Over the weekend, the University of Illinois students participated in the annual drinking weekend known asUnofficial. After the tragic loss of a fellow Illini, university officials have begun to rethink the 21-year-old holiday all together, suggesting it be permanently removed.
According to the News-Gazette, Chancellor Robert Jones vowed this past Monday to start a conversation soon with city officials and U of I community partners to stop the annual drinking weekend.
"It is antithetical to everything we try to teach our students about responsible use of alcohol. It works against all of that," he told The News-Gazette on Monday. "Where it goes, we don't know. But we're willing to give it a try to come to some mutual understanding about how detrimental this event is and how it reflects badly on the whole community, and not just the university," Jones said.
The Chicago Tribune weighed in on the subject and spoke to Robin Kaler, a spokeswoman for the university, who said, “We’ve tried what seems to be everything; but, we’ll go back and try some more because we can’t just throw our hands up and say, ‘Oh well, we tried.’ That’s not acceptable.”
In the past 21 years, Unofficial has resulted in the deaths of three fellow students, which is three too many. However, to many students, Unofficial is not much different than other weekends at the university; such as the first week of classes, spring break, and the week before finals, which all result in large amounts of drinking. Removing Unofficial is not going to protect the students from unsafe drinking and it will not convince them to stop going to bars and skipping classes. To many students and alumni, Unofficial is an annual day to kick back and celebrate, and has become something many students look forward to.
All we can do right now is continue to educate the students and encourage them to make smart, safe choices in hopes of preventing another tragedy and further loss at the university and within our community.
Top photo by Scott Wells.