Grinching the green: Wilfrid Laurier University bans St. Patrick’s Day celebrations from campus

Spooked by the spectre of 7,000 drunken university students flooding into the streets on St. Patrick’s Day, in , Ont., has authorized swift measures to purge the Irish-tinted celebration from its campus.

St. Patrick’s Day merchandise has been banned from the campus bookstore and vendors of green leprechaun hats have been turned away.

Extra security will be posted to keep drunk students out of campus buildings. And all building doors along the university’s south and western edges will be locked to seal the campus off from neighbouring street parties.

As university provost Deborah MacLatchy wrote in a message to staff, the measures are meant to “shift the culture” around Waterloo’s ever-rowdier St. Patrick’s Day.

The university expects all day and evening classes, labs and tutorials to run and be taught as scheduled

“The university expects all day and evening classes, labs and tutorials to run and be taught as scheduled on Thursday, March 17,” read her memo.

Waterloo, home to both Laurier and the University of Waterloo, has in recent years seen the feast day of Ireland’s patron saint become a day of wide intoxication.

Fuelled by busloads of students shuttling in from nearby communities, celebrations have centred around Ezra Avenue, a road flanked by student housing that has annually become crowded shoulder to shoulder with green-clad revellers.

Although the street party is not sanctioned by city authorities, each year the area turns impassable to traffic. It is dotted by student-run houses illegally selling kegged alcohol. A standard ploy is to charge a fee for an entrance bracelet to the street, and then give the alcohol away “free.”

Graham Hughes/The Canadian PressGraham Hughes/The Canadian PressSpectators attend a Patrick's Day parade in Montreal. University officials and police in Waterloo are attempting to “contain” celebrations in that city.

“Charging money for people to consume alcohol, even when promoted as a ‘cleanup fee’ or a ‘fee for the bracelet,’ is still considered selling alcohol by police and the courts,” reads a recent alert from Laurier university’s special constable service.

The notice also warns that fire extinguisher fights are a Criminal Code offence, and that public urination can incur a $240 fine.

“We’re not going to suppress it; we need to contain and manage it,” said Staff Sgt. Michael Haffner, a spokesman with Waterloo Regional Police.

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So far, nothing particularly violent or damaging has occurred, aside from a predictable torrent of litter, noise and liquor tickets.

Still, city officials fear that filling a tight area with a small army of drunken 20-somethings could quickly run off the rails.

Last May, Waterloo police board chairman Tom Galloway warned that St. Patrick’s Day could become a “major event we will regret,” according to the Waterloo Region Record. As police representatives have noted in past years, “all it takes is to have one person … to throw a beer bottle.”

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