We live in Rolla, MO, a smallish city of roughly 19,000 people. The place is dominated by a state university, Missouri University of Science and Technology, to be specific. It is a mainstay of Rolla, a large employer for the area. The university began in 1870 as the School of Mines and Metallurgy. Now it’s known as the school in Missouri to enroll at if you want to be an engineer, work in the field of computers, or work in any field of science or mathematics.
For some unknown reason, back in the early 1900s, a group of students decided to have a party, and they decided to pick a saint to give their party concept an air of “honor”. They chose St. Patrick, claiming he was the patron saint of engineers. Who knew engineers had a patron saint? I sure didn’t! Supposedly good old St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland and did do his level best to spread the gospel message to the natives of the Emerald Isle, but patron saint of engineers?
Every year since that group of students began their traditional party, the week in March leading up to St. Patrick’s Day has become a time for the students to slack off, and for some, it’s time to just party the days away; beer, booze, and who knows what else. Rolla gets in on the “fun” by holding a St. Patrick’s Day parade. It’s the typical small-town parade: high school marching bands, some honorary civic-minded citizens wearing various green outfits smiling and waving from convertibles as they are driven along the parade route, boy and girl scout groups, people on horseback, dogs decorated in green costumes, some of the college students march in the parade, some groups build floats for the parade. The parade lasts a little over an hour and then the partying begins anew.
As I was listening to the local radio station on Monday morning, I heard that one of Rolla’s ministers went to the latest city council meeting to inform them as to how the church’s property was mistreated by party-goers. People with no intention of attending the church had filled the parking lot with their cars, and some folks decided to hold their parties in the parking lot! Of course, those happy folks didn’t clean up after themselves. The church’s worshippers, on Sunday morning, couldn’t find many parking spots due to the partiers leaving their cars in the church’s lot. City council was then informed about some idiot or idiots who went to Lion’s Club Park and drove their car(s) in the grass, in 360 degree circles, or “donuts”, tearing up areas of the park. The other act of vandalism that irritated me when I found out about it was that an Eagle Scout’s project had been destroyed. There is a nice, new memorial to veterans near a nice walking trail in Rolla, on the southwest side of town. Last year, a boy scout wanting to earn his Eagle Scout badge, built a proper burn pit so that the park could host the proper ceremonies for retiring old American flags. The burn pit was totally torn apart and destroyed.
I was told years ago, in the late 1970s and during the 1980s, the St. Patrick partiers shenanigans were getting out of control; businesses and other personal properties were being damaged. The city council and mayor had a meeting with the University’s Chancellor and told him to get the celebrations under control or St. Patrick’s wouldn’t be celebrated anymore. The University complied and the damaging shenanigans ceased. I think it’s time for the Mayor and city council to visit the current Chancellor and let her know that destruction of property in Rolla isn’t going to be tolerated.
Granted, I don’t have proof that drunken college students partied in a church’s parking lot, destroyed park property, and destroyed a burn pit. However, when parties are broadly advertised and people flock to them, it’s pretty much a guarantee that people behaving badly will be the result.
I do have to wonder why the University allows the students to start their partying days before St. Patrick’s Day even arrives. I was at the Post Office on Tuesday, March 10th, and across the street, the fraternity house had 2 members standing on the front yard drinking beer and blasting music. At least it was country music, but to some that musical choice would be a crime!
My question to the University is if you want to have a parade, crown a St. Patrick and pick a Queen of Love and Beauty, then why not do so on the morning of the parade? Those events could happen at 10 am and then the parade could begin at 11:00. Tell the professors that classes and assignments, tests and quizzes will still happen that week so that the students will still have to work and not have a bunch of free time to while away with drinking. If the beer bashes don’t begin days before the parade and only happen Friday night and after the parade, perhaps some of the damage done by the partiers will be minimal.
To businesses and churches with parking lots within walking distance of the parade and the campus proper, my husband wondered why don’t they charge money to park in their lots? That’s what lots in St. Louis do when people drive in for a sporting event. Or block your lot off. Yes, it’s a hassle as you might have to have employees or church volunteers man the lot to make sure the barriers aren ‘t moved but that would be another way to keep the idiots at bay.
My rant is over, and this video clip about the real St. Patrick might be enlightening for the university community.