MADISON, Wis. - Students from across the country began moving into University of Wisconsin-Madison dorms Saturday, and many said political protests this spring didn't impact their decision to attend the university.
University officials began a "soft" move-in this weekend, an attempt to avoid congestion around campus during heavy construction. Most incoming freshman will get into their dorm rooms on Tuesday and Wednesday.
For some students, Madison's attractions meant plenty of reasons to attend the UW, but their reactions were mixed about the protests at the state Capitol earlier this year.
"Everyone has their own opinions and it is interesting because, obviously, it does impact us firsthand," said Tanner Blaschka of Wausau. "I don't know if I'll be participating in any of the protests, but it would definitely be cool to watch."
Madison's long tradition of student activists included thousands rallying in the spring, during protests over the collective bargaining bill and the state budget. UW students will continue to be active, said Ben Manski of WisconsinWave.org.
"Students are still idealistic, and they should be," he said. "More of us should be. So, they provide inspiration for older folks to try to do things that we may have given up on."
The spring protests didn't impact enrollment, and it may have helped Madison get attention from potential out-of-state students, one UW Housing official said.
But Saturday, most students and parents were focused on getting loads of clothes, appliances and school supplies through a crowded Sellery Hall.
"This is my first time even going into the building," said Storm Keys of Boulder, Colo. "I don't even have the rest of my stuff here. We're just getting some stuff from Target and meeting my roommate."
After the work and long lines for the elevator, students said they are looking forward to exploring Madison.
"Oh my God, it's beautiful," said Robyn Steinerman, of Long Island, N.Y., when asked about the city. "Everyone here is so much nicer than in New York, too."
The university's classes begin Friday.
And as Hurricane Irene bears down on the northeast, UW-Madison is giving students from the East Coast a little extra breathing room.
Students forced to arrive late to school can call the Division of Student Life for assistance at 608-263-5700 or email them at email@example.com.
"All my friends are evacuated yesterday and today, and we didn't exactly have a chance to prepare our house for it. But we'll deal with that when we get home, I guess," said New York resident Robyn Steinerman as she moved in Saturday.
The UW said it has counseling services for East Coast students worried about starting school while being concerned with what could be happening back at home.
Students can call University Health Services Counseling and Consultation Services at 608-265-5600.