Unofficial creator would support ending event

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CHAMPAIGN COUNTY — Even students at the University of Illinois admit that Unofficial St. Patrick’s day can get out of hand. Now the man who came up with the idea says he wouldn’t mind if it ended. The event has been going on since the 1990’s. Three UIUC students have died during the celebration, including one this past weekend. The chancellor says they need to do something.

Scott Cochrane, who started it, says he’d be happy to talk with campus leaders, but they haven’t approached him about it. Cochrane says what’s going on now is completely different from the way it started. In the beginning, it was just something for his bars, but now a lot of the activities have moved to student’s homes, which can be tougher to keep an eye on. As a parent, he says it’s worrisome to see how things have gone, especially with a tragedy this weekend, but he’s not sure how they can fix it.

The sea of green is a tradition in March near the UIUC campus. Students celebrate Unofficial before they leave for spring break. Even though many party-goers are seen with smiles, there has also been tragedy. That includes this past weekend. 23-year old Jonathan Morales died after falling from an apartment balcony Friday night.

“Unfortunately, yeah, that’s really sad,” said UIUC senior John Pelka. “No one likes to hear that stuff.”

Cochrane is aware of the dangers, but none of those tragedies have happened at his bars. University leaders have vowed to crack down on the event. They’ve been doing it for years already.

“I think they do a good job,” said Pelka. “I think it just comes down to students being a little more responsible.”

The chancellor says they want to look at ending Unofficial, but students say a total shutdown may not be the best idea.

“I don’t think students would follow it and I think there would be backlash, definitely,” said Pelka.

It’s not clear what the future will hold for the event, but people we talked with agree that safety should be part of the tradition.

Cochrane says the last few years, their business on Unofficial hasn’t been much different than a normal weekend, since students choose to party elsewhere. He says he also doesn’t advertise the event, it just happens, so he or any other bar owner can’t control what the students do from there. 

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