Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A World Without Rutgersfest

Well, it seems like another week, another news story about my university. This year has been pretty rough for us in the Rutgers community in terms of damage control, but like anything in Jersey, it will take a lot to get us down and out.

I have never been very supportive of Rutgersfest. While I am still a little sad that I didn't get to see Motion City Soundtrack the year before I started here (even though it was super rainy), I am just not a very party-oriented person. I have gone to parties, trust me. I've gone over that in an earlier blog post. I just don't feel like listening to okay music while being shoved up against tons of sweaty, drunk, possibly sixteen year olds.

An issue that has arose with Rutgersfest is the fact that it is a huge thing. Pitched as an end-of-the-semester celebration, Rutgersfest should be a day of hanging out with fellow students, listening to music, jumping on dorky inflatables, and partying with fellow students that have been able to survive the semester with you. However, the festival, which was held on a field at Busch campus, was extremely easy to enter (I literally crossed the street and boom! Rutgersfest!), and through social networking sites, has become way too easy for outsiders (mainly high schoolers/students from other colleges/enthusiasts of the bands) to access the festival and hopefully go to the many parties offered throughout the area in honor of the event.

In case you haven't read the zillions of articles about this event, these thousands of people-not Rutgers students-flooded our campus and the outside areas, drunk, ornery, and hoping, and in need to be at any and all of the parties. Because too many drunk people with too much alcohol is never a good thing, people got into fights. These fights were awful. While I was not out on the town during this night (even though I had planned to go to a house party, because I need to assert myself as not a party pooper while writing this post), I was told by people that there was a weird vibe in the air. People wanted to fight. Around three am one of my co-workers in a frat was disrupted at two/three am to gunshots. In total three different incidents with gunfire took place. Four victims were tallied up. Thankfully, no one died. None of the people in on this were Rutgers students. However, it scared a lot of Rutgers students in their residence halls that heard them and resulted in a lot of people in an on campus apartment complex getting their rooms searched by cops in hopes of finding one of the shooters. We got text messages basically saying College Ave was shut down. Most conflicts were done by the time the morning began to get rolling. Garbage was picked up, things were put back to place, and many opinions began to fly around about the future of Rutgersfest.

As of this afternoon, Rutgersfest has been cancelled. I can't say that I'm mad. Honestly, my initial reaction was good riddance. However, I do believe that we have a right, as students, to have an event. While I'm sure a lot of people are pissed, there are some positive things we can realize from all of this.

Student fees are being heavily debated in my area, due to the other headline-grabbing situation we had, which was Snooki making an appearance at our school. Both Rutgersfest and the Snooki visitation were organized by RUPA, our student-run group that arranges many of the events on campus. While I will defend Snooki til the end and I do not mind that my student fees went to her and her two sold out shows, especially because it was for students. While I was unable to attend the event, I know that many students went to it and had a blast. These student fees also went into Rutgersfest, which is much more expensive. I'm sure it's easy to rationalize the price of this event. It's a huge day full of okay bands and a lot of police officers, security guards, and amusement-related games needed to make the whole event run. But the reason you should be mad is the fact that all of this really expensive stuff is going toward a large population of people that aren't students of the university. In fact, a lot of it is students from other schools, teenagers from a few towns over, and other people that may not have even been invited by students. I feel like that's where I draw the lines on the budgeting of my student fees- I face the fact that I will not be interested in every single event RUPA runs at the school. We're a huge school, how can you appeal to everyone? I am not okay with the fact that non-students use our funds to get drunk, be assholes, and destroy our campuses in the process. I'm very okay with the fact that this money, I've read about $96,000 worth, has been able to be funneled into events that I may not be able to enjoy, but hopefully other students will be able to. Or maybe, gasp!, they'll reduce these fees because they won't have another costly event like Rutgersfest again!

This may also give RUPA, or any organization, the opportunity for them to begin to come up with a safer, more enjoyable event for the end of spring semester. Perhaps a concert at Rutgers football stadium? We can have students reserve space ahead of time and just do similar security that we do during football games. Eject people too drunk, require a student ID... it's not the end of the world. Parties can happen, like any other weekend, however, they are going to be less hectic because not as many people will be searching for parties as they did at Rutgersfest.

Basically, I am weirdly optimistic by the cancellation of Rutgersfest. I think that there is a lot of potential for great things to happen at this university. While this incident greatly depressed me and I never cared for the event, I do hate that some outsiders had to be responsible for us not being able to have nice things. I am, however, optimistic that we can learn from this and we can make Rutgers-related activities be super fun and and able to be enjoyed by students safely.