Although USU has more than 19,000 students enrolled at its Logan campus, Logan doesn’t feel that much like a college town.
You hear people talk about this a lot, and a couple of reasons are often cited for it. One of the big ones is that many students living on campus rarely venture off Old Main Hill or its general surroundings.
I’ve gotten a glimpse into this dynamic through a couple of young people this fall.
One is our new reporter at The Herald Journal, recent USU graduate Sydney Dahle, who arrived in our newsroom with a lot of reporting savvy and enthusiasm but virtually no knowledge about the Logan area — including the fact that Logan is surrounded by 20 or so towns that make up a place we all call Cache Valley.
She has an excuse. She’s from St. Louis and came here without a car. She spent her entire USU career living on campus, first as a dorm resident and then as a dorm assistant.
Except for regular trips to the supermarket and a “scary” bus ride to the north Walmart one day, she very rarely left campus, especially not alone.
Her reservations about venturing out seem odd since she came from a big city with a lot more perils than Logan, which is one of the safest metropolitan areas in the country. But there you have it.
A current student told me a similar story, only for her the Logan metro area truly is a big, scary place compared to her hometown of Monticello, Utah, population 1,900.
“I would never leave campus alone,” she said.
Every autumn, a horde of freshmen descends on downtown for the annual “Taste of Logan” tour staged by businesses to welcome USU newcomers. It’s a fun event with music, activities and swag, but that’s the last time many of those kids will be downtown — except maybe for jobs — because, let’s face it, there’s really not a lot there for them.
I’m not talking so much about a nightclub and bar scene, because a lot of USU students are devout Latter-day Saints who aren’t looking for that kind of fun anyway — at least not on a regular basis or in such a highly public way. From what I hear, there is a pretty vibrant student house-party underground off campus, but unless you live next to a “party house,” you’re not going to know this is going on in Logan.
“I moved off of campus so I could get drunk with my friends,” a just-married USU student told me, explaining that the rental house he once shared with several other guys was among a number of places frequented by both on- and off-campus students looking for weekend fun. And, yes, members of the faith were sometimes among them, experiencing life away from Mom and Dad for the first time.
But certainly the faith factor much more than the fear factor is probably the biggest thing making Logan nothing like Boulder, Berkley, College Station or even Fort Collins. I’m not saying that’s is a bad thing at all. This column is simply an effort to discuss an interesting aspect of the local culture, and I’m sure a lot of readers would have more insight on it than I do.
Another part of the college town equation here, like at the University of Utah, is that there are a lot of students who still live with their parents, and they just travel to campus for classes and go home, or attend classes on Zoom and rarely hike up Old Main Hill. When they go to Lee’s or Chili’s or the Cache Valley Mall, they give off the vibe of any other locals as opposed to seeming like part of the college crowd.
“I actually am uncomfortable on campus,” a student who lives with his parents in Smithfield told me. “I don’t feel like a part of what’s going on at all.”
Interesting. The idea that a valley native would actually feel alienated at their friendly neighborhood university, as it were, never crossed my mind.
But having said all this, the university obviously has a huge influence on local life, and this makes Logan much, much different than other cities in the Northern Utah and Southern Idaho. You might say it’s a little less redneck, a bit more cosmopolitan.
The aforementioned party-house guy now lives in Brigham City and says daily existence there — just a few miles down the road — is a world of difference from Logan.
“It’s like the place has no soul,” he said.
Wow, that’s quite a statement. I hope nobody from Brigham sees this.
I’d love to hear some Herald Journal readers’ opinions on the “college town” atmosphere in Logan — or lack thereof. Maybe we’ll get some comments online.