OLAYEMI: Social climate changes weigh on first-years
Opinions Column: Implications of a social life
As we enter the new semester, I would not be alone in suggesting that the social climate at Rutgers during the current academic year has been, at best, lackluster thus far. I want to preface my future thoughts and claims by identifying myself fully. I am an African-American, School of Arts and Sciences junior. I am heavily involved at Rutgers, and my social circle is largely comprised of other Black students pursuing STEM fields. Those in this circle tend to be, at minimum, juniors as well. From my lens, and the lens of most of whom I associate, Rutgers has undergone a sharp decline in its social climate, especially as it pertains to partying.
It is widely known that Rutgers—New Brunswick is seen as a party school with physical perimeters far exceeding those of most other universities within New Jersey. My first year, much like that of numerous other first-years, was marked by rapid exposure to many of the people, places and opportunities on campus, which seemed to be endless at the time.
On the first night of my first semester, my roommate and I, along with hundreds of other newly moved-in first-years, went to College Avenue in desperate search of what house party we would eventually christen as our introduction to college freedom and independence.
That night, it seemed as though every other house was lit up from the inside out with those notoriously inviting lights — hues of red, blue, purple or green glowing along the various intersecting streets. It was then that I deduced that this school would feed my most social and extroverted desires as much as I would allow it to, and maybe even more than I intended if I was not careful not to lose focus. The energy I felt that night, along with the deduction I made after that first experience, remained consistent, even when my taste in parties and other social gatherings had shifted.
When tastes veered from College Avenue fraternity parties to ticketed “functions” (large-scale parties often held at small halls and warehouses) which were predominantly hosted by different Black fraternities here at Rutgers, I gained exposure to how an entirely different Rutgers student demographic socialized and developed communities.
These gatherings, unlike College Avenue house parties, are comprised primarily of Black students and non-students. The sizes of the venue and number of attendees ordinarily far superseded those of a normal house party. Music tended to be manned by a DJ rather than an Apple Music playlist on shuffle and they normally played not only mainstream trap music and R&B, but also integrated music that appealed to the various cultures presented throughout the crowd (afrobeats, reggae, soca and bachata).
Despite several differences between my first few party experiences and the experiences that I grew to prefer, the commonalities between both types are that they were highly attended, widely respected as mediums for weekend entertainment and occurred on a reliably consistent basis. These three essential components are what I feel have been severely lacking in Rutgers social life as of late, most notably this past fall semester.
Between the nationally increased scrutiny over greek life prompted by recent hysteria over fraternity and sorority practices, as well as what I personally see as an increase in Rutgers University Police Department (RUPD) intervention with student social affairs, I will make the assertion that the Rutgers current first-years have come in contact with is not the same Rutgers that I became enamored with two years ago.
Parties get shut down before they can even come to fruition. I speculate that current first-years seem to be attending parties and social gatherings less often or in smaller numbers than their upperclassmen, which I do not understand, considering this is said to be the largest first-year class that Rutgers has seen. The first-years keep Rutgers alive. Their infamous thirst for adventure and experience in the college environment, which to them is so new and full of possibility, is what I believe maintains the community dynamics shaping college social life.
It is due to the presumption that the first-years will occupy the empty space at these parties and other large-scale social gatherings that upperclassmen, like myself, operate under the impression that we have outgrown the partying that we were once accustomed to. While the greater social culture dwindles, upperclassmen who have already navigated the nuances of campus culture seem to have the unspoken shared mindset that we are “too cool” or “too grown” for the Rutgers party scene. Some retreat to more intimate methods of obtaining social satisfaction, such as the popular kickback among friends. Others escalate their social exposure by breaking away from the fraternity party scene and begin taking on night clubs or bars, especially in junior and senior year upon reaching the oh-so-revered age of 21.
I believe scope plays a key role in interpreting how our school is shifting socially. Based on my scope, I maintain that Rutgers is on an apparent decline as it pertains to its large-scale social imprint. My hope is that the spring semester awakens the campus in a way that will take me back to the energy and sensation that I, along with many others, felt more than two years ago.
Yvonne Olayemi is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in biological sciences. Her column “Life At RU,” runs on alternate Wednesday’s.
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