A series of unfortunate events regarding the Rutgers alma mater occurred leading up to Convocation exercises in 2013. Initially, it was made known that the Rutgers University Glee Club would not be permitted to sing the alma mater at the ceremony that welcomes the first-year class to the University community. Not only would this have broken a long-standing tradition, but it represents the continued dismissal of history, heritage, and tradition at the university. This is a grave mistake, and it is disappointing that such a decision was reached.
Eventually, the Glee Club was reinstated conditionally. They did not perform “The Bells Must Ring” and “The Rutgers History Lesson,” which had earlier been removed from the program at Commencement last May. Shortly before Convocation, it became evident that a decision was made to unilaterally change the opening lyrics to the Rutgers Alma Mater. The new words were presented to the Glee Club just prior to singing, and then performed in front of thousands of unwitting first-year students as the true alma mater.
This decision shows an alarming disregard for the University community, the democratic process, and the channels of representation at Rutgers. In essence, decision-makers at Rutgers took advantage of their positions in spite of recent decisions previously made by the University Senate about the alma mater. The process that led to this change is troubling, as it represents the administration’s failure to show leadership by engaging the university community at large. Furthermore, it is indicative of a continued trend of relegating many of the University’s celebrated traditions and cultural legacies to the scrap heap.
Given the inadequate handling of a delicate situation that affects the entire University community, we seek a resolution that is driven by the students and alumni of Rutgers. A committee representing different facets of the alumni and student body would achieve this. The processes to address this issue must be transparent and welcome input from all interested parties. The administration, Boards of Governors and Trustees, and University Senate are being asked to give this issue the proper care and respect it deserves. If our University is to change its alma mater, it must come at the behest of the university community, and not from the clandestine operations of a select few.