The coastie-sconnie dilemma. I’m sure you’ve read a column or two related to this subject for the past several semesters. But before you turn the page, understand that my perspective is one you’ve probably never read before.
If not, send me a hateful e-mail or something for wasting your time. I can take it.
See, my bar mitzvah was March 31, 2001 in Sudbury, Mass. This means several things, one being I come from a Jewish family, another being I’m from the East Coast, and thus, I must be — yes, you nailed it — a coastie.
But my defense against that resides in the name of my freshman residence hall, Sellery Hall. Coasties don’t live in Southeast campus, right?
Please, read on.
According to Mr. Webster himself, the word “assimilation” means “The process by which a person or persons acquire the social and psychological characteristics of a group.”
We clearly have an assimilation problem here on this campus. But the question is: Why? Those who think there are too many out-of-state undergraduates are just as at fault as those who choose not to assimilate. Diversity, even geographically speaking, is a good thing. It’s why this school is what it is.
The root of this assimilation problem lies in the foundation of two large buildings overlooking State Street, one on top of Potbelly’s, the other on top of Urban Outfitters. Like Harry Potter’s arch nemesis, we will keep them unnamed.
These two buildings have not only perpetuated the coastie stereotype, but have also segregated this campus, to some degree.
And the stereotypes are often times stemmed from ignorance, as are the sconnie stereotypes, to be fair. It’s like when my dad taught me to hate the Yankees at age 3. I didn’t know why, but I began to loathe even the thought of pinstripes. Today, high school seniors from Oconomowoc are taught what a coastie is when they first step foot on campus. They generalize without ever having met anyone east of Milwaukee. That’s how stereotypes work.
And it’s because of those buildings. Know how I know? Because my friends from Oconomowoc don’t consider me a coastie. I shared a bathroom with 27 other guys just like they did freshman year.
Freshman year is a time to meet new people. And your freshman friends are the ones with whom you typically sign a lease for sophomore year.
Herein lies the problem.
It’s not the coasties themselves that people have a problem with, it’s the “coastie scene.” There are coastie private dorms, primarily coastie upperclassmen residential areas, coastie bars and coastie Greek life. And if you’re a member of one, chances are you’re a member of many, if not all. It’s essentially a Badger subculture, only isolated in many ways. That’s what people find obnoxious. If you’re going to fly to school, at least make an effort to branch out. Those buildings almost encourage the opposite.
Don’t believe me? Take University of Michigan as an example. Very similar academic and demographic characteristics as Madison. No private dorms. No coastie-sconnie (what’s a semi-derogatory name for a Michigander?) tension or hostility. For me, it’s that simple. Eliminate the buildings that shall not be named and the segregation, as well as much of the tension, is gone. Force kids to live in the public dorms, and the hometown-based feud vanishes in a cloud of newfound, formerly unthinkable friendships and experiences. Cute, I know, but it’s true.
To clear things up, I’m not faulting anyone who chooses to live in the private dorms — though I question why they came to Wisconsin in the first place. Although I’m glad I didn’t, I’m fine with those who choose that path. But unfortunately for everyone, it’s created things that need not exist at a university as highly touted as UW: tension, stereotypes and hostility based mostly on ignorance and a lack of interaction and communication.
Barack Obama is our president and yet this issue reminds me more of the 1950s than it does 2010, which is now just weeks away.
My impromptu, not-thought-out solution is for UW to buy the buildings and make them part of a newborn, integrated university.
Unfortunately, the feasibility of that is probably next to none. But until this campus rids itself of those looming towers (pun intended) overlooking that string of ethnic restaurants on State Street (ironic, isn’t it?), expect the coastie-sconnie skirmish to continue. It’s the one glaring downfall of an otherwise extraordinary collegiate cultural experience.
Derek Zetlin ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in economics.