Rutgers Celebrates 249th Anniversary, Kicking Off Milestone Year

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NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—It was drizzly and rainy on the afternoon and evening of November 10, but that didn't faze celebrants from attending the kickoff of Rutgers' 250th anniversary year.

Technically, November 10, 2015, was Rutgers 249th birthday, not the 250th.  The date marks the anniversary of the day that the University charter was signed back in 1766.

Students, faculty, administrators, alums, and others gathered for a variety of activities and enjoyed free food and beverages

The exhibits included a Rutgers history "wheel of fortune" tent, people in costume posing as famous Rutgers personages from history, a "Rutgers Quiz Bowl" tent, and a photo booth where people take pictures dressed in historic costumes with tri-cornered hats and ruffles. 

Souvenirs handed out at the festivities included town-crier bells, tri-cornered hats, knapsacks with "R 250" emblazoned upon them, and little plastic bags with trinkets in them.

Rutgers also took the occasion to release a 10-minute movie about famous alumni, flavored with a dash of Rutgers history, inside Winants Hall, and to unveil a gift from the global pharmaceutical corporation Johnson & Johnson.

University President Robert Barchi unwrapped the gift, revealing it to be a sculpture, consisting of the word "Revolutionary" in three-dimensional letters, was unveiled to much applause.

This occurred after a speech lauding Johnson and Johnson's role in Rutgers University's development.

Because 250 years is a quarter of a millennium, Rutgers administrators figured that a year-long celebration would be a good idea – it would be bold, it would showcase Rutgers' name, and it would draw attention to the university.

A tent with a small stage would be the site of the ringing of the bells, which occurred in the evening.

It would also be the site of a student protest, shortly before the ringing of the bells, as well as an impromptu second "ringing of the bells."

Students took over the stage and caught the attention of many by commandeering the live microphones.

Shortly thereafter, the mics were cut, and the protestors were forced to compete with smooth jazz, and eventually the school's marching band.

They held up signs calling for "a process for authentic student governance," criticizing the school's membership in the Big 10 Athletic conference, asking for divestment from oil, and calling on New Brunswick campus Chancellor Edwards to ensure that "all core curricula" had "cultural competence."

Other signs made statements about revolutions, alluding to the school's marketing campaign:

  • "My revolution is a democratic university!!"
  • "Reclaiming revolution looks like recognizing our contributions + victories."
  • "Reclaiming revolution looks like representation on governing boards."

Rutgers adminsitrator Felicia McGinty eventually approached the students and signaled they would have five minutes to wrap it up.

When President Robert Barchi took the stage, he acknowledged some of the protestors concerns about the school, and said he supported their First Amendment rights to protest.

Many attendees had little, handheld town-crier style bells, there was also a medium size bell in front of the tent (as previously mentioned), and Old Queen's bell was also employed for the celebration. 

Two or three Rutgers students, in white lab coats, were delegated to ring the bell in front of the stage.

A brief countdown later, they tugged the strings and the bells were all rung (medium bell, old bell inside Old Queens, and all those little handheld bells), making for a racket.

Bells were not the only musical instruments to be heard at this event, as a band, complete with drums and horns, was also playing across the street in the St. Peter's Catholic Church.

That band emerged from from the church and marched between the tent and Old Queens lining the driveway.

When the bell-ringing occurred, so did a lot of fanfare from the band, making it hard or impossible to distinguish Old Queens' bell from all the others.

The band then marched off towards the Winants Hall side of Old Queens campus.

Afterwards, the ringers of the tent bell were photographed with the bell, followed by various members of the audience.

A gaggle of people, brandishing more bells, including what appeared to be a large, plush, stuffed "bell," came out of Old Queens building and up onto the stage, holding an impromptu bell ringing.

This essentially concluded the festivities, except for those waiting to sign a scroll inside Voorhees Chapel.