Daily Egyptian

Mayor to students: Don’t drink so much

By Sam Beard, @SamBeard_DE

Carbondale Mayor Mike Henry wants students to step up their drinking game, and no, he does not mean chug more booze.

Having been dubbed “Drunktober” on social media, Unofficial Halloween — which begins Friday — is followed by Homecoming, Halloween and Tour de Carbondale to create four consecutive weekends of parties across the city. City administrators are taking extra precautions along with urging students to be responsible with alcohol consumption.

Henry, who said he did not participate in parties like these during his time as a student at SIUC during the late 1960s, said the large-scale events encourage unsafe binge-drinking among students.

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Henry said the city cannot legislate the parties out of existence, so it is up to the students and the Carbondale Police Department to maintain safety at these events.

“Get out and have a good time,” Henry said. “Try to eat some food, try to drink some water. We all know the effects of alcohol and we all know the next day isn’t pleasant either.”

Each year, 599,000 students between the age of 18 to 24 are unintentionally injured while under the influence of alcohol, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Disc-jockey Alex Corn, a junior from Crystal Lake studying hospitality tourism, entertained crowds at Solar Bear — another well-known local drinking event — in August of this year and will close out Tour de Carbondale at the party-on-wheel’s final stop under the stage name MCMC.

Corn said performances aside, he attends these events because they are fun, but recognizes the risks involved with heavy drinking.

“Over-consumption [of alcohol] is a big problem,” Corn said. “If people were more aware of themselves and their drinking I think a lot less accidents would happen. A lot less people would end up getting tickets or end up in the hospital.”

Last year, the Carbondale Police Department arrested or gave citations to 60 people during the weekend of Unofficial Halloween. Of the 60, 31 were SIUC students.

At Aspen Court Apartments during this year’s Solar Bear, police said they used pepper spray to disperse a crowd to safely remove someone from the area. Police issued 27 citations during this year’s Solar Bear, including 19 for underage possession or consumption of alcohol.

“Our police officers did an excellent job of handling the situation and waited as long as they possibly could — until they felt physically threatened — to use the pepper spray,” Henry said.

Corn said he does not think the Carbondale police are out to get the students, and during Tour, they even help block traffic to protect cycling students.

He said the police should continue to serve the students and not interfere with people who are just trying to have a good time.

Events like Solar Bear and Unofficial Halloween attract out-of-town people to Carbondale and can benefit local businesses financially. Last year, Brian Swaboda, manager at Harbaugh’s Cafe, told the Daily Egyptian the restaurant saw a 15 to 20 percent increase in business.

Corn said his friends who visit the city for these events are amazed by the scale, and believes the university’s party-school reputation is likely good for enrollment because young adults like to have fun.

Henry said the rowdy reputation likely contributed to the drop in university enrollment after its 1991 peak.

“I think it hurts enrollment because parents are afraid to send their kids here,” Henry said. “Parents just didn’t want their kids going to a party school. They’re paying all of this good money they want them to come here to work.”

Henry said the city’s police department is different now than 30 years ago.

“They have completely different approaches to crowd control and interacting with people that have had too much to drink or too much to smoke,” he said.

Carbondale Police Department could be reached for comment by press time.

As obtained by the Daily Egyptian through a Freedom of Information Act request, the department is scheduled to have 19 officers patrolling on Friday and Saturday.

The department would not release what sort of crowd-control equipment it will have available to officers. However, Henry said the police actively watch Internet activity related to the large-scale events.

“Our police are aware of them — they monitor social media — they watch for these things and they know where they’re happening,” Henry said. “We automatically have officers in the area.”

Corn said people need to look out for one another all the time, but especially at big parties when large volumes of alcohol are involved.

He said party-goers should not tolerate fighting because the events are not supposed to promote violence. Rather, they offer students an opportunity to have fun, build friendships and be themselves.

Sam Beard can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @SamBeard_DE.

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