Changelian: Will Evanston’s college-town denial ever end?

Armen Changelian

Most Northwestern students didn’t apply to NU because of its reputation as a “party school.” They didn’t apply with dreams of burning couches, alcohol poisoning and five-day weekends. In fact, most Wildcats knew exactly what they were getting into when they applied: a weeklong academic grind occasionally interrupted by some relatively mild bouts of inebriation. They weren’t expecting UC-Santa Barbara; they were expecting Nerdwestern, where the screams before final exams are louder than those at any rave party.

What Northwestern never expected, however, was to be told that it parties too hard.

Just last October, for instance, a number of Evanston residents complained about several off-campus parties that resulted in public vomiting, urinating and the use of offensive language. The newspapers published photos of a few tables and backyards covered in trash and red plastic cups – pretty tame by college standards, but apparently too heinous for Evanston to handle. In an obvious attempt to crack down on partying, the town even recently tried to enforce an outdated “brothel law” that would prohibit more than three unrelated people from sharing a residence. But Northwestern weathered the storm. The student population received a stern reprimand about partying from the Dean of Students, Evanston eventually killed the “brothel law” and life went on.

Or so we thought.

Now, once again, the Evanston community has taken up the fight against what they see as a rowdy, immoral and offensive college environment. The latest complaint involves the potential establishment of a sports bar known as the Tilted Kilt in downtown Evanston. The Celtic-themed bar employs its own version of scantily clad “Hooters girls” – whom the Kilt strictly refers to as “cast members” – in order to “provide visual gratification for all guests.”

Cynthia Farenga, a local Evanston lawyer, is somewhat less than gratified by the visuals of the bar. In fact, she has amassed over 1,600 signatures in a petition to deny a liquor license to the Tilted Kilt, which she claims is essentially selling sex appeal and threatening the moral values of the community.

More specifically, she is concerned that the bar, which would be located in downtown Evanston’s Fountain Square Building, just a floor below Farenga’s own law office, would distract or discourage her own potential clients. Most importantly, she is appalled at the fact that her “three kids could walk down the street and look at barely dressed women.”

Most towns similar to Evanston are usually mature enough to handle the presence of a few sports bars without being whipped into a frenzy. Most adults, after all, don’t need to gasp or giggle whenever they see boobies. But Farenga doesn’t seem to realize that the Kilt’s “cast members” will be contained within the confines of the restaurant and not wandering the streets of Evanston for all to see.

And while Evanston faces much larger economic and social challenges – a frighteningly large homeless population and an 11 percent poverty rate, for starters – most locals are instead much more appalled by the idea of a sports bar trying to gain some business in a college community. In fact, it seems that many Evanston residents find the Northwestern college environment to be simply too offensive and threatening to the wellbeing of their town.

Their concerns are confusing for several reasons. To be honest, Northwestern’s party scene pales in comparison to most of its counterparts. The partying may be over the top at times, I’ll admit, but it is Evanston’s false sense of entitlement that has caused the most conflict.

Before purchasing an Evanston home, these residents surely must have noticed the frat houses and football stadium. They surely must have made note of the off-campus student residences. Northwestern may not be known as the rowdiest school in the Big Ten, but late-night partying is to be expected at almost any college. Did Evanston truly believe it was exempt?

The real crime here is the misdirected outrage that has become far too prevalent in Evanston. No one is forcing Cynthia Farenga’s children to stare through the windows of the Tilted Kilt, but it’s nearly impossible for them to walk through downtown Evanston without seeing the abundant homelessness. Where’s the outrage? The Kilt may sell sex appeal, but it can’t be any worse than The Keg of Evanston, where I’ve personally seen 50-year-olds feeling up college girls less than half their age. Where’s the outrage?

Evanston is in denial. This is a college town, and that’s not going to change any time soon. Rather than shelter themselves in an ever-shrinking bubble of frustration, the residents of this town might do well to embrace one of its most valuable resources: a youthful, intelligent, affluent college population with the willingness to connect and integrate with the Evanston community.

We also love boobs and buffalo wings.

Armen Changelian is a Weinberg sophomore. He can be reached at [email protected] and followed at twitter.com/shroomalogs