Compared to the 2009 and 2010 Mifflin Street block parties, which were hazily remembered but mostly calm affairs, last year’s celebration was out of control. Although there were fewer arrests last year than in 2010, there were more than 20 trips to detox, three injured officers, three sexual assaults and two stabbings. I love reveling alongside my fellow students but Mifflin needs to be a party where everyone can go have fun and not get stabbed, so some changes need to be made.
Given the variety of interests involved in Mifflin, it is hard to separate the wheat from the chaff in terms of ideas to help the party. Since trying to quash the party would be nearly impossible, and moving the event also seems unlikely, Mifflin is even more complicated. Some people have suggested bringing in socially active speakers or non-profit booths, but making Mifflin boring is the most limp-wristed approach possible and any type of pacifying effect will be temporary.
This year, the Mifflin police force, with some more horseback units than years past, will be strictly enforcing the laws. But over-enforcement will reap no long-term benefits either, and it will only anger the students who are still standing after they receive their tickets. Mayor Paul Soglin has said the city needs to “thread the needle” in terms of Mifflin. He is correct, but restraining the party hardly indicates the deftness of his metaphor.
I have many fond memories of Mifflin, and I think that the party is important to a campus that is extremely proud of its work-hard-play-hard reputation. So what should be done to save the beloved party? Mifflin will only be saved by the love students have for it, and that love needs to be expressed through new ideas before Madison police and residents slowly kill it off. Here are a few ideas.
Mifflin needs to be treated as more ordinary, and people will act more ordinary. To start, Madison should embrace the balmy anarchism of the party and let it get really weird by removing the vast majority of the police presence. Removing the cops will force students to keep their wits because there will be no cops to whisk them away if things get out of control. That means fewer inebriated belligerence and fewer stabbings. There is no certainty that increasing police presence can stop freak occurrences like the two stabbings last year. The only answer is having students police themselves, which is what happens the rest of the time when it is not the first Saturday in May. Since there still needs to be a police presence, why not use a system of either mounted or radio-controlled video surveillance supported by fewer officers on the ground? This vision of Mifflin is admittedly dystopian and possibly more dangerous for the first year, but forcing students to monitor themselves will stifle some of the assaults and trips to detox that Mifflin can produce in the long run.
My second idea is inspired by a trip to Osh-kosh’s spring bar crawl. Although the bar-crawl is hardly comparable to Mifflin in terms of scale or environment, Madison could learn from the bi-annual event. The entire bar-crawl is oriented towards profit-maximization. The local bars, police officers on duty and police officers paid to do security worked in tandem to keep the event fun and fluid. The profit incentive has always been missing from Mifflin, so other than the occasional sponsor, organizations do not really have any interest in helping regulate the behavior of party-goers. This is why Halloween sees only a fraction of arrests compared to Mifflin. On Halloween, everyone is just trying to make a buck, and that means keeping underage-drinking, violence and over-drunkenness to a minimum. I don’t want to see Mifflin be turned into Halloween, but by bringing in beer-vendors, food-carts and other businesses, more people will have a vested interest in Mifflin as a whole, as opposed to just being interested in getting their drunk on.
If these ideas don’t sound great to you, I urge you to think about how Mifflin can be changed for the better. And hopefully 20 years from now a bunch of Wiconsinites will still keep the first Saturday in May sacred by shotgunning nasty beer and swilling cheap vodka.
David Ruiz is a senior majoring in English. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.