UWO’s reputation is tainted with a binge drinking stigma

[media-credit id=128 align=”alignleft” width=”300″]Image Cartoon[/media-credit]

Sloshkosh is not as endearing a term as some students may think. The libatious colloquialism may be fun to joke about, but its connotations often detract from the University’s image, and in turn, the student body’s. While the word itself isn’t to blame, it doesn’t lend well to UW Oshkosh’s already unwarranted reputation as a lesser institution. Despite this perceived negativity, Chancellor Andrew Leavitt said UWO has first-rate academics even when compared to other UW schools. “Milwaukee and Madison are research institutions,” Leavitt said. “We are considered a state comprehensive institution. We have different missions as a result. The quality of the education is certainly as good as it is either in Madison or Milwaukee.” He said the University’s mission differs from that of a research institution, and he is proud of the variety of students who are able to get an education at UWO. Fond du Lac High School student Kirsten Larson said although she views UWO as a socially-active community that provides many career opportunities, she thinks of it differently than some of the other UW schools. “Unfortunately, yes, I do think UW Oshkosh is less prestigious,” Larson said. “Which isn’t to say one can’t become successful by attending UW Oshkosh, but Madison is stereotypically more well-known for its successful students.” Grades and test scores can only tell the University so much about prospective students. It seems UW Oshkosh cares more about creating opportunities for students, rather than focusing on stringent academic requirements. Even so many of those admitted to UWO had successful academic careers in high school. In the fall of 2014, 42.9 percent of incoming freshman ranked among the top 25 percent of students in their high school. UWO Public Relations and Social Media Director Melanie Cross said UWO does a comprehensive admissions review that takes many factors into account. “If someone has a lower GPA score, but a higher ACT score to offset that, those kinds of things are taken into consideration,” Cross said. Leavitt said UWO may not have the highest ACT scores, but the type of students that UWO admits reflects its mission. “I actually have no plans on trying to necessarily increase the average ACT score, simply because I believe that we need to be the source of higher education in the Fox Valley region,” Leavitt said. While admissions procedures may not be as strict or rigorous as a place like UW Madison, UWO’s reputation for partying should not be confused for a lower quality of education. Cross said she doesn’t think the drinking climate in Oshkosh is different from other schools in the UW System. “[Sloshkosh] is just one of those catchy names that’s kind of hard to shake,” Cross said. “I do think things like Pub Crawl associate itself with that reputation. Kyle Kretschmann, a senior at UW Milwaukee, said although there are some differences between his campus and UWO’s, the drinking atmosphere is quite similar. “Having consumed abundant amounts of beverages on many eves at both the UWO and UWM campus, I would have to say that the general assessment is that they are pretty equal,” Kretschmann said. Cross said the University does its best to promote countless other opportunities that UWO offers. “The University puts on events and invites speakers,” Cross said. “This and other programming is put on to help give students an alternative to still have fun, meet people, and get involved in college. We try to go to those events, take pictures and tell other people about them.” Taking advantage of these events gives students a chance to break away from those who rely on alcohol for entertainment or social interaction. Students will no doubt experience pressure to drink, and many will, but when they act recklessly by damaging property or inciting violence, they contribute to the negative stereotypes associated with the UWO social climate. Leavitt said it is unfortunate and regrettable that UWO’s reputation has such a strong identification with alcohol. “Oftentimes it’s propagated by our own alumni in that I think there is a certain fondness and nostalgia for days when that type of behaviour was a little more acceptable,” Leavitt said. “Obviously any college campus is going to be drinking and consuming alcohol. It’s whether or not it’s done in a responsible or legal manner.” While drinking will never be completely eliminated at UWO, or any other campus for that matter, students can help change numerous misconceptions about their peers and their institution by better managing their behavior while under the influence.