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U. must take precautions, make Rutgersfest safer

I am someone who does not believe in sugarcoating. When I was a first-year student, I was told that Rutgersfest was a day for University students to let loose, to be entertained by some half-decent music and of course wake up early and start drinking until you can't stand anymore — and that's what it was. But it has evolved into something bigger and much worse. It has become an event for outsiders to crash, a day for non-University students to destroy and impose fear on those students who call the New Brunswick area home.

I am part of a fraternity, I am extremely social, and I had some of the craziest moments of my life in college, so this is not a message from someone cooped up in a residence hall. There is no time when a student should fear for his or her life on campus. Unfortunately, that's what Rutgersfest did this year.

Four shootings reported, a kid knocked unconscious with a bottle and numerous other videos posted online of women fighting men while other young adults watch in amusement, usually egging the perpetrators on.

The issue I have isn't the idea of Rutgersfest. University students should have a day to themselves to let loose, but only to themselves. The day activities full of drinking and going to the concerts can be harmless, and I saw few disturbances during the daylight hours this year. But once the sun went down and night came this past Friday, New Brunswick truly earned the name New "Gunswick."

To get a 911 text alert at 3:30 a.m. saying "avoid College Avenue" because someone was shot is simply unfathomable. These shootings and senseless beatings are preventable, and the University must act swiftly and smartly to prevent these horrific acts from ever happening again.

The response from the University should not be to cancel Rutgersfest but to instead take a more active approach, perhaps something similar to what the University of Connecticut has done with their Spring Weekend coming up.

It's simple. UConn plans to bar guests from residence halls and dining halls and stop visitors at roadblocks. It's genius. An article in the Hartford Courant noted that approximately 80 percent of the arrests at Spring Weekend were due to outsiders and non-students. If I had to put money down, I'd safely say those numbers are probably similar with Rutgersfest.

Outsiders are the main issue, not University students. The administration needs to make it clear that outsiders are not welcome. The New Brunswick police need to make it clear that punishment will be harsher for outsiders and that a heavier police presence will be around to clear up the Rutgersfest mess. Stop worrying about ticketing and towing cars and start protecting the students from the violence many outsiders are causing.

University students can do their part as well by having more of their activities during the day to avoid going out at night to party.

It is unfortunate that the scene I will remember from my last Rutgersfest as a student is hearing six gun shots followed by a stampede of young people running down College Avenue. Something needs to change before a University student gets killed.

It will take a large effort from the University as well as local police to keep everything in control. But for all the flack UConn received from people this year for "stopping the fun," they may save someone's life. The University is lucky someone didn't die. It's a reprieve we should all be thankful for. But now, something must change.

Adam Helfgott is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in journalism and media studies and minoring in sociology.

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