Monday, April 10, 2006

Grand Forks: Loves our Money, Hate students

Like many other students, I am valueless in the eyes of Grand Forks.

I am not an athlete, I am not a willing drudge, nor do I bring much revenue to the city. In fact, since I am quite fond of parks and libraries, I actually am taking up revenue as opposed to bringing them in. I also am (unintentionally) bringing down average wages in the city, which makes the "townies" resent me in some small measure.

For you see, Grand Forks hate us. We are the "other". We are the out-of-towner that disrupts their peace and status quo. We are too loud, too liberal, too criminal, too immature, too not-us. And this can be seen many places.

To wit: every year, as soon as the bulk of the snow melts, and a suitable Saturday can be found, hundreds of University of North Dakota students descend on University Park to participate in the near-ritual tradition of Springfest. In recent years, this event was not sponsored by anyone: a few bands just "happen" to show up, port-a-potties just "happen" to appear, and a few hundred people just "happen" to decide on the same day that they wish to go to University Park and drink. This year, Student Senate decided to sponsor it, and Suite 49 decided to provide the alcohol.

One of the reasons that the Student Government was getting involved in something that has been a largely informal event was Grand Forks passing a City Ordinance requiring a permit to have alcohol on public properties. Before, people just brought their own booze, and it was a "share and share alike" event. Now, there is going to be a segregated beer garden for those above 21, and anyone who wishes to drink may only drink the beer that Suite 49 is providing, because of another city law that says that beer gardens must be segregated by age.

Call me cynical, but I think that if they could have gotten away with it, the city of Grand Forks would have banned the event entirely. I also think it was the fact that we had a business this year sponsoring us had more to do with us getting a permit than the City Council's great concern for the University students. Grand Forks has shown time and time again that they like our money much more than they like the individual students.

My freshman year of college I became aware of the ambivalence and downright hostility the community towards us. I thought that they liked us: coming into the city, I saw businesses everywhere proclaiming "Welcome back students" and signs posted everywhere saying "Student discount". The whole community seemed to be welcoming us with open arms.

Then I heard about the voting policies of fair Grand Forks, the city that seemed to be welcoming our students so openly. Most cities have elections in November, but not Grand Forks: they're elections are held in June, when a quarter of the students are gone, and the information on how to register seems to be want to be kept a secret, because they never publicize it. My suspicion the Grand Forks citizens are distrustful of students knowing how to take part in the democratic process was further execrated by the 2003 city-wide vote on whether or not the city should build a water park, and UND students were actively discouraged from voting. A Grand Forks Herald letter to the editor was titled "Water Park Supporters Struggle For Campus Votes, Students Don't Know Much About It And May Not Care To Vote" (Oct 23) and told university students not to vote because we didn't have "a stake in the community".

Then there were the problems at the Ralph Englestead arena. Some citizens complained that the UND students were too rowdy, too vulgar, and they couldn't take their little kids to the hockey game. President Kupechella caved in to their demands, and the students were given a lecture reminiscent of a Kindergarten class to sit down and shut up. Now we weren't allowed to stand except for when they said we could, now we couldn't cheer except the cheers that weren't "vulgar", and now there was a security guard standing at every game by the student section that was going to summarily boot our nalgas if we didn't tow the line. Instead of getting to enjoy the university hockey team, our teams, university students, adults, were being treated as if we were infants.

Then there's the rezoning of the area around the University to single-family houses, so university students could not live near our own university. Many students came out against the rezoning, and it still did not matter, the rezoning passed by a large margin, limiting where students could live while we are furthering our education.

Then there's the businesses not giving anyone a decent wage because they can exploit the steady stream of student laborers, the credit card companies that descend on the campus every fall and spring trying to tempt us out of our money, the apartment owners that overcharge for apartments because none of us have built any credit, the police department making money hand over fist from ticketing the university students, the list goes on and on.

University students number 13,200 people according to, which is over a quarter of the Grand Forks population. We bring money, jobs and labor to the community. We deserve to be treated with respect, not contempt.

Those signs I see every year might as well say "Welcome back Student's money" because that's what they really mean.


At 8:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

awesome! I agree


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