It’s Mifflin time again! I hope everyone enjoys this last chance of the semester to blow off steam with one of the University of Wisconsin’s best-known traditions.
Oh, right, I forgot; we have rewritten the past few years of Mifflin history and turned it into the Drunkpacolypse that must be beaten into the ground and stopped lest a few kids get drunk and possibly even have a good time.
For weeks, I have been reading that it is basically impossible to stop Mifflin from being anything other than a blacked out, assault-ridden and stab-happy riot. Because if there is one thing we know about official people talking about Mifflin (I’m looking at you, Lori) the only thing not to do is consider it rationally.
Since I am safely unofficial, allow me to break down the den of sin that our dear dean of students has no better answer to than “don’t go.”
Nearly everything that went wrong last year happened because of the decision to allow open intoxicants on the streets. It was a stupid idea, and like most stupid ideas, it was done in the hopes of making money. The idea that the Street Use Permit (allowing drinking on city property: street, sidewalk, terrace) along with vendors selling beer at the event would help regulate the drinking was asinine. Instead, as numerous reports have indicated, it helped foster an anything-goes attitude and made it much easier for people without any connection to the residents of Mifflin to show up with their 30 racks of Natty Light and cause havoc.
In the two years before that, the understanding that there was a limit to the freedom of the event was imperative to its success. Just the knowledge that the sidewalk was where the party ended and that getting too drunk and overstepping those bounds would have consequences was enough to keep the party under control.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported after the 2010 event, “The revelers were mostly well-behaved this weekend at the heavily attended annual Mifflin Street Block Party.” It’s a 100-word story, barely even newsworthy except to say: Mifflin happened again, a bunch of people got tickets for open intoxicants, everything else was fine (gosh those Madison kids sure do know how to have a great day drink).
But in two short years, according to Madison Police, the event “simply can’t continue.” Now there is going to be no music, the police aren’t going to block the street off, nearly every house will be posting “No Trespassing” signs and all indications point to a heavy crackdown should anyone think to have too good of a time.
It’s a little disappointing we can’t find a reasonable solution to Mifflin. It isn’t an “excuse to get drunk” or “only about drinking.” We are the premier party for a school that does two things perfectly: We work hard and we play hard. That’s it. That is who we are and, for the vast majority of us, why we wanted to come to Madison.
Mifflin is a different event every year, and until people tried to make money off it by selling beer, it was a manageable size. Gone were the days of rioting in the ’90s; everyone knew there was a freedom to enjoy the opportunity, and to let loose with thousands of other people. The restriction that started with the sidewalk permeated the rest of the event with a clear message: Have fun, but stay in control.
Now the message has changed. Last year’s breakdown has been blamed entirely on the students, and instead of recognizing a simple return to the way things were run in 2010 and a continued emphasis on providing alternative forms of entertainment, such as a better headlining band like Freakfest does, we have austerity.
The cyclical nature of the Mifflin overreaction is clear. Last year was a failure policy-wise, so this year the hammer is being dropped. Regardless, the students are going to show up, and we are going to drink, listen to music, dance and have a good time. Scary, I know.
John Waters (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a junior majoring in journalism.