Do not let outsiders ruin our school's events
University President Richard L. McCormick sent a campus-wide email on Tuesday which effectively killed a 30-year tradition.
What was supposed to be a day of free concerts, games and entertainment meant for the University community was twisted into an event that the entire public participated in. Rutgersfest has been a ritual for students to socialize, enjoy music and let loose every spring before final exams. If this has been the tradition for so long — since the 1980s — how come Rutgersfest 2011 become so controversial? The answer: Members outside the University community took this year's Rutgersfest hostage.
Violence broke out late Friday night, which resulted in public disturbance, violence, arrests and even gunshots. It is noteworthy to mention that the gunfire did not involve any members of the University community. The administration's knee-jerk reaction to pull the plug on the tradition is not the solution.
In today's highly litigious social environment, it is typical to point fingers and try to blame the universities for things that happen in and around their campus. This dates back in recent times to the Texas A&M University Bonfire.
The Texas A&M students — Aggies — would build and burn a bonfire on campus every fall semester which symbolized the "burning desire to beat the hell outta TU," or the Univeristy of Texas at Austin, during the end of the football season. The bonfire remained a thriving tradition at Texas A&M until 1999, when a collapse during construction tragically killed 12 people and injured 27 others — all of which were students and alumni.
Lawsuits against Texas A&M and its president erupted and ultimately were settled for an amount in excess of $6 million. This tragedy and landmark case has resonated throughout the administration of universities in the United States ever since.
Perhaps the larger question becomes, "Should universities be involved in social programs as part of their obligation to develop the well-rounded lives of their students, or should all these events be disassociated with the universities to avoid potential litigation?"
I believe Rutgers University Programming Association (RUPA) is not to blame for this situation. In fact, RUPA has worked extensively in order to put together these fun and beloved annual daylong events safely. We cannot let non-University troublemakers highjack a tradition. McCormick should consider an alternative way of providing a safer campus while still carrying out the tradition. The first step is trying to figure out what really happened and why so many non-University students attended the event and the off-campus social scene, which is what really caused the violence and upset.
Using social media websites to post about Rutgersfest advertises to a wide-range of students, as well as non-students. Non-students who read about Rutgersfest on social websites learn all about the event and decide to attend. This is a fact of life across the board for all events. Are we going to cancel them all or learn to deal with it?
This year's Rutgersfest was earlier than ever. What normally is an event that happens right before finals week occurred several weeks before the end of the school year. As a matter of fact, it occurred on a day where most high schools had a half-day going into Spring Break, including the New Brunswick Public School District. Because of this, high school students had the chance to attend.
Perhaps the University can install alternative methods to prevent violence in the future. One way of deterring unaffiliated people from "crashing" the event is having Rutgersfest on a Thursday instead of a Friday. This will prevent many outsiders from attending because of work or school the next day. It would certainly make a difference if the event were held on a day when local high schools do not have partial days or the entire week off immediately following Rutgersfest.
Increased security at the actual concert can also prevent violence. Students should pre-register and acquire tickets. This would make it so that non-students cannot physically attend the concert.
Rutgersfest can continue to be an integral part of campus life if it evolves with the times and is handled responsibly by the University going forward.
Golda Speyer is School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in political science and planning and public policy.
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