Madison, like other cities or towns home to a large public university, welcomed students to the campus and surrounding metropolitan area. Young adults have poured in from Wisconsin, the surrounding states and countries across the globe.
After a quick unpacking, the dye games will start up, bars will see an increase in attendance and people will be waking up wondering how they actually got home the night before. If you were to visit multiple land-grant universities around this time of year, it might be hard to tell the differences when all students are exhibiting the same behaviors.
However, the University of Wisconsin-Madison has more to it than the typical public university. It is situated in the same city that is home to the Wisconsin State Capitol, allowing greater opportunity for political action and protest. The campus and city are surrounded by four different lakes, putting the campus on an isthmus, something not many other colleges can claim. The school is home to worldly scholars and academics in any path you choose to follow.
While all these are great reasons why prospective students flock to our campus, the party scene is one that many point to as one of their deciding factors. Not to discredit the opportunities there are to have a great night out in Madison, but choosing this school for solely social reasons can belittle the unique aspects our institution has to offer. Instead, UW-Madison’s institutional opportunities should rise above the norms that are seen at other state schools.
Badger athletics is also a draw for many, particularly the football team with its home games at Camp Randall Stadium. With a team that has dominated the Big Ten West over the past few years, it is no surprise people love to huddle together on the famous grounds that began as a civil war training area.
Year after year, student tickets sell out early on a June morning, forcing students on break to have to set their alarms. The demand is so high that getting up early and into the queue doesn’t guarantee the coveted ticket. It all makes sense, to join with your classmates to cheer on a team that is more likely than not to come out victorious. Combine that with “Jump Around” at the end of the third quarter, one of the most respected traditions across the nation, and it sets up an event you would not want to miss.
Yet, when kick-off rolls around on those six Saturdays of the year, the student section is more aluminum than red and white. It is a conundrum and something that rightfully frustrates fans, administrators, alumni and students who missed out on the tickets.
Most college football fans will understand that the pregame tailgate is as essential to the game day festivities as the game itself. However, here at Madison, for many students, it triumphs over the event they paid money to watch.
While I’m sure Paul Chryst would love to have us students a little oiled up before entering the stadium to make sure we bring the noise, it doesn’t do him any good when we are too drunk to care about showing up.
Even if students seem to be showing up by the end of the first quarter, many of them leave just after “Jump Around.” We have never-ending attention to drinking, yet can’t sit through a three-hour game with friends and classmates — even in important games against respected Big Ten foes.
Instead of packing into Camp Randall, students take their place down Langdon, the houses surrounding the stadium, and the bars spread throughout and near the campus. They seem to forget they woke up early on a June day and paid to acquire the coveted tickets.
In their drunken stupor, it is more important to have another Busch, or five, or ten, rather than make their way to the stadium where the only drinks they will be able to have are the shooters they snuck past security. It isn’t that we go to the pregame to spend time with people, but rather, we go to these festivities in order to forget who came with us.
However, this isn’t a problem that solely impacts football games. Few would argue this sense of drinking has positive impacts on our scholastics, extracurriculars, social connections, and our personal, mental and physical health.
Attempting to have students drop these habits to study for classes they don’t necessarily care about is a futile practice. Unfortunately, this drinking goes further than just corroding our learning habits — it harms our ability to process the world around us.
A binge-drinker’s wonderland
One clear example of this is the Mifflin Block Party that occurs every year during the last weekend of April. In 1969, the Block Party was started by a group of students as a way to make their voices heard. During this era, students across the country were finding their role in our society to fight against the social ills of the day: civil rights, women's rights, nuclear weapons and the losing war in Vietnam. UW-Madison was among the most active campuses in the nation with respect to student activism.
While drugs of the time may have been used to enhance the celebration, the drinking culture of the students here has bastardized what the Mifflin Block Party originally stood for.
Next April, students will file through Mifflin street and the surrounding area. Bags of cheap wine will be followed by shots of even cheaper vodka. All this is done to try and cover the fears we have about the future that is rapidly approaching.
In 1969, students were beaten and arrested by cops for fighting against the imperialism of the U.S. government. Today, students are taken into custody for blowing numbers into breathalyzers that would make alcoholics cringe.
The original idea of the Mifflin Street Block Party is just another example of the uniqueness of the UW-Madison campus. These students who were willing to fight against the injustices of their day shaped some of the reasons why Madison was able to blossom into the high-ranking public university it is now. They had time for letting loose, yet they also understood their role as students and participants in society. Correctly, they used their time in Madison to take charge of the rapidly evolving world and create change in the areas it was needed.
Today, we ignore these challenges and unfamiliar areas much too regularly. It is easier to sit back and crack open another beer than it is to join the march heading through State Street to the capitol. By prioritizing drinking, students are not getting a valuable return on their large tuition payments.
While this culture continues to move in the direction of more ignorance and more mixies, please, at least attend the football games you bought tickets for this fall. We students waste enough money on things we will never use again.
John Kulis is a Sophomore staff writer currently studying Economics and Psychology. Do you think students should avoid binge drinking before football games to not waste their expensive season tickets? Send all comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.