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Should Events Like RutgersFest Be Canceled In The Future After This Weekend’s Near-Tragic Events At Rutgers University?

Submitted by on April 18, 2011 – 8:26 am8 Comments

On Saturday night, tragedy nearly struck the Rutgers University campus—and some think Rutgers itself may be to blame.

The university—which came under heavy fire earlier in the month for shelling out more than $30,000 to have Jersey Shore‘s Snooki make an appearance on the campus—is catching hell after two shootings took place near the Rutgers campus resulting in five injuries and eleven arrests. Fortunately, no one was killed as a result of the mayhem which took place, but the close call has local police in New Brunswick, N.J. wondering if enough is enough at Rutgers.

The reason for all the hoopla is that Rutgers held its annual RutgersFest on Saturday—an event that welcomed more than 40,000 Rutgers students and non-Rutgers music fans to a free concert featuring Pitbull, Yelawolf, and 3OH!3. Shortly after the event ended, Rutgers provided shuttles for many of the attendees back to campus and to nearby College Avenue, where many of those same people—again, both Rutgers and non-Rutgers folks—attended parties where alcohol was served (not a shocker!) and frequented the local bars. This resulted in a scene that was initially great for business, but bad in the long run.

As a result, the police director of New Brunswick called RutgersFest “the worst thing of the year for the city of New Brunswick.” Though the university itself spent money to hire security and bring in local cops to help police the event, he doesn’t feel like the school realizes how bad the event is for the city. “We were trying to get the university to curtail this last year,” he said. “The city’s concerns over this event are falling on deaf ears.”

But, is the event really the cause for all the trouble—or does he have a point? The truth is that a near-tragic series of events like this could probably happen on just about any weekend on a college campus. Having some personal experience with the New Brunswick area, I can say that incidents like the ones that occurred at RutgersFest are not commonplace, but they’re also not completely out of the question, either. Rutgers is home to thousands of students and every weekend there are both Rutgers and non-Rutgers people roaming the streets of NB looking for a good time. That good time usually involves get liquored up—and that’s where trouble occurs.

I can also see the police director’s point, though. RutgersFest is technically a Rutgers-sanctioned event and, every year, there are thousands of people who attend the event who are not students. That’s all well and good and makes for a more successful event, but many of those people don’t care about how their behavior could negatively impact the reputation of Rutgers. They don’t care that they are making the university look bad by getting into fights at RutgersFest and acting a fool on campus. They don’t care that Rutgers gets a bad rap because of them. They don’t care because they have absolutely no ties to the school and could care less.

Then again, Rutgers is the one that’s allowing them to be there in the first place. They are promoting RutgersFest and getting students to get the word out about the event. So, don’t they deserve their share of the blame as well? The truth is that they do. And, in the future, they need to seriously consider canceling the event altogether if they can’t find a way to curtail situations like the ones that happened this weekend. Or, they need to limit the event to Rutgers students and do everything they can to prevent non-students from finding their way into the event or any of the after-parties.

If Rutgers chooses to do nothing and hold RutgersFest again, I can’t blame them. Allowing a few bad apples to ruin one of their biggest events of the year might not be the best option. But Rutgers has faced too much bad press in the last couple of years to let a one-day event do further damage. Events like these are no longer celebrations—they’re a potential black eye on major U.S. universities. And if schools can’t find a way to stop the violence, they need to put a stop to the shows. It’s the only way to make sure that near-tragic events like the ones that took place on Saturday night don’t strike again on a university’s watch.

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