COMMENTARY: 1 college narrative doesn’t apply to all
I first became aware of tensions between graduating students from the three Rutgers campuses Wednesday morning when reading a post on the Rutgers Class of 2016 Facebook page that garnered around 650 "likes," explaining Newark and Camden students shouldn’t attend this year’s commencement featuring President Barack Obama as the primary speaker because they didn’t have the New Brunswick experience and can’t call this place home. After my initial euphoria that the High Point Solutions Stadium would be filled to capacity at least once in its life, allowing me to delude myself (if only for a moment) that the recent 10,000-seat expansion wasn’t a complete waste of $102 million, I was angered.
The student’s list of what makes our time at New Brunswick unique was the most normative, generic (aside from referencing Hurricane Sandy, which I’m sure Newark and Camden were also affected by) representation of college life I’ve seen, and this is from someone who scrolls past countless Elite Daily "Ten Ways You Know You Went to *Insert Name Here* University" articles on my Facebook newsfeed posted by friends at various large schools across the country. I couldn’t find myself, or New Brunswick, in the rosy-with-a-few-difficulties narrative of that post.
I support Embrace Kids, but don’t feel comfortable in the frat-dominated space of Dance Marathon because I’m queer and Latinx. More than that, I’m disheartened by the lack of action by Rutgers students on the levels of lead, a known carcinogen, found in New Brunswick public school water fountains — an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, right?
Side note: I encourage you to come to the House the Hub Benefit Concert this Friday at the Rutgers Student Center. You can bring as many people as you want! We’re trying to raise $10,000 to help end homelessness. It’s not much compared to that other event most students throw all their philanthropic energy behind, but it’s currently a reach goal. At the time of this writing, only 8 tickets ($10 each) have been sold. Somewhat surprising if New Brunswick, whose longtime residents are facing rapid, aggressive gentrification due to our University’s presence, is indeed the beloved home for students fortunate enough to attend classes here that the writer of that post made it out to be.
If it isn’t, maybe we should focus a little more on proving we deserve to be in New Brunswick by helping the community we displace before we go telling others that this isn’t their home.
Maybe we can make a home big enough for us all.
I commute to save — by save, I mean free up student loans to help pay family debts a bit quicker. There are many reasons why students attend Newark or Camden rather than the "traditional campus," and I don’t pretend to know them all, but I do know both campuses have higher percentages than New Brunswick of black, Latinx and other students traditionally excluded from higher education who have overcome every obstacle to make it to graduation. Who have just as much of a claim to the Rutgers name and shouldn’t be punished for not attending the flagship. Who might have a different investment in hearing the first black president personally address and congratulate them on their accomplishments — I think students from underrepresented groups at New Brunswick will understand this — than the white student who wrote the post that unsettled me so.
Although I wish she and other like-minded soon-to-be-graduates from New Brunswick can find less exclusionary ways to celebrate accomplishments, I’m truly happy for her and I do understand the very legitimate desire to have loved ones at the ceremony, so I reserve greater criticism for University President Robert L. Barchi. If he seriously engaged with the possibility of Obama accepting the invitation to speak at Commencement and wanted to accommodate the entire graduating classes of Rutgers, he could have arranged the event to be held at a venue with an additional 30,000 seats: MetLife Stadium. There might have been more bureaucratic hoops to jump through, but haven’t we hired enough administrators to adequately tackle such logistical challenges?
Even if you don’t care for any of this you should still come to the House the Hub event this 7 p.m. Friday, April 22. We’re raffling two tickets to Beyonce’s "Formation" tour. Who doesn’t like Beyonce?
Nicholas Cruz is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in English and cultural anthropology.
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