifested in a Spring Break Housing FAQ created by Housing and Residence Life. While this form was available prior to the meeting, SGA representatives contributed to it based on the questions that they were receiving from students.

The second agreed upon change was that administration will be “upfront, detailed and transparent in communication.” Many students expressed annoyance with the university when the 3 p.m. return time was announced because it clearly was about St. Patrick’s Day, but the traditional celebratory day for campus initially wasn’t mentioned once by administration, Borodkin said.

The third change, and the most important one according to Borodkin, is that the administration will “involve students in decisions that will affect students.” The SGA president emphasized that the administration doesn’t have to abide by what the students want but that they should at least listen to concerns.

As an example, he said SGA was informed of the decision in July to end the university’s association with “Dayton 2 Daytona” ahead of the announcement. Borodkin said the administration neither informed SGA about the 3 p.m. return time prior to the announcement to the student body nor consulted any students about the decision.

While Borodkin is concerned about improving student-administration relations, university administrators also are focused on promoting the relationship between the city of Dayton and UD.

Chatman stressed that it’s important for students to be “good neighbors,” especially because of the importance the university has in the greater Dayton community.

He stressed that unacceptable student behavior on St. Patrick’s Day, or on any day, has an impact on more than just the UD community.

“They [Dayton police officers] certainly…would like to be police officers and protect their city and not feel as though they need to marshal all their resources here to the university based upon behavior that we as Flyers know is unacceptable.”

We’re not going to know what will happen at UD on St. Patrick’s Day this year until it happens. We do know from UD’s 2019-2020 academic calendar that St. Patrick’s Day falls next year in the middle of spring break, which will last from March 14-22. But Borodkin said he plans to enjoy the traditional holiday safely this year.

“I have every intention of enjoying the holiday with my friends, trying to enjoy the tradition as much as I can but doing so not only in a safe way but in a respectful way,” he said “Because I know that the administration is going to be watching, and they’re going to take the actions of the students this year into account when they think about what St. Patrick’s Day is going to look like in the future.”

Photos taken by Christian Cubacub.