The Arizona Desert Lamp

College Culture Clash

Posted in Campus by Evan Lisull on 10 September 2008

This story from last week’s Weekend Journal may resonate in part with many here at the UA (although it don’t think that it’s nearly this bad):

In Indiana University’s Assembly Hall last Friday, a remarkably large chorus hailing from private high schools in the Northeast was singing the school’s ode to the “Cream and Crimson” in a pronounced New York accent.

It’s a striking byproduct of one of the most competitive college admissions sessions ever — an influx of East Coast prep-school students in Indiana.

. . .

During sophomore year, instead of pledging fraternities and sororities, many New Yorkers move into off-campus houses or an apartment complex called Smallwood, two blocks from a bar called Sports where Northeast natives congregate most nights in a corner. (Some students call that section of the bar the “L.I.E.” — after the Long Island Expressway.) A new store recently opened in town called Longgg Island Apparel that sells Diesel jeans, trendy “Ed Hardy” brand T-shirts and gold chain necklaces.

. . .

To many Midwesterners, all the East Coast kids seem the same. Thursday night at a bar downtown, a Wall Street Journal reporter’s questioning spurred a heated debate between seniors from New York and the Midwest. Rob Morgan, a 22-year-old sports-communications major from Bloomington, wanted to know why the New Yorkers huddled in their regular section of the bar couldn’t “step outside of their comfort zone” or say “excuse me” when they bumped into him. His friend Ryan Leffler of St. Louis complained of girls from New York in skin-tight black pants who thought they were “God’s gift to Earth” and gave him the cold shoulder when he approached them at the bar.

New Yorker Steven Press retorted, “You just don’t like us because we don’t drive pickup trucks from ’82.” He says the personalized license plates have been ripped off his Lexus twice.

After three years at IU, Samantha Barton hasn’t spent much time outside class socializing with her Midwestern classmates because she thinks they have so little in common. But the Armonk, N.Y., native has also noticed that her Indiana counterparts appear to be more “optimistic” and is beginning to wonder if there’s a link.

“I like when things go my way, and if something bad happens to me I’ll cry all day and I’ll need, like, a Xanax,” she says. As for her classmates from Indiana, she says, “They seem….happier.”

Ignoring the whole Xanax comment (I believe that a Mr. Huxley covered this one), the UA has been fortunate to avoid this problem. Part of this, I think, is that Arizona culture, especially in the metropolitan areas, has already been heavily polluted by the snowbirds and their Midwestern kin. Yet even with this influence, there hasn’t yet been a massive migration. The Chicago influence is steady, but not stifling.

Some might point to the presence of “UC-Arizona” phenomenon as a similar phenomenon. Certainly there are many California expatriates, even outside of the university. But there isn’t a “California row,” nor do California kids scorn their lower Arizona brethren. The issue is less of geographic culture, and more a conflict between different income classes, not exactly a new issue on campus.

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