18.11.05

WHAT, NO DENUNCIATIONS OF CLASSISM?

Joanne Jacobs finds local coverage of the Great Divide between Cheeseheads and Coasties at Wisconsin.
Of the 28,217 undergraduates at UW-Madison, 58% are from Wisconsin and 11% are from Minnesota.
Most of the other 31% come from Illinois, New York, California and New Jersey. These students form a distinct demographic, and are often clumped under the all-purpose category: Coasties.
Their tuition - $20,280 a year - is substantially higher than what students from Wisconsin and Minnesota pay, $6,280 and $7,802. That makes them more likely to come from wealthier families.
(Note the rationality at work. Although that $20,280 is notionally full fare, using arbitrary accounting allocations of unallocable joint costs, it's still cheaper, even with room and board, than four years at one of the Ivies, and with better football -- and hockey -- teams, and a larger pool of hook-up buddies. Since money is fungible, Wisconsin taxpayers are subsidizing well-to-do parents from other states, as well as the intellectual development of their own best and brightest, many of whom, like me, will draw paychecks in Greater Chicago.)

The Coasties apparently are a recognizable sub-species, worthy of satire at Hallowe'en.
The stereotypes go something like this:
Coasties are snobs who self-segregate in private dorms and the Greek system.
Wisconsin students are provincial and unwilling to accept outsiders.
Students say the rivalry is lighthearted and that friendships form across the divide.
"We just like to make fun of each other," Bach said.
The Diversity Weenies are aware of the situation.
Even so, the divisions are now addressed at freshman orientation, and some students say they feel as if they are attending separate universities.
But not quite ready to add new re-education sessions.
Lori Berquam, dean of students, described the cultural conflict on campus as "good-natured," and a lot of students agree.
But Wren Singer, director of orientation and new student programs, takes it seriously. At freshman orientation, students are prodded into discussions of "stereotypes of coastal culture vs. Midwest culture," Singer said.
"Most people think about ethnic diversity, people from different races," she said. "But I think it's much more likely that a freshman would make a derogatory comment about someone from the East Coast than someone of color."
To some extent, there's nothing new about this. My mom is among the six percent from the poorest quartile to finish college -- this during and immediately after World War II -- and to this day she'll gripe about Coasties who would flag down a taxi to go to class on a cold morning.

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