University discontinues Rutgersfest
University administrators decided to cancel Rutgersfest, the annual end-of-the-year concert and carnival sponsored by the Rutgers University Programming Association (RUPA), due to the violent activity that ensued in New Brunswick on Friday following the concert.
University President Richard L. McCormick sent an email to all students on the New Brunswick campus yesterday, explaining the large crowds consisting of many non-University students that descended upon New Brunswick's 5th and 6th wards after the concert created too much disorder that even an additional police presence could not contain.
"Many streets were congested with people and there were multiple reports of disruptive conduct," he said in the email. "Near the College Avenue campus there were many rowdy student house parties, incidents of public intoxication, littering, and vandalism, and several altercations among students and other individuals."
Even though the four non-University-related individuals who were shot in three separate incidents Friday night did not sustain life-threatening injuries, McCormick said he is concerned about the danger to students and New Brunswick residents.
"We cannot risk further danger or the possible loss of life," he said. "The problems that occur following Rutgersfest have grown beyond our capacity to manage them, and the only responsible course of action is to cancel the event."
Director Peter Mangarella of the New Brunswick Police Department (NBPD) respects the decision made by McCormick and the University regarding the cancellation of Rutgersfest, said Lt. J.T. Miller of the NBPD, which with the Rutgers University Police Department on Friday evening had 40 extra officers on duty.
Ana Castillo, president of RUPA, said though her organization is disappointed with the decision, she understands why it was made.
"I expected it, and I don't think the University had any other choice," said Castillo, a School of Arts and Sciences senior. "We're all kind of a little shocked because the decisions came so quickly after it happened."
Out of the 200 activities RUPA sponsors each year, Castillo said they would try to find a way to make up for Rutgersfest's cancellation.
"They don't want to put something there to replace it, [it won't be] another large-scale concert," she said. "If RUPA was going to do another spring festival, it would be a much smaller event. Maybe we'll have more concerts or some outdoorsy events in spring."
Castillo said even if they limited Rutgersfest admission to University students, it could not have prevented the behavior after the concert.
"Logistics is an excuse. The real issue is that it's just not the problem that needs to be solved," she said. "It's not going to stop people from overflowing into New Brunswick or people who took the train in at 6 p.m. to party."
Castillo also addressed the idea that Rutgersfest is an event open to the general pubic.
"We never advertised it as anything open to the general public," she said. "Social media made everything crazy."
An unofficial Facebook event for this year's Rutgersfest was created that had about 10,000 people who said they were attending before RUPA put up an official event, Castillo said.
"At that point, people can invite anyone else," she said. "It's never been open to the public. It's the students who ask their friends to join, and it's a chain reaction of spreading the word."
Castillo said even though RUPA's "Responsible Drinking" campaign did not visibly diminish the drinking culture of Rutgersfest, she is glad they did it.
"We wanted people to know it was something we were concerned about," she said.
Although Rutgersfest is a tradition continuing for about 30 years within the University and RUPA, Castillo said keeping the event is not worth it if someone gets hurt.
"Rutgersfest is a culmination of our work for the year and a chance for new members in the councils to get hands-on training," she said. "[But] it comes down to making sure everyone is safe. Having outsiders come to New Brunswick is not worth the risk. It was a decision that was in the best interest of all parties."
Castillo said it is unfair for students to blame RUPA for the drinking and violence at Rutgersfest.
"Did you see us handing out Four Lokos in our crew shirts as [students] got off the bus?" she said.
She is also upset with students' reactions on Facebook after the news of the festival's cancellation broke, as people claimed they do not need the concert to have an excuse to drink throughout the day each year.
"I find that really disappointing. If you want to bring Rutgersfest back, it's not going to come back by drinking all day," she said. "You're proving [administrators] right for canceling it by encouraging people to lose their minds."
Castillo is not sure this is the last students will see of Rutgersfest.
"I'm not sure if the decision is permanent. If it'll happen again five years down the road or never again," she said. "RUPA will try its best to bring concerts and activities to people. We're supportive of the administration, and we hope people don't blame us too much for it."
McCormick thanked those in RUPA who worked hard to put the concert on and acknowledged that many would be upset with the loss of the longstanding tradition.