Other NJ News

A Fiery Year On the Banks: The Rutgers Conservative Union Finds a Voice

e51b264922200f98a76a_rucu2.jpg
The Rutgers Conservative Union tables outside Brower Commons on College Avenue. Credits: Dylan Marek
e51b264922200f98a76a_rucu2.jpg

Editor’s note: This story is the first in a five-part series on the Rutgers Conservative Union. Through that lens, TAPinto New Brunswick intends to provide a comprehensive look at an energetic year of on-campus activism at New Jersey’s flagship university. The second part is available here.

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — Dylan Marek went to bed an anonymous Rutgers University freshman. He woke up on March 1 to strangers calling him a white supremacist. 

As he slept, the Daily Targum, the student newspaper, published an article about the similarities between a Rutgers Conservative Union flier and one for American Vanguard, a white-nationalist organization. Marek, the Conservative Union’s founding vice-president, talked to a reporter the night before. He thought the story would boost the profile of the fledgling on-campus group, and perhaps attract some like-minded members.

Sign Up for E-News

Instead, his phone buzzed with messages from concerned friends. The piece had gone viral. “I woke up to total chaos,” Marek, who sports short hair and a matter-of-fact style of speaking, recalled. 

At first, he was angry. He felt misled by the Targum and misunderstood by his peers. The Conservative Union quickly published a Facebook post disavowing racism and any connection to American Vanguard. But that failed to prevent backlash on campus, widespread media coverage and national attention.  

Rutgers liberals reacted with anger and disgust. After all, American Vanguard fliers appeared weeks before at Latino and Muslim centers on campus, alarming the community and inspiring an outcry against white nationalism. Now, it seemed that a homegrown group had internalized those values.

“If this group represents conservatives,” a Facebook user and Rutgers student named Maaz Khan wrote of the Conservative Union, “then conservatism is utterly bankrupt morally and has no future with any decent people.”

The news story came out amid an arguably historic year for political activism at Rutgers’ New Brunswick campus. 

The election of President Donald Trump nurtured regular protests from students fearful of his rhetoric and immigration policies. But his rise also empowered conservative students, whose views had remained marginalized at Rutgers until that point, to finally feel comfortable taking center stage.

So, soon enough, Marek found humor in the chaos. To him, the visceral response to the flier episode epitomized the reactionary nature of some liberals. His colleagues agreed. Nick Knight, the union’s president, wasn’t surprised when he picked up the newspaper and saw the front-page headline. “They were trying to find something that would make a good hit piece on a brand-new right-wing club at Rutgers,” he recalled thinking. “And they got it.”

Nick Knight (left), president of the Rutgers Conservative Union, participates in a counter-protest in late January.

Was the design of the flier a mistake? “I guess you can call it that,” Marek later said. Conservative Union members said they stumbled across a boilerplate template that, it turned out, had also been adopted by the white-nationalist faction. 

But some of the language was identical. Two examples: “TAKE YOUR COUNTRY BACK!” and “Is this the country your ancestors died for?” Months later, Marek told TAPinto New Brunswick that his Rutgers group had indeed encountered the American Vanguard flier earlier, but members aimed to scrub it and write their own message.

Despite feeling like they wrongly received a reputation as the campus racists, Marek and his club refused to back down. 

“If you’re out there at Rutgers University on College Avenue Campus wearing ‘Make America Great Again’ hats, you’ve got guts. You’re not going into Afghanistan, but you are putting yourself in harm’s way,” he said. “But maybe I will get one person who sees what I’m doing and feels better about expressing what he thinks.”

All of a sudden, activists on the left and right knew of the Rutgers Conservative Union. But the incident wouldn’t be the final time they muttered its name.

The second part of this series will run tonight, June 13.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Franklin Township

Franklin Township: Tips for a Stress-Free Tax Season

February 22, 2018

Earlier is better when it comes to working on your taxes but many people find preparing their tax return to be stressful and frustrating. Fortunately, it doesn't have to be. Here are six tips for a stress-free tax season.

Don't Procrastinate. Resist the temptation to put off your taxes until the very last minute. Your haste to meet the filing deadline may cause you to overlook ...

Upcoming Events

Sat, February 24, 10:00 AM

Pillar College, Somerset

Pillar College Open House

Education

Carousel_image_accbbf1847ff9853d3d3_p1000919__1_

Sat, February 24, 2:00 PM

Somerset

Black America: Then and Now

Health & Wellness

Following Florida Massacre, EB Schools Add Armed Officers to Security

February 17, 2018

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - At a meeting Thursday night, the East Brunswick board of Education unanimously approved a resolution to engage the East Brunswick Police department to place armed police officers at each school building in the district throughout the entire school day.  

In a report released by superintendent Victor Valeski yesterday, township officials asserted that the move ...

Bernards Police Locate Body of Township Teen in Wooded Area

BERNARDS TWP., NJ -  Bernards Township Police announced late Thursday afternoon that the body of a 19-year-old township resident, Lydia Comtois, had been located in a wooded area of Liberty Corner following a search by personnel and volunteers from numerous public safety organizations. 

A preliminary investigation indicated the young woman's death was not deemed to ...

Filthy, dangerous conditions, theft and assault alleged at recently-opened Newark shelter

Newark, NJ—Antoinette Jackson, Sonya Webb and Andrea Eaddy sit in a McDonald’s on a cold winter morning, not far from the homeless shelter they currently call home.

During the day, they count on places like McDonald's to stay warm. They must leave the shelter at 7 a.m. and can only return after 4 p.m., even when temperatures drop below freezing.

When the ...

Following Florida Massacre, EB Schools Add Armed Officers to Security

February 17, 2018

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - At a meeting Thursday night, the East Brunswick board of Education unanimously approved a resolution to engage the East Brunswick Police department to place armed police officers at each school building in the district throughout the entire school day.  

In a report released by superintendent Victor Valeski yesterday, township officials asserted that the move ...

Bernards Police Locate Body of Township Teen in Wooded Area

BERNARDS TWP., NJ -  Bernards Township Police announced late Thursday afternoon that the body of a 19-year-old township resident, Lydia Comtois, had been located in a wooded area of Liberty Corner following a search by personnel and volunteers from numerous public safety organizations. 

A preliminary investigation indicated the young woman's death was not deemed to ...

Filthy, dangerous conditions, theft and assault alleged at recently-opened Newark shelter

Newark, NJ—Antoinette Jackson, Sonya Webb and Andrea Eaddy sit in a McDonald’s on a cold winter morning, not far from the homeless shelter they currently call home.

During the day, they count on places like McDonald's to stay warm. They must leave the shelter at 7 a.m. and can only return after 4 p.m., even when temperatures drop below freezing.

When the ...

Somerville Merchants Endorse Plan to Reduce Parking Lot Fees

February 21, 2018

SOMERVILLE, NJ – The Borough’s controversial parking fees are set to undergo another revision, with hourly parking reduced from 75 to 50 cents in municipal lots 1,2,4 and 6, according to a merchant-driven plan endorsed by Mayor Ellen Brain.

The $1 hourly rate for parking on Main Street will remain the same, according to the mayor.

The hours of enforcement will also be changed to ...

Whole Foods in Bridgewater to Officially Open Doors March 21

BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Whole Foods Market Bridgewater, the first Somerset County location for the retailer, will officially open its doors on Chimney Rock Road March 21.

According to a release from the company, the 49,000-square-foot store will open at 9 a.m., and there will be prize giveaways, special sales and product demonstrations and samples.

"We can't wait to serve Bridgewater and ...

Somerville Grieves Over Death of Jerome Gonzalez, a Modern-Day Renaissance Man

 

SOMERVILLE, NJ - Jerome Luiz Gonzalez, a devoted father, artist, author and the heart and soul of the burgeoning downtown arts community, died early Saturday morning, Feb. 17 pursuing another one of his passions, competing in an endurance race in North Carolina.

A 1992 graduate of Somerville High School and a resident of Bridgewater, he was 44.

The obituary provided by Cusick ...

Somerville Merchants Endorse Plan to Reduce Parking Lot Fees

February 21, 2018

SOMERVILLE, NJ – The Borough’s controversial parking fees are set to undergo another revision, with hourly parking reduced from 75 to 50 cents in municipal lots 1,2,4 and 6, according to a merchant-driven plan endorsed by Mayor Ellen Brain.

The $1 hourly rate for parking on Main Street will remain the same, according to the mayor.

The hours of enforcement will also be changed to ...

Whole Foods in Bridgewater to Officially Open Doors March 21

BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Whole Foods Market Bridgewater, the first Somerset County location for the retailer, will officially open its doors on Chimney Rock Road March 21.

According to a release from the company, the 49,000-square-foot store will open at 9 a.m., and there will be prize giveaways, special sales and product demonstrations and samples.

"We can't wait to serve Bridgewater and ...

AtlantiCast

AtlantiCast: Episode 12

On this week’s episode of AtlantiCast, decade of excellence makes headlines, as Atlantic Health’s place on Fortune Magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For List leads off the newest episode of AtlantiCast. Also on this week’s show, check out the newest “hybrid” operating room at Morristown Medical Center and find out how Atlantic Health is helping local ...