Steven Rayesky | Staff Writer
Go anywhere on campus and you will see a new look plastered on every window and wall. Homemade signs and messages to keep Rutgers the same shout out in scarlet. You go to any class and you are bound to hear a professor give an update on the current merger news, with encouragement to make your voice heard by letting those in leadership know where you stand on the proposal.
The merger has overshadowed much of the other activities on campus with students attending rallies and forums. Many have even taken greater initiative in making a difference. Undergraduate Hyun Kyu Seo created the website R2Rmerge.com, where anyone can go and sign a petition against the proposed merger. The petition now approaches 10,000 signatures.
A different approach was taken last week when two performances were put on with the merger as the focus. The play was “Stop the Takeover,” a series of vignettes put on by Rutgers students showing the merger from different points of view. While the play addressed a serious theme, it was lighthearted and funny as it poked fun at “fat cats” who will profit from a merger. Encapsulated in under 20 minutes, the play also shined light on how it has been affecting students and faculty.
“It’s getting more knowledge out there about this fight. [Knowledge] that we as Rutgers-Camden students and alumni and teachers should have,” said Tom Milicia, a junior studying English. He portrayed Nearcross, the sleazy money-fetishizing businessman who is acting behind the scenes to get this merger passed. Innuendos prevailed as he caressed his suitcase full of cash and squealed with the anticipation of getting the takeover accomplished.
The play was written by Cooper Gorelick, a junior who is double-majoring in Theater and Mathematics, and whose play “Drunk and in Love” was recently honored by the National Playwriting Program.
“I had been thinking about writing anti-takeover theater before,” said Gorelick. “I couldn’t figure out how to form it.” But then a professor pointed him in the direction of Clifford Odets’ famous play from the 1930’s, “Waiting for Lefty.”
“I did not want to write an angry, didactic piece. Then, I heard how Odets’ play was written as a series of vignettes, and I was off and writing,” explained Gorelick.
The play starts with a phone conversation between two students. They both are talking about the downsides to the merger: not wanting to go to another campus, or having the money for a change in tuition, or the prospect of losing the programs they are in. The catch being that they were Rowan students. It echoed the most common question that you hear in regards to the merger: why? Bewilderment is rampant as students and faculty grope for answers as to why this would be a good thing for either Rowan or Rutgers.
The Rutgers University Singers also joined in on the act, singing the University Alma Mater “On The Banks.” About 20 singers belted out the tune that asks that “Rutgers’ glory fill the air / On the banks of the old Delaware.”
“I think it gives [students] an outlet for some of their frustrations,” said Margie Morgan, a member of the Singers and wife of Biology professor Mark Morgan. “Gives them a voice and gets the students fired up about it.” And the students are fired up about it, as they have taken ownership of defending their school by making their presence known at every forum and board meeting that has been held concerning the merger.
Part of that fire comes from the frustration of having your school be on the chopping block and not knowing the details. In one of the vignettes, students are discussing the merger, but feel helpless and lacking in basic information about the merger.
“[This merger] is like saying we are going to have a universal healthcare system that will apply to everyone, and we are going to vote on it next week, but the details on it won’t come out till next year,” said one of the actors, bolstering the idea that the merger is less on educational grounds and more on political and financial ones.
“I hope [the play] will get people fighting this takeover, and for those already fighting, I hope it bolsters their spirits,” said Gorelick.