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Etc.: Dear students ...
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This week’s column in your favorite weekly newspaper is targeted at UW–Platteville students, especially new students, though paragraph eight is about Platteville, not just UWP. Feel free to pass this on to a UWP student you know.

Welcome, or welcome back, to Platteville. This is your home for the next eight months or so, and if it goes reasonably well, up to the next four years.

You are getting the benefit of millions of dollars in investments over the past decades by those who came before you, in terms of tax dollars to construct and equip buildings and pay faculty and staff, and others’ intellectual contributions to what now is UW–Platteville. (Which has only been called UW–Platteville for the past 40 or so years. Hint: It has to do with the big M east of campus.)

Any college has a significant number of students who are away from home for an extended period for the first time in their lives. One thing new students learn is how to get along with other students, who are not related to you, in the same building. (Your parents might have a different opinion from yours about how well you got along with those who are related to you, but that’s a subject for Christmas break.)

One reason for the interesting relationship between Platteville and UW–Platteville is where students live in Platteville. In most college towns, students who live off campus live relatively close to campus. This is not the case in Platteville. In fact, UWP students live in nearly every part of Platteville. This is easy to observe on a weekday around, say, 7:30 a.m. when what I call the Walk of the Zombies takes place — less-than-awake students holding beverage cups like Olympic torches from all parts of the city to the campus.

That means that your neighbors probably include the half or so of Platteville which is not directly connected to UW–Platteville. The occupants of those houses you’re walking past on the way to or from downtown after sundown may be not as appreciative of your singing, or jokes, or off-color language as you and your friends are. That’s especially the case if those houses you’re walking past include young children.

That includes downtown, by the way. Platteville has many apartments above downtown businesses. The people who work in those businesses may not have the same musical tastes as you do, and are probably not interested in hearing your music while they are trying to work during the day, or even late at night.

You may therefore find that your interactions with Platteville residents are not all positive. Part of that may be unfortunate stereotyping, where the misdeeds of your predecessors (for instance, the aforementioned being loud after dark, or vandalism or petty theft) cause residents to paint you with the same broad brush. This is unfair, but life is unfair.

Some Platteville residents also don’t realize that Platteville is a better place because of UW–Platteville. Platteville has more retail and more things going on, both of a cultural nature and of an entertainment nature (for instance, your football team), directly because of UWP. I’ve heard more than once from people that unlike most of the surrounding area, Platteville is growing, and that has a lot to do with UWP. It’s also ironic that towns smaller than, say, La Crosse would kill to have new college graduates move to their town, but Platteville has 1,500 graduates every year, and doesn’t do much to keep them here. The fact is that Platteville is the best place to live in southwest Wisconsin because of UW–Platteville, and UW–Platteville is a good place for you because of Platteville and us residents.

In that spirit, this is news to both new and returning students: Earlier this summer, the Platteville Common Council passed a new ordinance prohibiting public intoxication. The first month the ordinance went into effect saw six people thus charged, including one whose disappearance required both the Platteville Fire Department and Grant County Sheriff’s Department to be called to find him.

I bring this up to let you know that those who engage in what I euphemistically call Stupid Student Tricks will be in the paper at least once, and probably twice. Public criminal records from the Grant County Courthouse can be found on pages 8B and 9B of this newspaper every week. (Do not bother calling to ask to not have your name printed.) Stories about people who get arrested or cited for said Stupid Student Tricks are usually found in the A section.

Getting in the newspaper by demonstrating your legal or factual inability to handle adult beverages won’t make your parents happy, but it might follow you around far longer than you’d suspect, thanks to those two words, “public records.” More importantly, neither law enforcement nor UWP personnel want to have to call your parents and tell them that something tragic has happened to you. Nor do I want to write that story.

You may have read commentators discount the advantage of a college degree because of its high cost. It’s true that you really can’t learn everything you need to learn for the work world in college. That’s not really the point, though. College should be about learning how to learn, and engaging your brain in ways it’ll be much harder to do once you graduate. Even in a relatively homogeneous state such as Wisconsin, you’ll meet people on campus who are as unlike you as you’ll find in this state.

One more piece of advice: Unlike the vast majority of people your age in other countries, you have the opportunity to learn. Take advantage of it. Getting a college degree when you’re also in the work world is much more difficult. And when you graduate in a few years (and yes, that’ll get in this newspaper too), remember the hell that moving here was, and find a place within, say, three miles from where you now live as your permanent address.