Most KU students know that going to school in rural PA comes with some stereotypical consequences. Out-of-state (or area) friends and family tend to think a certain way about this area of the Keystone state.
The most famous stereotypes stem from our Mennonite neighbors; for some reason, people think that these religious groups are all that surrounds us, when in fact that is not true at all. Sure, here at KU, you see more Mennonites than most are used to, but in the larger scheme of things, there are far more Amish people hanging around the Lancaster area than Mennonites are riding their horse and buggy here. And the Mennonites are not what Kutztown is known for.
Some would argue that a large amount of STDs is also what KU is famous for, but fortunately that is also not true. Every college campus across the US has some form of STD, and while KU is no different, we were one of the only schools in PA to hand in the STD form. Hence, KU is mostly known for its farmers and its STDs.
Unfortunately, the town and university are overshadowed by the few old-fashioned bikes and horse and buggies in the area, so much so that the rest of PA are starting to only recognize Kutztown as a rural farming town and not the site of one of PA’s greatest teaching universities.
Earlier last semester, a brochure mapping out the various businesses along Main Street in Kutztown was released, in an effort to show incoming students and families all that Kutztown has to offer. I was disappointed to find out that even this map was stereotyped.
Titled, “Keepin’ It Kutztown,” the image of a young woman, smiling and holding shopping bags in one hand and the leash of a pig in the other, is plastered on the front of this brochure. When I first saw this picture, I thought, “Where in Kutztown can you find a pig?” I have been at this school for the past two years, and I’m sure I would have seen a farm animal before now. My suitemate is obsessed with pigs—she would have definitely tried to steal one had she known they were in the town. But since our fourth suitemate does not eat out of a trough, I know there are no pigs nearby.
This image suggests that one can find farm animals in Kutztown, and that they are even found walking around with the people. I can assure you that both statements are not true. The most unsettling thing to me is that the people who put together this brochure are from the Kutztown area. They have decided to cash in on the rural PA stereotypes, which doesn’t help this stereotypical problem.
My suggestion for our problem is to take pictures of the real area and showcase them in future Kutztown brochures and public service announcements. A picture looking down Main Street of the various shops and restaurants, at the Kutztown Park, or of any buildings on campus. Those are images of what you can really find at KU and in the surrounding area; forget the pigs and Mennonites.
I absolutely love KU for all that it has to offer. It may not be as big and well-known as Penn State University, but I find that there is still always something to do in the area. On a nice, spring day, you can take a stroll down Main Street. On a day not so nice, you can watch a movie for $5 at The Strand. We have bars, restaurants, a park and a beautiful college campus. What more could you ask for?
By Mary Pickett