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Everyday Ethics

On State Patty's Day: Beyond Headaches and Infamy

Given that it's St. Patrick's Day, I thought today might be a good time for some reflection on the similarly named day of celebration that occurred in State College just before Spring Break. As that day approached, I became aware of various efforts that were afoot to provide alternative outlets for student energies--outlets that were designed to be more helpful for the larger community and more reflective of what we want to identify as the real character of Penn State. I was impressed by the way the PSU-IPL articulated the message behind their 'Positively Green' alternative, and by the way Sara Kizer articulated the reasons leading to the Council of Lion Hearts' 'State Service Day'.

Given that it's St. Patrick's Day, I thought today might be a good time for some reflection on the similarly named day of celebration that occurred in State College just before Spring Break. As that day approached, I became aware of various efforts that were afoot to provide alternative outlets for student energies--outlets that were designed to be more helpful for the larger community and more reflective of what we want to identify as the real character of Penn State. I was impressed by the way the PSU-IPL  articulated the message behind their 'Positively Green' alternative, and by the way Sara Kizer articulated the reasons leading to the Council of Lion Hearts' 'State Service Day'.

I decided to ask some of the students involved in offering these alternative outlets to share their thoughts about the experience. What I learned surprised me a little bit:

What I found to be a challenge with promoting alternate events on state patty's day was that [some] students automatically thought this meant we were anti-state patty's or want to ruin people's fun, but this is not the case. The conversation I had with other students just focused on having safe and respectful fun.  (Paige A. Rothaus, President of Panhellenic Council 2011)

[W]hen you speak to students about the negative things related to State Patty's Day, many ignore you because they believe you are trying to end this event. What they do not realize is that many student leaders still want students to have fun, but to also be responsible and respectful to the community. I think that the biggest hurdle is reaching out and letting students know that we just want them to be safe and respectful and to share this with their peers. (Sara Y. Kizer, Director of Council of LionHearts)

This means that at least some students believe that dangerous, irresponsible, and disrespectful behavior does not need to be a part of State Patty's Day. I have to admit that there is a big part of me that wants to believe that too. I want to think that the same character of Penn State students that we see evidenced by THON could also be seen in an event apparently dedicated to nothing more than cutting loose and having fun. There is another part of me, however, that has a hard time imagining what that would look like. Maybe it's because I haven't participated and seen the good side, or maybe it's because I haven't heard anyone articulate what State Patty's Day is really supposed to be about.

I am grateful to Paige and Sara, not only for speaking up for responsibility and respect, but also for helping me understand a bit more about State Patty's Day. I would be similarly grateful to anyone else who would be willing to speak up and share their answer to the question:

 What does this tradition offer us beyond headaches and infamy?