03 April 2010

Alma mater is a Rutgers tradition

An opinion letter that I sent to The Daily Targum (Rutgers University newspaper) in response to the proposed changes to the Rutgers alma mater and this response from two University deans.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines tradition as “a long established and generally accepted custom or method of procedure”.  Based on this definition, I have to disagree with the piece written by Vice President Qualls and Dean Davidson, stating that “change does not mean [the] loss of tradition.”  If the alma mater is changed to become gender-neutral, the words of the song are no longer “long established,” and the tradition of singing words that have been sung by previous University students since 1873 is lost.  Even if few words are changed, the history that the alma mater represents is no longer present.  Rutgers was an all-male institution until 1972.  Being that Rutgers was founded in 1766, women have only been allowed into Rutgers for about 15% of the University’s existence.  The words of the alma mater remind us of this fact, and changing the words to our age-old alma mater marginalizes a huge part of Rutgers history.
As a female student, I am proud to attend a university that supports women so strongly, and I acknowledge the efforts of the Douglass Residential College to encourage women's leadership and success.  And, as a female student, I am in no way offended by the words to the alma mater.  In fact, I am proud that the song represents so much Rutgers history, and I am glad that when I sing the alma mater with a group of Rutgers peers, I join thousands of previous students in making my mark at the University.
If the words to the alma mater are changed, hundreds of years of our University’s history will be lost.  The alma mater is one of the few traditions that still remains at Rutgers, especially since the formation of the School of Arts and Sciences, and it is important for students to remember why Rutgers is what it is today.  The alma mater serves as that reminder every time it is sung.  I am proud to attend a school that has such a rich history dating back to 1766, not just 1972.  Though I understand the reasoning Douglass Governing Council is using to spearhead a change in the alma mater, the alma mater is much more than just another song.  It is a symbol of Rutgers history, and that fact can not be forgotten during this debate.  Changing any words of the alma mater destroys the “long established” tradition that has been a part of those words for the past 137 years.


  1. I disagree.

    Ok, I've got nothing. I agree.

  2. this is a naive perspective on the fundamental nature of language & of history. valuing the ostensibly honorable "tradition" of white male patriarchy is, quite frankly, stupid. as leslie marmon silko wrote in her novel Ceremony: "things which don't shift and grow are dead things." traditions must be reinvented in order to continue to have meaning in the present. reinvigorating an old tradition is not destroying it; rather, this reinvigoration makes the tradition valid in the present. otherwise, the tradition becomes an antique which we cannot relate to, one which belongs in a museum & in a glass box


Thanks for visiting my blog- I love my readers! Be sure to leave a comment ;-)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...