One week ago, the Madison Police Department announced a crackdown on partying the last weekend before finals.
It’s the agreed upon weekend of the Mifflin Street Block Party – an event of revelry, which also happens to be the name of a separate event, now officially sanctioned by the city of Madison, the University of Wisconsin and its student government.
Mifflin is the Mecca of college partying -an unstructured, liability-riddled event. The city has spent millions over the past five years attempting to police this block party.
Revelry, while a fine idea in its own right, is simply the most recent and costly attempt to shift the burden of Mifflin-style partying away from the city and toward UW, and specifically, the UW student body.
A large, campus-wide party a mile from downtown Madison and under the jurisdiction of the university is, in the eyes of Mayor Paul Soglin, Ald. Mike Verveer and other city leaders, preferable to Mifflin.
It’s also preferable to university leaders, since the thinking is that students will be better behaved if they think their education may be adversely affected by a stupid drunken decision at a campus event.
That is what’s happening. I call it the “War on Mifflin,” an admittedly sensationalist and bombastic term.
Madison police will be vigilant all weekend. They will use draconian measures to break up parties, arrest underage drinkers, pack the city’s detox center and, essentially, turn downtown Madison into a police state.
Conversely, I can assure you that UWPD and paid security at and around Union South will be relaxed. They will allow the “revelry” to occur, and only interfere or arrest individuals when absolutely needed.
City officials will use the resulting statistics to move the goal posts and declare Revelry an obvious success in comparison to the horrid and irresponsible house parties around Mifflin and Langdon streets.
Those who organized Revelry have been played. They were told Mifflin would continue in a manner similar to the 2012 party. Sarah Mathews, Revelry’s chief organizer, lambasted MPD’s new measures in a statement Friday.
“A group of hardworking, forward-thinking Badgers came together to found Revelry, which is about creating a great year-end music and arts festival for UW-Madison,” she said. “They’ve put in unbelievable passion and effort into this, and it is frustrating to see this co-opted – and, in all probability, become less legitimate in the eyes of the student body because of this turn of events.”
“Less legitimate” doesn’t even come close to the reality, Sarah. It’s much worse.
It’s a fraud.
You and others who are organizing this event are taking money and throwing a party that the city finds less objectionable.
The end result will be that more of your fellow students will be arrested and cited for – God forbid – being college students and throwing house parties at semester’s end. Or, to use your words, being “fiercely independent.”
That is the reality of the War on Mifflin.
Sarah, the only way to walk this back is to cancel Revelry. You and other organizers of this event have become puppets of university leadership and Mayor Soglin, and you must pull your support from this obvious attempt to squash that fierce independence you describe.
I don’t have the solution to the city’s Mifflin problem. But this is not it.
***Editor’s note: A previous version of this online letter said Revelry was being funded through segregated fees. The Herald has not reported this to be the case, and we have edited the letter to reflect that reporting.***
Kevin Bargnes (@bargnes) worked for The Badger Herald from 2007 to 2011, and served as its editor-in-chief from 2010-11. He lives and works in Chicago and is, therefore, too old to go to Mifflin. Catch up with him at [email protected]