Editor's note: This is an opinion piece by Amy Barenboim, a Rutgers University student who writes a regular column for TAPinto New Brunswick.
NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — At Rutgers University’s Corefest on April 30, students looking to enjoy some local music faced unprecedented levels of security. Bag searches, metal detectors and pat-downs guarded the event.
Corefest is an annual show hosted by 90.3 the Core, the student-run radio station. The lineup consisted of locals bands, such as Johnny Cola and Hong Kong Graffiti, and better-known acts, like A Great Big Pile of Leaves and The Hotelier.
Fewer than 100 people jammed out in the crowd. They were mostly calm, with some bopping and jumping. People swayed slightly to the ambience of Johnny Cola, and rocked out to Curtis Cooper. The event was a respite from New Brunswick’s otherwise high-energy music scene. Everybody seemed to be friends who were there to simply hang out.
Which is why it is so strange that Rutgers treated the event like a potential public safety hazard. At least five Rutgers police officers secured the entrance to the event, while another circled the building. They thoroughly searched bags and conducted pat-downs after people had already walked through a metal detector.
Many attendees expressed concern and confusion over the amount of security. Members of the Core described the level of security for Corefest as unusual.
“Last year, we had a much bigger turnout in the student center, and they trusted us to do our own security,” Jason Mallonga, the Core’s events coordinator, said. “We don’t really need the security. They told us about it kind of last minute. We booked the room a while ago, but we only heard about it the last two weeks.”
The Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA) said the number of police officers was based on the potential occupancy. The room could legally hold 500 people, but far fewer attended the show.
The Core requested the heightened security, according to Rutgers police.
A straight answer as to why Corefest needed heightened security this year—and not in previous years—cannot seem to be nailed down.
But over the past few months, and especially the last few weeks, the music scene across the country and the city has been targeted by police departments. Cops and fire officials recently shut down three show-houses in New Brunswick because they supposedly posed fire hazards. Frat parties, meanwhile, seemingly go unnoticed.
Although Corefest is run and funded by Rutgers, there is a lot of crossover between the Core and the do-it-yourself music scene in New Brunswick.
DIY does not only mean do-it-yourself. It means creating a community of friends who run events and create art without profit in mind. In New Brunswick, DIY also means zero tolerance for any sort of bigotry.
Despite the camaraderie and social justice that are inherent to the music scene, New Brunswick and Rutgers authorities have targeted it more heavily than other institutions. Are events related to this thriving music scene actually dangerous? Or are its members simply battling the effects of stigma?
Amy Barenboim, a New Jersey native, is an English major at Rutgers University. She is also interested in theater and philosophy. On most days you can find her reading a book under a tree. She writes a regular column for TAPinto New Brunswick.