Describing a Weekend – 2017


Here in this rural college town, so much has been written about last year’s Spring Splash weekend, and concern that a weekend college event this year (even without the same principal sponsor) might prove equally disappointing.

Discussions, debates, plans, hopes for a good experience, arguments about who was responsible for last year’s mishaps, a draft and a final mailer warning about penalties for nuisance-behavior: Whitewater saw it all. (I’ll write about the drafts & the mailer at a later time, as they’re an illustration of officials’ community outlook.)

And yet, and yet, here we are, after a cold and rainy weekend that surely discouraged time outside.

One key to this community’s culture will be found in how this successful weekend is described. Comparing headlines from the Janesville Gazette with the local Banner website is illuminating.

Janesville Gazette (main page link & article after link):

Whitewater party goes smoothly
No major issues in absence of Whitewater’s Spring Splash (article after link)

Whitewater Banner:

(May 1) Public Safety Maintained in Whitewater Throughout Weekend

Quite the difference. The Gazette describes a general success from the point of view of the festivities; the Banner (and local officials, presumably) look at this as maintaining order.

The two publications likely have similar demographics, but the Gazette is more distant from locals’ worries about college students, and so approaches the weekend without leading with the perspective that social events are about maintaining order.

Indeed, I doubt that most local officials could view the event in any other way; they’d not be able to write freely a headline like the Gazette‘s.

Fair enough, but one can see that the in-town headline is only useful in town: it’s no recommendation that after decades of living in this city, local officials still haven’t found a way to relate to the campus through a cooperative, and not an authority-driven perspective. To be candid, though, that’s what many non-college residents in Whitewater want.

One can view and respond to the university this way, of course, but only at the price of holding back the attraction of the campus relative to competitor schools with better town-gown relations.

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