August 18, 2019 | 83° F

'Anti-Prom' carries forward Demarest Hall's unique atmosphere

Are anti-promposals a thing?

Photo by Henry Fowler |

Prior to the 1960s, Demarest Hall was used as housing for the Rutgers football team and a platform for progressive protests. Today the site is used by local bands and most recently for “Anti-Prom,” a musical event that highlighted Demarest’s atmosphere

Pre-prom photos were taken in a room where the walls were covered with graffiti. The music selection for the night encompassed almost everything but dance music. This was Demarest Hall's "Anti-Prom" — an event that its organizers described as an expression of Demarest's unique atmosphere.

“Anything that isn't 2017 prom, that's what's happening tonight,” said Hanny Ramadan, a  School of Arts and Sciences sophomore and a member of the Demarest Hall government.

Sophie Hill, a School of Nursing first-year and a member of the Demarest Hall government, was the head of the "Anti-Prom" committee. She said that planning for the event took about a month.

The "Anti-Prom" was held in the basement of Demarest Hall, where touring and local bands have played in the past.

“There's a closet on the second floor that's full of historical pictures and scrapbooks from years past in Demarest,” Hill said. “Those people and those events in that basement, that's what I wanted to capture tonight. That's what I wanted to do for Demarest, for our friends, for anyone who came tonight, is to feel the same way those pictures made me feel.”

Hill said that the music selections for the night were made collectively through a shared online document to which any member of the hall could contribute. There were no restrictions on what kinds of music were acceptable. Selections did not necessarily have to be hostile in spirit to proms — the point was that they were chosen by the community members.

Hill said that "Anti-Prom" was an attempt to restore Demarest's unique atmosphere that she saw in the hall's historical pictures.

“There are these events that have been thrown for years and years but haven't happened in a really long time,” she said. “We wanted to get that old Demarest feeling back into the building ... This kind of event feels like the epitome of how the community of Demarest should come together and spend time together and have fun.”

Ramadan said that Demarest Hall, built in 1950, was originally the residence hall for the Rutgers football team. Later it was opened to other students. In the 1960s and 70s, it was a site of protests for socially progressive causes. 

Since then, Ramadan said, Demarest Hall has earned a reputation as a counter-cultural community. More recently it has housed special “sections” for students who share particular interests. These include sections for philosophy, music and cooking. The food for the "Anti-Prom" was provided by the head of the cooking section.

“This is a home for misfits and also for people who want to engage in some fun arts and music,” Ramadan said. “This is kind of like a piece of a liberal arts college in a big state school.”

Ramadan added that the Demarest community welcomes other students to attend its events.

Jordan Adragna, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said that he was attracted to the Demarest community even before he lived in the hall.

“I spent about 80 percent of my time here last year even though I lived on Cook/Douglass,” Adragna said. “All my friends were here, all the cool bands and stuff were going on here ... The Demarest culture is very counter-culture. So since 'anti' is itself counter, I guess this is the way that a Demarest prom should be. The antithesis of prom.”

Ramadan said that the "Anti-Prom" paid tribute to and poked fun at classic American proms. Attendees were encouraged to dress up in era-specific prom outfits. The "Anti-Prom" also satirized what Ramadan described as “the continuation of proms in college ... date nights and formals.”

Even so, he said, the Demarest community strives to be inclusive and is not hostile toward those sorts of college events.

“Demarest is the edge of society. It's the fringes. It's wildness,” Ramadan said. “You come to Demarest Hall, and you don't expect a good time. You expect transcendence. You wanna go the next level, go to Demarest Hall. That's what it is. Next level, two X's.”

Max Marcus

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