Up All Night gives students an alternative to Morgantown's club scene

Up All Night is West Virginia University's answer to the Morgantown bar scene.

Since 1998 the university has been offering mostly free food and entertainment at the Mountainlair, its student union, on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

It's not cheap.

Mike Ellington, assistant vice president for student affairs, estimates that the program costs the university $350,000 a year. Yet he is confident it will continue.

With 3,000 students attending per weekend, participation is high, and "if it saves one person, it's worth it," he said.

WVU was among the first couple of schools to come up with such an alternative to partying and binge drinking. Now institutions across the nation have similar programs, and companies specialize in providing the entertainment.

Some of the police who are assigned to work the program each weekend believe students have a tendency to disrespect it.

On the other hand, employees of the Mountainlair say the program has seen predominantly cooperative behavior and the students seem to have a high opinion of it.

"I think this is a great program. I met my best friend through the Up All Night program. It provided me with a unique opportunity to meet people, being that I came from Connecticut," said Brian Sinchak, a communications major.

"It was started to provide an alternative for students who don't want to drink," said Allen Flanagan, the Mountainlair's night operations supervisor.

The program offers many alternative activities to students.

Sonja Wilson, program administrator, said Thursdays are educational night and Fridays and Saturdays are interactive nights. She said Thursdays include movies, lectures, and Comedy Caravan, featuring professional comedians. Tutoring is offered all three nights.

While some activities begin as early as 8 p.m., most offerings, including the free food, are available from about 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., Ellington said. Local bars typically issue "last calls" for drinks about 2 a.m.

Campus police officers are assigned to Up All Night every weekend.