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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Town vs. gown issues still prevalent

    As college students, we are sometimes blind to others’ perceptions of the university system because we are so immersed in it.

    In recent weeks, allegations of the rape of a stripper by the Duke University lacrosse team have shaken the campus and the town in which it resides, Durham, N.C. The confluence of social issues regarding gender, race and sexual activity brought to light by the events has set off heated emotions from many typically voiceless groups.

    The national furor over the incident has much to do with the issues mentioned above. Just as pertinent, though, is the tense relationship between town and school. Much of the friction over the last two weeks has stemmed from the resentment that many residents of Durham feel toward the students of Duke University. To Durham residents, Duke retains an image as home to snobby, beer-swilling rich kids who think they can get away with anything. Now those feelings of resentment are boiling over.

    While race plays a major role in the divisiveness between Durham and Duke, there are undoubtedly issues of class involved; often they are one and the same. The alleged victim attends North Carolina Central University, a school without the rich-kid label of Duke. The class tension that exists in Durham only worsens an already volatile situation.

    Many other campuses around the country have dealt with less-than-amicable relations with the town they share space with, and much of it stems from the enmity between lower-class town residents and upper-middle-class students.

    There is a well-documented history of “”town vs. gown”” friction at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. The University of California-Berkeley and Kent State University were both sources of high tension during Vietnam War protests, although these differ from more recent problems involving public misbehavior rather than protest.

    The UA has its image problems locally as well, though at the moment they pale in comparison to those of Duke, which is dealing with national scrutiny. Still, issues of race and class contribute to tension in our town, and much of it stems from community resentment of the appearance of rich kids running amuck at the UA.

    Student life, especially when it comes to Greek Life, and to a lesser degree athletics, can promote a feeling of superiority over town residents. Like it or not, many feel the UA and other universities like it are institutions for the privileged to spend four (or more) years in debauchery.

    The Tucson City Council has made a point in the past of making student versus town issues a priority. The institution of the “”red tag”” by the City Council was a direct response to complaints of UA student misconduct and unruly behavior by local town members.

    University communities and their surrounding residents must learn that the two groups need each other.

    Knee-jerk political reactions often only exacerbate the divide. Laws such as the red tag ordinance are inherently divisive and only increase the tensions between neighbors who must be encouraged to coexist, not battle one another.

    University communities and their surrounding residents must learn that the two groups need each other. That’s especially true of towns such as Durham and Tucson, which owe countless jobs and revenue to the universities that exist in them.

    Understanding that one’s actions represent the community that one is a part of, whether it is as a student, resident or politician, would go a long way toward fostering better relations between two groups that need each other to thrive.

    Shurid Sen is a junior majoring in political science and economics and can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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