John Wiley never makes speeches about it; UW tour guides don’t advise you about it when you make a prospective visit. There is no campus organization or community action website dedicated to talking about this festering sore: Wisconsin/East Coast relations.
When I first got to UW my freshman year, I thought I was going to meet some nice folks from Wisconsin and Minnesota, but after two weeks in the Statesider – my older Coastie friends told me to live there – I was only meeting people from the 30 percent constituting the out-of-state student population. I hadn’t met any Midwesterners, and, no, Highland Park doesn’t count, as it is just the Long Island of the Midwest.
I decided enough was enough and I was going to meet some nice Wisconsinites. I should have known things weren’t going to go smoothly when people were astonished my high school wasn’t named after a cardinal direction (East, North) or entitled Memorial.
These nice Midwesterners also told my gullible ass that cow tipping was a real sport in the Northwoods. I took their word for it, much to my chagrin. Late one winter night I found myself sunk knee deep in manure on a trip back from the Dells with a field full of cows just mooing at me.
But I don’t blame you, great people of Wisconsin. If my state were invaded by a bunch of snobs who took cabs from the Towers to Vilas Hall, I’d be pissed too.
If you don’t believe me about this divide, the writing is on the wall — literally. You could call this the quiet war, since it is rarely discussed, with the front lines being the cubicles at Helen C. Hurtful statements adorn the boxes, such as “North Face bitches go home” and “I hate Wisconsin hicks.”
Well, if I must comment, North Face clothes really do keep you much warmer than those red and black lumberjack coats. If you feel so inclined to heat your homes with wood instead of stepping into the 21st century, be my guest. Just don’t ridicule amenities such as central heat because you’re jealous.
Conversely, the East Coast provincialism must stop. You are in Madison – why not enjoy and embrace it? Seriously, the next person to spout off a “back in New York…” statement in class should be booed by the entire lecture.
But I’m not here to start fights. Maybe the Com Arts department could publish a guide to be distributed during SOAR. The following would be an excerpt: a “beg” (n) is a apparatus used to carry or store a multitude of objects; a “bubbler” (n) is not drug paraphernalia, but rather a water disperser typically found in schools; “barrels” (n) are not sent over Niagara Falls – they keep 165 12 oz. beers deliciously cold. Most importantly, “pop” (n) is not a type of music a sugary carbonated drink.
The campus on Saturdays is like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. During the day we adorn ourselves in red, get absolutely plastered and join hands in singing Varsity, ignoring all accents, brand names, and Greek letters. But when night falls, we retreat to our separate parties and own bars. This kind of divisiveness hasn’t been seen since Alabama’s Gov. George Wallace.
I just wish for a campus where I could go into the Red Shed without getting looks like I have a third nipple on my forehead or have my Sconnie friends come to my parties without fear of getting Medusa-like stares from the Coastie girls.
The divide is astounding, not just socially, but also geographically. We so rarely venture into each other’s territory that you would think each area was quarantined with the Ebola virus.
The divide is certain, like a game of capture the flag, with both sides hiding their flag where no one from the opposing faction would ever venture. For the Coasties this would be deep inside Stillwaters and for the Sconnies it would be anywhere on Regent Street.
What we need here is an innovative change. I am calling on the UW administration to come up with a Road Map, a comprehensive peace solution that will bring tranquility to the campus. Unlike the failed U.S.-led effort, the UW quartet of Wiley, Alvarez, Cieslewicz and Bucky would present a four-year plan that would end with full Sconni-Coastie immersion.
Whether we join hands in singing “Kumbaya,” create another organization competing for SSFC funding or all just simultaneously chug a beer, harmony must happen. I see a Wisconsin where overalls and Prada bags unite, not divide. If we want Rose Bowls, tenant rights, or the highly sought-after title of the No. 1 party school in the nation, the East Coast/Midwest conflict must end.
Andrew Fein ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in journalism.