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Campus term 'coastie' anti-Semitic?

Dec. 17, 2009 at 1:08 AM   |   Comments

MADISON, Wis., Dec. 17 (UPI) -- The term "coastie," popular at a large Wisconsin university, is a matter of controversy as to whether it is an anti-Semitic term, students and academics said.

A video song written by University of Wisconsin, Madison, undergraduate students Cliff Grefe and Quincy Harrison, which has garnered over 90,000 hits on the Web Site YouTube, has fueled the debate -- and added to the confusion about what constitutes a "coastie," the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Wednesday.

There is more or less unanimous agreement about the coastie's appearance -- a woman dressed in the likes of Ugg boots, black tights, huge sunglasses, carrying a cup of Starbucks coffee. Not so unanimous is whether such a woman would even necessarily be Jewish, the newspaper reported.

There are approximately 5,000 Jewish students in a campus population of 40,000 at the school. The song and the term make it harder for Jewish students from the East or West coasts to mesh with the mostly- Midwestern campus population, said Nicole Halpern, who interviewed the two songwriters on her WSUM 91.7 radio show, "On Wisconsin."

"I can see that it's harmless and silly, one of those things that (happens) on college campuses. And I can see that it can almost be viewed as anti-Semitic. At what point are you kidding? And at what point are you kidding and you mean it?" Jonathan Pollack, a history instructor at Madison Area Technical College, said.

Devra Cohen, 21, a senior from Washington, said it's a matter of whether malice is intended. She said she sees no ill-intent in the term or the video song, and thus sees no anti-Semitism.

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