Welcome Class of '13!
When we arrived at Rutgers, we knew we were coming to a university with a strong academic and intellectual tradition. Today, Rutgers is one of only nine schools that were in existence when the first shots were fired in the American Revolution. Most -- Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Dartmouth, Brown, and Penn -- are private. Only two -- Rutgers and William and Mary -- are public.
Rutgers also has a strong tradition of participatory athletics.
The first college football game was played between Princeton and Rutgers in 1869. For the next hundred years, Rutgers played schools -- Lafayette, Columbia, Princeton, Colgate, Yale, Bucknell, Lehigh -- that even today continue the tradition of participatory athletics.
All that changed in 1994. Under pressure from a small group of Scarlet R boosters on the Board of Governors, Rutgers was pushed into "big time" athletics. RUI was enrolled in the "Big East" conference, then dominated by sports-factory schools like Virginia Tech, Miami, and West Virginia.
The BOG's idea was that Rutgers should try its hardest to be more like places like Boise State, Nebraska, Ohio State, and Tennessee.
Many Rutgers students did not agree. In 1995, they decided to resist. Their original idea was to gather one thousand signatures -- this is what the name "Rutgers 1000" refers to -- on a petition to the Board of Governors. Within months, however, the huge and unanticipated national response to RU1000's famous "Friedman Statement" moved the campaign on to larger-scale plans.
Here were the demands of the original Rutgers 1000: (1) abolition of "athletic scholarships" while (2) devoting the same amount ($2.7 million per year) to scholarships for top NJ students, (3) immediate removal of Rutgers from the "Big East" conference, and (4) application for membership in the Patriot League. Made up of Rutgers' traditional rivals (Colgate, Lafayette, Bucknell, Lehigh), Patriot League schools play football at the Div IAA non-athletic scholarship level.
The campaign came close to winning its struggle. The story has been told in Professor Dowling's memoir Confessions of a Spoilsport, but can be summarized here. The main RU1000 strategy was to work for the dismissal of president Francis L. Lawrence, who had been brought in by the Board of Governors to oversee Rutgers' entry into "big time" Div IA athletics. When Lawrence was gone, RU1000 believed, Big East membership and Div IA athletics corruption would disappear as well.
Along with opposing Francis Lawrence and his BOG supporters, RU1000 demanded that an amount equivalent to the money poured down the drain of Div IA athletics be spent on giving "real" Rutgers undergraduates -- as opposed to hired semi-pro athletes -- a campus and facilities worthy of a leading public university.The campaign's model for campus renewal was Penn, which had transformed an ugly urban setting into a lovely traditional campus in under twenty years. At Rutgers, specific demands included the jackhammering up of College Avenue to plant grass and trees, elimination of Rutgers' "Walmart parking lots" by constructing a large "invisible" parking garage, and construction of seminar rooms, student theater space, lecture rooms, and new buildings in the "collegiate Georgian" style represented by Old Queens, Van Dyke, Milledoler and Murray Hall.
Rutgers campus street (College Avenue campus)
In 2001, Francis Lawrence was forced out of office. New Jersey newspapers, as well as national papers like the New York Times, remarked that Rutgers 1000's opposition to "big time" athletics corruption played a major role in bringing about his downfall. In Rutgers 1000, our backing for a new president went to Richard L. McCormick. We thought we had good grounds for believing that McCormick would oppose "big time" sports at Rutgers. For reasons we could not have foreseen, this turned out to be a tragic mistake.
Convinced that it had won the battle against Div IA sports corruption when Lawrence resigned, our original RU1000 campaign dissolved itself on 1 December 2002, the day McCormick assumed office. The full story of the "McCormick betrayal" is told in detail in Professor Dowling's memoir. Under McCormick, Rutgers continued its downward spiral into "booster domination" and academic mediocrity.
Billboard put up by SOS (Save Our Sports) on George Street, near the entrance to Old Queens quad.
In 2007, Rutgers 1000 was revived by an entirely new generation of students. There were a number of precipitating events. One was that athletic director Robert Mulcahy cut six full teams in the few remaining "participatory" sports at Rutgers to provide more funding for his football and basketball franchises. Another was Mulcahy's lavish spending on coaches' salaries -- $2 million a year to football coach Schiano, over $1 million to basketball coach Stringer -- at a time when Rutgers was staggering under savage budget cuts.
The third reason was the McCormick-Mulcahy decision to spend an additional $100 million on a football stadium expansion in response to vociferous demands by football coach Gregory Schiano. This occurred at a time when tuition was being raised, classes were being cut, academic departments were desperately shorthanded, and the campus remained in a state of total deterioration.
Billboard later put up in same location by RU athletics department to celebrate C.V. Stringer's success in running what many regard as a semi-professional sports franchise. All six eliminated Olympic teams could be supported for two years on Stringer's $1.4 million annual income alone.
As Rutgers alumni and alumnae, we are proud that today's undergraduates have taken up the torch.
Here is a bit of advice. When we were involved in Rutgers 1000, we found that the issues that "frame" the Div IA sports problem were not understood by undergraduates.
It's important for today's students to understand these issues. Otherwise, they get taken in by false arguments and empty "booster mantras"-- "Winning sports teams promote alumni giving," "Football is good for 'school spirit'," "Football gives the school publicity," "Hey, Duke and Michigan have winning teams, why can't we?" -- because they've heard them repeated over and over.
On the original RU1000 web site, these arguments were refuted in detail. Our "Pro & Con: the 'Standard' Arguments" page was widely praised for having been based on exhaustive research. It was frequently quoted in discussions of the Div IA sports problem nationwide.We hope members of the "new" RU1000 will find time to reconstitute the "Standard Arguments" page on their website.
There's more. You are going to have to learn that most students "go along" with sports simply because they can't see the damage that Div IA corruption is doing to their educational experience.
We've done some recent research. Our conclusion is that the Rutgers student population today includes, at the top of its intellectual range, about 2200 students who could be at any school in the country: the Ivies, liberal arts colleges like Swarthmore and Amherst, selective public institutions like Berkeley or William & Mary.
At the bottom, the student body includes 5000 students who, if Rutgers had an admissions policy consistent with its history and intellectual traditions, would not have been admitted. (We've made our estimates by comparing RU admissions with those at The College of New Jersey, which draws from the same applicant pool and is supported by the same tax base.) All too often, as we learned during the Lawrence years, such students provide the "shock troops" for Div IA athletics.
They like to go around saying how much they "hate school." They have a vocabulary of ignorant abuse -- "asshole," "tool," "fag," "dork," "nerd," "sucks," etc. -- for screaming insults at anyone who might actually like reading Wittgenstein or learning Greek or studying medieval European history. They are inarticulate and semi-literate and proud of it. The philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer claimed that they represent a permanent and unfortunate aspect of human nature.
They love swilling booze before football and basketball games and going out to swagger around and start fights in the stands and in the parking lots. They would fit right in at UConn or Ohio State. At Rutgers they are a wholly new element, brought to campus by the BOG's push to go "big time" in Div IA athletics.
In the middle are about 15,000 students who could go either way: "up" toward the bright and intellectually engaged students at the top of the university's intellectual range, or "down" toward the group associated with screaming obscenities at opposing teams, starting drunken fights in the stands, and generally showing the sort of "school spirit" associated with sports factory schools.
University of Connecticut students celebrating a "Big East" basketball victory. UConn students set fires, smashed cars, passed out drunk, and boasted about what they had done on internet boards. In the "Big East" era, Rutgers is increasing dominated by similar individuals.
Your class has a chance to take the university back from booster domination. Based on our own struggle in the 1990s, we think that a membership of 500 strongly committed undergraduates would be enough to force the university to restore the six missing teams in the participatory sports and get Rutgers out of the "Big East" and its association with academically 3rd- and 4th-tier schools like Louisville and the University of South Florida. A 500-member campaign would also attract, as did our original RU1000 movement, substantial faculty and alumni support.
If things are allowed to drift in an atmosphere of "going along with the party animals," on the other hand, the BOG will get the Rutgers it always wanted: a Boise State or University of South Florida clone that 's really a glorified high school with a couple of semi-pro sports franchises attached. The BOG would then have its Top 25 football ranking or "March Madness" spectacle. New Jersey politicians could go around saying what a "priceless experience" it was to wear a Rutgers baseball cap.
But Rutgers would no longer be a real university. We're writing this at a time when over 70% of New Jersey's top students leave for out-of-state schools. At a time when The College of New Jersey is much more selective in admissions than Rutgers. At a time when even a mid-range school like UCal San Diego, comparable in size to Rutgers and competing with Berkeley for top students in its own state, can manage a 42% admissions rate compared to Rutgers' 56%.
Our proposition is simple. With a high-powered faculty and an applicant pool tremendously rich in intellectual talent, Rutgers should be one of the five leading public universities in the United States. But top NJ students are not going to apply to a school with the "party animal" ethos that dominates sports factories like UConn and Ohio State. They are not going to apply to a school with an ugly, litter-strewn campus. They are not going to apply to a school where faculty are increasingly demoralized and fewer and fewer intellectual demands are being made on students.
To members of the freshmen class, we want to suggest that change is still possible. All that's needed is some major surgery. Work to get rid of Schiano and Stringer and their semi-pro franchises. Work to get rid of Rutgers' disgraceful association with lower-tier schools like South Florida and Cincinnati and Louisville. Work to get rid of the system that has given us a BOG dominated by members of Scarlet R.
Along with this, some positive measures. Work to restore the six teams eliminated by Robert Mulcahy, and with them our traditional rivalries with institutions such as Cornell, Columbia, Princeton, and other Division IAA non-athletic-scholarship institutions. Campaign to get the money wasted on Div IA athletics matched by $400 million to be spent on campus renovation and renewal. Organize to end the system of governance that has given us a BOG dominated by Scarlet R boosters, and to give us instead a BOG made up of genuinely distinguished men and women.
Do these things, and you'll have done much more than spend four years at Rutgers. You'll have helped to regenerate an institution that you can be proud of when you come back for your 25th and 50th reunions. You'll have helped create a university to which, when the time comes, you'll be proud to have your own sons and daughters apply. In our own day, that's what we were fighting for ourselves.
We wish you the very best of luck.