June 24, 2018 | ° F

Council urges revision to traditional U. song

The Douglass Governing Council composed a resolution and resolved Tuesday night that the University's alma mater should become more gender-inclusive.

The resolution states that women represent 53 percent of the University's student body and the alma mater — which is performed at official functions — represents the University in a biased, exclusive and sexist manner.

Council External Vice President Kate Barbour, a Douglass College senior, and Council Internal Vice President Emily Rogalsky, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences junior, authored the resolution, which the council retooled during their meeting at Trayes Hall in the Douglass Campus Center.

Representative for Transfer and Nontraditional Students Irina Ushakov said the line "My father sent me to old Rutgers," does not include students from nontraditional families and those who paid for their education without any parental support.

According to November 2009 U.S. Census Bureau data, the primary caretaker for about 23 percent of all children under 21 is single mothers, said Ushakov, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore.

"I want to look back on an institution that includes women and mothers who support their kids," she said.

Council University Senate Representative Kyrie Graziosi said the line "And resolv'd that I should be a man" is not only discriminatory, but also raises questions about masculinity in the United States.

"I don't want a sex change," said Graziosi, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. "What type of men are they becoming? I'm sure it's not a homosexual man."

On occasion, performances of the song include the word "woman" or "mother" but the gesture seems like an afterthought and is not official, Graziosi said. Students cannot sing their own lyrics at large events where the 1876 alma mater is printed on programs and sung by crowds, she said.

"You can't sing it however you want at official University events, such as graduation," Graziosi said. "We want official University recognition so this is institutionalized. We don't want this to be some kind of casual or informal thing."

The resolution urges students, faculty, staff and administrators to reconsider use of the 1876 alma mater but does not propose specific changes or the use of an alternate song, she said. It is more about creating a debate and informing students than immediately changing the tune.

A gender-inclusive revision of the alma mater was chosen from a competition pool in the 1980s after a referendum for new lyrics, but that version has since fallen by the wayside, Ushakov said.

"Our first step here is to garner student support for adopting a different alma mater, whether it's a completely new alma mater or the 1989 version," Graziosi said.

Graziosi said she asked administration officials about the alma mater at an early December University Senate meeting. Council members and other students protested the alma mater at this month's Rutgers University Student Assembly town hall.

Ushakov and Graziosi expressed disappointment about the common argument that the song is a tradition and therefore should not be changed.

"It is a tradition, but it harkens back to a time when the University did not accept female students or black, Hispanic or Asian students," Graziosi said. "It's not part of [women's] history, and it's not representative of our student population."

Political correctness does not deprive history of its color but rather reflects the positive steps society has taken over time, Ushakov said.

"If the alma mater included slavery, would we keep that for posterity's sake?" she said. "The answer is ‘no.' Political correctness can evolve because society evolves. We're not a bland society right now — if anything we are a much more diverse and vibrant society."

Ushakov noted that Dartmouth University, Princeton University, the United States Military Academy at West Point and other historic universities have amended their alma maters to be more gender-inclusive.

Wells College, a women's college founded in 1868, became coeducational in 2005 and also adjusted its alma mater to include men, Ushakov said.

The council is tabling and petitioning to get student and alumni signatures to support amending the alma mater.

"We had started the petitioning last semester. We had about 200 to 300 signatures signed in two to three days of tabling," Graziosi said. "We're going to use 1,000 as a minimum number and then shoot up from there."

Members of the council hope to have thousands of signatures and are contacting alumni for support, Ushakov said.

Once the council gets a base of advocates for the issue, students will start to develop solutions, she said.

Douglass Residential College's own alma mater is gender-inclusive, Graziosi said.

Greg Flynn

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