EDITORIAL: So you wanna be Big Ten, huh?
Rutgers shuts down The Alley after only 2 home games
The University wants things to go one way, and the students want it to go another way. It’s classic case of friction between administrators and students: the rise and fall of the Alley.
For those unfamiliar with Rutgers’ tailgating and football culture, The Alley is literally an alley and it’s also a parking lot— but this alley/parking lot hybrid was where tailgating happened since the start of the semester. Rutgers Athletics created The Alley as recently as Aug. 31, and it was a designated space for students to have fun in a controlled environment. Students could get carded for drinking and the typical tailgating rambunctiousness was contained in a small location.
Although students welcomed the Alley, the tailgating spot withstood a mere two games out of football season’s seven home games. It’s as if students were given a nice little present only to have it snatched away.
Adding to the frustration that prompted the change.org petition that garnered 1,800 petitions in less than 24 hours is the shroud of mystery behind its closing. The University thought it could pull the rug beneath people’s feet without enumerating solid reasons and instead providing a vague “safety concerns” rationale. Since the University didn’t officially specify the problems associated with safety, there was never really an opportunity to address the concerns that was an alternative to shutting down the tailgating spot. It was a unilateral decision and a top-down action that didn’t give students a chance to provide their opinion. While the concern for safety is valid in every respect, the University is still accountable to the students who it serves and the reasons for “safety concerns” should be made less ambiguous and more apparent so as to give way for collective decision-making.
This breakdown in communication results in widespread speculation of reasons for the closing of the Alley. Was it because some students weren’t getting carded and there were instances of underage drinking? Well, it’s common sense that college students tend to consume alcohol — legally or illegally — but there are avenues for stricter regulations in the Alley. Was it because Pat Hobbs took a sip of beer, and it was bad PR for the University? It wasn’t a big deal and people didn’t know it even happened until the shutdown of the tailgate area incited anger that caused major news outlets, like ESPN, to pick up the story. And if it’s because Hobbs drank the beer, then it seems like the University cares more about its image than giving students regulated space to safely consume alcoholic beverages.
Half of the students (or more than half) don’t come to football games to watch Chris Laviano throw a football. Some students don’t know who he is. The stadium’s student section is also empty the first 10 minutes and people who attend file already out before the game ends. Students don’t go to football games at the rate that they should, considering how much money the University invests into it.
So if Rutgers wants to reap what it sowed in athletics, it needs all the assets it can to establish itself as a Big 10 school, and that includes a football culture with high attendance, especially if it’s trying to attract prospective quality recruits. If forced to pick between Penn State that has an overflowing stadium and Rutgers that’s almost half-empty, the highly sought-after high school senior is going to play football in the school whose students are going to see his games and support his team.
Football is a collegiate past time. Even if Rutgers isn’t a football powerhouse, students come to games to have fun with friends and support their institution. Taking away the Alley is just another deterrence for students who want to celebrate the game, have fun and demonstrate their Rutgers pride.
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