The Importance of Studying Beyoncé

Kevin Allred plays "Ghost" for the students in "Politicizing Beyonce"

Kevin Allred plays “Ghost” for the students in “Politicizing Beyonce”

By: Nancy Elias

When PhD student Kevin Allred first began his Women and Gender Studies course which analyzed the music of black female artists and feminist literature in 2010, he did not imagine that his course entitled “Politicizing Beyoncé” would receive such dramatic attention from the university and beyond in 2013 and 2014. In the past year, the career of Beyoncé Knowles exploded after her Super Bowl XLVII halftime performance and the debut of her surprise album which took the music industry by storm. Her appearance at the MTV 2014 Video Music Awards in which the word “FEMINIST” flashed in white, larger than life letters behind her, only confirmed the Beyoncé crave which is sweeping the nation and confirmed Beyoncé’s now public and open discussion of feminism. By making “feminist” a household term, Beyoncé is changing the way the way society views feminism in the most powerful and in-your-face way: music.

Like Rolling Stone and Time, I had the opportunity to interview Allred and ask him about his class. “Beyoncé is reworking images of black women through her art,” said Allred. While arguably, articles, novels, and movies do the same thing, Allred intentionally focuses on music and in particular, the music of Beyoncé.

“I’ve always been into music,” Allred said, “there are novels in this class as well as articles, but music reaches so many more people to go to for analysis. We talk about the musicality of songs and the decisions an artist makes. We look at the lyrics, the videos, and even the way Beyoncé for example, manipulates her voice in certain songs. It adds layers of complexity and reinforces her political statement.”

Allred goes to the superstar’s music for more than just her lyrics. He is interested in all the choices she makes: vocally, visually, and metaphorically. “We look at the type of feminism Beyoncé puts out for us,” said Allred.

Confident, sexual, and enticing, Beyoncé complicates feminism. Her songs explore the more classic feminist topics of ambition and careers, but more than just a businesswoman, Beyoncé is a mother and wife, singing about family and sexual allure as well.

Beyoncé’s surprise album, which dropped on December 13, 2013 is a powerhouse for feminist analysis. Her visual album has 14 very different songs, each which explore a different part of her identity as a woman and the internal feelings and conflicts that come along with it.

Her album explores what it means to be a woman, and the spectrum of these feelings is anything but black and white, but rather, many shades of grey. To that respect, her album is dynamic, brilliant, honest, and conflicted.

In “Partition,” Beyoncé sings about wanting to please her husband sexually. She sings, “Take all of me/ I just wanna be the girl you like/ the kind of girl you like is right here with me.”

While some may argue that wanting to please a man, or transform oneself to fulfill his fantasies is “unfeminist,” Allred challenges that notion and asks “Who says you can’t be a feminist and be sexual at the same time?”

Beyoncé’s feminism says “I am a woman who has desires, and there is no shame in that.” In “Jealous,” Beyoncé is vulnerable and honest, and although she is a woman who is confident and comfortable with her sexuality, she is still insecure. She is still human. In “Mine,” Beyoncé sings about relationships, marriage, and what it means to “belong” to another: with belonging being both an aphrodisiac and a force of destruction. In this way, her album is one of the most honest pieces of art that I’ve ever come across.

Perhaps the most feminist song on her album, meaning the song that explicitly fight for the equality of men and women, is “***Flawless” where she samples the speech of Nigerian feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

In the middle of her song, listeners hear, “we teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, you can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. Otherwise, you would threaten the man. Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Now marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support but why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same? We raise girls to see each other as competitors not for jobs or accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men. We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are…Feminist: a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.”

This substantial sample sends a very firm message about gender equality, and its placement in one of Beyoncé’s most popular song reaches millions of listeners as a result. It’s un-ignorable: a speech explicitly about feminism woven into Beyoncé’s track about ambition and being “flawless.”

I joined the class, which meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays on Tuesday, October 28th to see what the discussion was all about. Allred began the class by playing an audio/visual selection from her album entitled “Ghost” which merges into another song, “Haunted.” Beyoncé sought to create a visual album with her latest album in which her songs were not hits, but rather, part of a larger piece, the album in full. She had an artistic vision in mind, and her music was meant to be seen, hence her songs could not be bought separately, but rather, had to be bought on iTunes as a collective piece, each song flowing into the next with its own unique music video to intensify the experience.

Allyza Umali, senior at Rutgers University-Newark and journalism and video production major, is currently enrolled in “Politicizing Beyoncé.” “I first saw this class last semester and I hoped it would be finally taught on the Newark campus. I’m a shameless, huge fan of Beyoncé, and the class makes me so happy because not only do we talk about Beyoncé, but we talk about women’s roles in the media and women’s status over history,” said Umali.

After watching “Ghost/Haunted,” Allred asked the class, “What is Beyoncé trying to say?” Students commented on her lyrics “I’m climbing up the walls because all the shit I do is boring/ all the shit I hear is boring/ all these record labels boring/ I don’t trust these record labels I’m torn/ all the people on the planet working 9-5 just to stay live/ How come?” Some pointed out Beyoncé’s jab at the music industry, in which often, record labels collect all the royalties off of their artist and leave artists with just a portion of what they have actually made. Additionally, classmates commented on the “commercialization” of the music industry in which top artists adhere to a “formula” to produce a hit, failing to produce a sincere piece of art. Classmates also dissected “people on the planet working 9-5 just to stay alive” with a Marxist eye, stating that often, people are not lucky to do what they love, and so, they work doing what they must do in order to make money versus what they want to do creatively or personally.

But this was just one layer of analysis. Allred asked the class to consider the heartbeat-like bass line which introduces the song, the flashing of black and white which illuminates difference scenes of Beyoncé: one of her in a black shirt singing to the camera, and one of a sexualized Beyoncé being consumed by the darkness behind her. He asked the class to consider Beyoncé’s wardrobe choice, her decision to paint her body with black ink in one scene of the music video, and the overall quality of her voice in the two hits. Each song by Beyoncé is loaded with symbolism in both the visual and audio component. To pair with her carefully thought out video and lyrical choices, Allred also asks the class to read books and articles which offer another critical supplement to the topics that Beyoncé aims to explore.

“It’s mind blowing when Kevin actually connects her visual album with the texts we read for class and with the social and political issues of women in our society,” Umali said, “and when I tell people that I’m taking a Beyoncé class, they say ‘what can you possibly learn,’ but when you sit down and think about the issues behind her songs, you see Beyoncé as more than just a performer. She’s a mother, feminist, wife, and powerful woman,” said Umali.

With such richness of content, it is no wonder that a whole course is dedicated to this artist. She is a powerhouse of vocal talent, stage presence, and awe-inspiring performance, and no other artist, let alone female artist, has as much power as Beyoncé Knowles today. In conjunction with this, she is a woman who makes it a point to explore herself through her art and illuminate her feminist beliefs, and with Beyoncé’s super-stardom, any message, especially one as polarizing as feminism, is hard to ignore.

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Is Voting Rational?

By: Everet Rummel

We’ve all received that email about voting this Tuesday, the one urging us to “embrace and exercise that empowerment [to vote] as both a right and a responsibility.” NJPIRG similarly encourages us to vote by going so far as to solicit voter registrations on campus. Despite the efforts of many groups telling us all to vote, the rate of eligible American voters who actually vote has been declining since at least 2004. Is this a trend to be concerned about? As it turns out, refraining from voting is a perfectly rational thing to do given the high costs and low benefits. In fact, the real wonder is the fact that so many Americans actually vote at all.

A 2012 study by the Center for the Study of the American Electorate found that 60.4% of eligible voters voted in 2004, 62.3% in 2008, and 57.5% in 2012. Even if the spirited (first) Obama campaign managed to interrupt the trend and increase turnout, by the second time around it was drastically lower. If it is our civic duty to vote, a right which we are privileged to have, why are so few people doing so?

What’s wrong with voting? For starters, Election Day is held on a Tuesday, a work day, giving us the options of getting up very early to stand in line at the polls, take time off from work (i.e. not get paid) to stand in line at the polls, or delay going home after work to stand in line at the polls. Decisions, decisions.
If the mundanities of forgone income and leisure aren’t enough, add to that a bunch of highly technical issues with voting. First, it is highly unlikely that any individual’s vote will actually make a difference in a large election. Second, even if everyone believe their vote mattered and everyone voted, the notorious Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem states holds that it is almost impossible to design a voting system that will accurately reflect the true preferences of the electorate. America’s electoral college voting system is particularly backwards in this regard; one need only to recall the controversy surrounding 2000 U.S. Presidential Election to agree.

Finally, voters are generally uninformed and fickle, which is to be expected. It is extremely costly if not impossible to become completely knowledgeable about every issue relevant to the welfare of the nation. Geopolitics, alternative energy, climate change, GMOs, epidemics, monetary policy, tax reform, comparative economic development, criminology, regression analysis; the topics and methodologies required to understand the issues at hand would require years of specialized education across multiple fields. Add to this the fact that we all have (or wish to have) jobs, families, social lives, and a dwindling amount of time available for leisure, it is perfectly rational to remain ignorant about most issues of importance (“rational ignorance” is actually the academic term for this behavior).

What’s more, people tend to vote based on preconceived notions, gut feelings, and instinct rather than the actual merits of politicians’ platforms. A growing literature within psychology finds that people tend to make character and ability judgements based on physical appearance alone. Candidates that look trustworthy and competent are trusted and promoted to positions of power.

Other studies show that many people simply vote based on party affiliation rather than facts. A 2014 paper by Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler, political scientists at Dartmouth University, found that when a Democratic president was in office, a majority of Democrats believed that the president could not do something to alleviate high gas prices while a majority of Republicans believed the opposite. Later, when a Republican was in office, the numbers switched; most Democrats said the president wasn’t doing enough about high gas prices while most Republicans said it wasn’t his fault. In fact, the president actually has no influence on gas prices at all, which are largely determined by international markets, but beliefs eskew facts, especially when the facts are expensive to obtain.

In sum, people vote in completely irrational ways with little regard for making an informed choice. The act of voting itself is perfectly rational — people often do it for non-economic reasons such as concern for social benefits — but so is the choice to not vote.

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RU-N Athletic Director Investigated for Alleged Racial and Homophobic Remarks – Mark Griffin Denies Ever Using Any “Slurs”

By Ray Gnagey

griffin.mark.podium.2

Photo Credit: Rutgers Newark Athletics

            Mark Griffin, Athletic Director of Rutgers University in Newark was at the center of an internal investigation, for allegedly making controversial statements at a Dec. 2013 coaches meeting. According to several sources, Griffin made two offhand remarks, one reportedly homophobic in nature, and another racial.

Kevin Morris, Head Coach of RU-N’s Women’s Basketball team, told The Observer what he remembers as Griffin’s “exact words” at the meeting:

“‘Listen we’re getting our mascot ready,” Morris recalled Griffin saying. “‘It should be ready for September. So we’re still working on it—and don’t worry, it won’t be gay.’”

Morris, who is currently on leave, said Griffin had admitted to making the comments when the investigation began. According to him, Griffin told the Human Resources Department at Rutgers-New Brunswick that when he made the alleged ‘Gay’ remark, he hadn’t meant it in a homophobic context, rather he intended it to mean: ‘Happy.’

“[Griffin] admitted to both of the statements,” Morris said. “He admitted to the other one where he said: ‘Listen the laundry room’s going to be closed for the Summer, so if you need to get your laundry done, you can take it down the corner to the Chinaman.’ He admitted to that one too. And he said: ‘Well, I didn’t mean like racially. I think there is a Chinese guy that owns a Laundromat in Newark. That’s what I meant. Take it to him.’”

An unnamed source familiar with the story heard that Griffin had in fact made the alleged remarks, citing the talk they had heard circulating among the coaching staff.

“I heard it from the coaching staff and I heard that [Griffin’s] boss, Gerald Massenburg, talked to faculty and that they agreed that they backed up what Mark Griffin was saying,” they said. “Obviously, I’m not comfortable with anyone of a high power or anyone of regular status making such comments. Here at Rutgers-Newark, we thrive on things like [diversity]. We’re the number one diverse campus, and to hear your Athletic Director made those comments, those things don’t sit well.”

They mentioned that players, as well as members of RU-N’s coaching staff were brought in over the summer to talk to the Human Resources Department as part of the investigation.

“[Griffin] was under investigation this summer,” they said. “Some of the coaching staff and some of the players had to meet with human resources. This was probably nine weeks ago. So they’ve been informed on everything that has been going on. And no one has done anything. So if anything they’re trying to sweep it under the rug and trying to not make a big deal about it.”

An additional source familiar with the situation, said that it was nothing new and that they had heard Griffin say “abrasive” comments before in their personal interactions with him.

“I’ve been around [Griffin] enough to know the way he speaks,” they said. “It’s been about two years since I’ve been around him where those types of comments would come out. If you hang around the man for five minutes you’ll see for yourself how abrasive he is—kind of obnoxious, I guess.”

“I don’t dislike him at all, he’s just kind of tough to deal with at times,” they added. “It’s hard to explain. I don’t know what makes him that way.”

When confronted about the comments he allegedly made at the Dec. 13 coaches meeting, Griffin insisted that he’d never made the remarks. He did, however, confirm that there had been an investigation.

“I’ve never made any kind of claims like that or comments like that and the University investigated stuff like that and they’re going to complete their report hopefully any day now. I can tell you there isn’t any truth to any of that stuff. And I personally find [the accusations] extremely offensive.”

“I got nothing to hide,” he added. “My goal and the University’s goal is what’s in the best interest of the student athletes and our institution as a whole. And I think we’ve done better than our due diligence to make sure we’ve got a good program and the student athletes are getting the best we can provide.”

Kevin East, Head Coach of RU-N’s Men’s Soccer Team, backed up the Athletic Director, saying that he’d known Griffin since before he’d ever been slated to coach at RU-N. “I’ve never heard him say anything like that,” East said. “I don’t really recall [the comments.] And honestly I’m not even sure I was at [the Dec. 13] meeting. Some of them I haven’t been to.”

East did confirm however, that there had been an investigation into the Athletic Director’s behavior.

“My understanding is they made an internal investigation and that everything was cleared,” he said.

Provost Todd Clear told The Observer that Griffin was under investigation, but any issue has since been resolved. “He is not [under litigation], the process which was filed with regard to him has been resolved by the university,” he said.

Senior Vice Chancellor Peter Englot, echoed similar statements when asked about Griffin. “This is a personnel matter, we are restricted from being able to talk about it. What I can say is that there is, as I believe you all know, an official look into the situation and any corrective actions have been taken,” he said. “We’ve had an official inquiry into the situation, and it has been addressed and anything else is a matter of personnel issues and we’re not free to talk about it.”

According to several sources, Griffin admitted to using the alleged comments to Gerald Massenburg, Assistant Chancellor for Student Life at R-N, in a meeting back in August.

When asked about Griffin’s remarks, Massenburg was unable to confirm or deny any of the allegations.

“All personnel matters are confidential,” he said.

Lisa Grosskreutz, Director of Employment Equity at Rutgers-New Brunswick, gave a similar statement, when asked of Griffin’s situation.

“I have no comment,” Grosskreutz said. “Our investigations are confidential. Basically to protect the person who’s complained as well as the respondent.”

Morris says that he and his attorney are in the process of filing a lawsuit against Griffin, citing a “hostile work environment” as one of the key reasons.

“I’ve been there 13 years and I can’t work for this guy anymore.” Morris said. “I’m not suing him because he’s making racial remarks. I’m going after him because of contract issues and that type of thing.”

“Any other school would fire this guy.” Morris added, “[Rutgers doesn’t] take action. They’re trying to cover it up. This guy needs to go. He is a disaster. He is so crazy.”

© Copyright 2014

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What Art is All About

By: Scott Nisley

Pictured: The Birth of Venus by William Adolphe Bouguereau

Pictured: The Birth of Venus by William Adolphe Bouguereau

There’s a reason we look art. It has the power to move us. It has the power to open minds, they might truly see. It allows us the chance to see the natural beauty of this world and the majestic visions we only witness in our dreams. I truly believe that the biggest folly and disservice we can make to art, is to analyze it to death. If you read into art too heavily, you’ll kill it. The same way you kill a poem by overanalyzing the poet’s use of rhythm and meter. One must let art flow over them in order that they may appreciate it. That they might relate it to their own lives. If one studies a painting, scratches their head, and tries to figure out what it means, than they miss the point. Even Renoir said that if you have to get up and explain a piece of art, than it ceases to be art. We aren’t moved by the artist’s technical skill. We aren’t touched by the composition, or the artist’s use of scientific perspective. Now these aren’t bad things by nature. After all, they are relevant to the ones employing the techniques into their own works. But that feeling–the emotional connection we grasp within a painting, has nothing to do with that. What makes a grown man tear up at the sight of Michelangelo’s Pieta, or Bouguereau’s The Birth of Venus, isn’t something that can be explained away through research or analysis. It’s the stuff of intangibility, the eternal mystery no one can ever put into words. It’s like trying to explain the magic of love. It can’t be done. One has to feel it for themselves. And the only way to do that is to let go. To forget about thinking, and learn to feel again.

 

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Searching for Kerouac

By: Scott Nisley

Jack Kerouac, despite all claims to the contrary, was a horrible sickening drunk, who spent the last years of his life slumped in a chair, getting loaded off whiskey and malt liquor and burning away whatever was left of his booze-buzzard brain.
But he was also a genius and a pioneer in a literary movement, that not only influenced a whole generation, but also challenged the way people thought and looked at the world around them. He had the eyes of a child, the heart of a poet, and an unmistakable voice that was all his own.

He wielded it the way bootleggers of old must have clutched the steering wheel, making the midnight run up from the deltas and bungalows of the deep south, all the way to the speakeasies of probation-era Chicago. With the same kinda nervous twitch they must have felt carrying those illegal trunk-loads of raw un-aged moonshine down the highway, eyeing every pair of headlights, like they belonged to a cop or a state trooper.

Jack wrote with a kind of wild lyrical immediacy, often aroused by the grip of Benzedrine, a psychoactive stimulant, not unlike our modern-day Adderall. You know what I’m talking about. That little yellow pill you take to help cruise through your goddamn Chemistry textbook, the night before the big exam.

He’d sit down at his desk, all hyped up on the stuff, with a glass of whiskey to one side and an ashtray on the other, and go hour after hour, pulling whatever ideas he needed from his preconscious and punching em’ straight into the typewriter.
It was through that half-drunk, half-crazed approach to writing that Jack assembled his iconic breakthrough novel On the Road. It was first published in 1957 and became an unapologetic record of the seven years he spent bumming rides and hitchhiking down the long two-lane highways of America. And of course, a chronicle of those crazy coast-to-coast trips zooming along with his friend Neil Cassady at the helm of their hundred-mile-an-hour junk machine. They traveled all over. From New York, to San Francisco, to Denver, to New Orleans, and even Mexico City, all the while with Cassady at the wheel, screaming: “Yass! yass! yass!” as they tooled along below the western sun.

It was in the summer of 2013 when I read On the Road and got drawn into Jack’s world for the first time. My good buddy Adam Sherman had read the thing and said it was the kinda book that made you want to drop everything, pack your bags and take off down the road yourself, in search of whatever adventures or magic or mysteries lay just beyond the horizon. Adam even spent seven thousand bucks of his own dough and bought himself an old VW Bus to make the trip. But that goddamn jalopy was so banged up you couldn’t hardly shift into gear and make it up a steep hill, without risking your neck flat out. So we never made the trip like he’d planned it.

I’m not going to tell you how or why, but more recently over the summer my family decided to take a trip and fly out to California for a few days to sight-see.

“Maybe the last trip we take together as a family,” my father had said. “Especially with you about to finish college and all.”
I saw it as a chance to embark on the same kinda wild-eyed trip Jack and his buddies would have taken over half a century earlier. One big crazy boom to the West Coast and back, to catch some kicks before the end of the Summer. Only this time the trip would be by plane and not from the window of a speeding car. A single swoop from one end of the country to the next–nonstop without a single gas station in sight.

Now the idea of boarding a passenger jet didn’t exactly give me a whole lot of comfort. Especially on a long flight like this one.

I’ve never really enjoyed flying in the first place and always sorta worry every time that some little piece of space junk, the size of a golfball, is gonna tear through the cabin and start a massive decompression, sending the plane down with everybody inside. Not a pleasant way to go.

There are other downsides too. If you’re a cigarette smoker, making the trip from Newark to San Fran is even tougher.

There’s nothing worse than being trapped in a steel fuselage at thirty-thousand feet on the first leg of a cross-continental flight. You know right off the bat within the first few minutes after takeoff, that you’ve got another five-and-a-half hours till landing and another thirty minutes by the time you exit the terminal and make it through baggage claim, before you can light one again. That thought alone is enough to make you tense up and get you feeling claustrophobic inside the pressurized cabin of the plane.

But I figured the trip would be worth it. Plus pretty soon I’d be faced with that terrible business of being editor-in-chief of the college paper and have to face my own problems with the booze. I guess you could say, it was a good chance for me to sober up.

On the first couple days we wound up bumming around San Francisco, my brother and I especially. The two of us wandered around the city, checking out the last remaining cable-car lines–those lonely jangled railways running up and down old woebegone Powell Street, from Union Square all the way up the hill to Fisherman’s Wharf.

We even managed to stagger up a few of those impossible Frisco streets on foot and made it up to the crossroads of Haight-Ashbury, the birthplace of the whole hippie movement. In some ways it hasn’t changed much since the Summer of Love in ’67. You can still find the old pubs and head-shops, the cafes, pornographic theaters, maybe even a lingerie boutique, or a shop selling sex toys here and there.

Graffiti tags are tattooed all over the place and some of the storefronts even feature large intricate mural-work by the local artists. Psychedelic dragons wilder than any mythic monster born from fantasy and crazier than any hallucination aroused out of an acid trip. All kinds of weird beasts stripped of their flesh, exposing ivory teeth, nursery bones, and the ruby neon glow of those scaly internal organs.

Along Haight Street you can still find the same hippie-kids strung out on the sidewalk, you might have seen back in ’67. Whole groups of them huddled together on the corner with their acoustic guitars. Unkempt, bearded, smelling of weed, and blindly strumming the same three chords with their hats out, gathering up whatever loose change they could scrape up. These were the real hippies, the ragged drug-addled nowhere kids from all over America, who’d made the pilgrimage all those hopeful runaways had made before them nearly fifty years ago. The only difference was, the Summer of Love was over.
At some point we left all of San Francisco behind and piled in to that cramped econo-sized rental-car, barreling off to see whatever adventures lay next.

We even made a pass of the Golden Gate Bridge and crossed the bay to the other side to explore the Muir Woods and see those centuries-old sequoias–those great big redwood trees you see in postcards, that have been standing tall since the days when natives still roamed the land and before men had ever swung a ax against their backsides.
On the third day we wound up staying at this little bed and breakfast in the town of Pacific Grove. The Seven Gables Inn was this little yellow joint on the edge of Monterey Bay, about three hours south of San Fran, that faced the sea and sat in spitting distance of this long rocky peninsula called Lover’s Point, that stretched out all jagged and salty, a hundred yards or so out over the Pacific.

From the top of the Point you could get face to face with the seagulls and watch the waves roll in from the west and go crashing all white and foamy on the rocks like nautical champagne, uncorked from some unknown dregs in the sea.
At night the fishing boats would light up the bay and anchor down a mile off the coast to reel in the latest catch while all of Pacific Grove slept. In the quiet early-morning hours, I’d step out of our little yellow cottage with a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other and sit down on the porch to watch em‘ dance in the harbor.

But it was on the fourth day that everything changed and we decided to visit Big Sur–that series of crazy majestic cliffs to the south, stretching out for miles down the coast along California’s Highway One. As it turns out, toward the end of his life, Jack had stayed on the Big Sur coastline, living in a little cabin-shack, owned by his buddy Lawrence Ferlinghetti. The success of On the Road and all the attention he was getting, had made Jack pretty jaded by the time the sixties rolled around. He was also beginning to drink ever more heavily. Ferlinghetti suggested Jack get away from the snoopers and the booze and go off to his cabin in Big Sur where everything would be quiet again. But the isolation only proved to drive the author mad, forcing him to leave the serenity of the woods and go back to the drink.

It was in 1962 that Jack published Big Sur, the book that chronicled his stay there and which proved to be one of his last great narrative novels. It wasn’t long after, that his lifetime of heavy drinking would finally catch up with him. Jack was on his deathbed seven years later from a hemorrhage brought on by Cirrhosis of the liver. He was 47. All the spontaneous energy and optimism that carried him through his youth was gone. Even that frenzied thrust of lightening that sprang him out on the road in the first place had finally sparked its last.

And now here I was on the Big Sur coast with my parents and my little brother, parked off to the side of Highway One, overlooking Bixby Canyon and the roar of the sea below. I swear, there ain’t no photograph around that’ll ever do it justice. You’ll see that long sky stretching out westward all the way to Hawaii and beyond. And hear the muzzle-flash of ocean waves, bluer and more vigorous than any little sputter-splash the Atlantic surf can muster on even the best of days at the Jersey Shore.

And you’ll see that jagged cluster of rocks rising hundreds of feet high, that make up the cliffs. A monument that glaciers–or maybe God himself formed a thousand years ago.

‘This is where Jack would have stood,’ I thought. ‘The very same place where the taxi cab would have let him off before he made the hike down the canyon to Ferlinghetti’s cabin.’

Part of me even toyed with the idea of venturing down the rockslide and trying to find that old dusty shack to see if anybody was there, or if it even still existed all these years later.

It was there standing on the edge that I got to thinking:
‘Jesus, Scott! Those guys at the newspaper are counting on you to be a leader to them and really take charge of this goddamn thing. And here you are getting drunk every night, stuck in this stupid awful habit. What’s wrong with you? Why can’t you shake it?’

It had all started the end of last semester. Brian Harris, the old editor-in-chief was graduating and almost ready to step down completely, when he asked me to take the reigns.

Suddenly the twenty-three-year-old white boy from Westfield was in the driver’s seat, about to take control of the most powerful instrument of communication on the campus. How did it happen? I never really pegged myself as much of a leader. Hell, I didn’t even see myself as being particularly ambitious. And yet here I was, two months away from the first deadline, practically scared shitless.

‘Ahh, don’t worry bout’ it ScottyBoy,’ I thought. ‘It’ll be fine, you’ll just quit later…’

But I didn’t trust the stupid thought for a second. It’s that same eerie voice that tells you to “jump,” when you’re standing on the roof of a tall building, or a high precipice, or even when you’re straddling the edge of Bixby Canyon. It’s only there to trip you up and confuse you and talk you into paralysis.

It was later that night after we made it back to our little yellow cottage at the Seven Gables Inn, that I began thinking of taking the night off and not drinking like I’d done every night since God knows when. But I caved anyway and went cruising down to the local 711 in Pacific Grove to buy a six-pack.

I always admired Jack and his work, but hated him for going the deep-end over his own misery and ultimately losing his battle with the booze. Part of that probably came from the fear that I’d end up the same way. A broken man as empty and lost as the shards from a broken whiskey bottle. Or maybe I’d end up going the way my grandfather went and suddenly collapsing in the bathroom one afternoon from a heart-attack, at the age of fifty-eight. Who knows?

I guess you could say I know what it’s like to walk in an alcoholic’s shoes. Every part of you wants to quit and yet you keep on going. You know it’s in your own best interest and the interest of everybody around you to stop, but that little insatiable voice keeps egging you on regardless.

‘One day I’ll shut him up for good,’ I thought. ‘By hook or by crook.’
After all, I had a whole newspaper staff to worry about. And not only that, but a whole campus to cover. Any honest effort to do that would probably be shot in the head if I kept on walking this awful road. I’d be a fool to let them down.
And somehow standing out there in the moonlight, I knew that I would stop. And that despite whatever fears or doubt I felt, everything would would turn out alright. Maybe it was the romantic or the optimist in me, at the moment I un-screwed the first beer.

“Here’s to you, Jack,” I said, whispering to the sea. “Guess we ain’t so different, huh?”

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Graduation at the Rock, A Crumbling Shame

By: Akin Shoyoye

Pictured is the RU-N graduating class of 2014 at the Prudential Center.  Photo courtesy of newark.rutgers.edu

Pictured is the RU-N graduating class of 2014 at the Prudential Center. Photo courtesy of newark.rutgers.edu

I remember when I was first told about the new graduation format. It was over lunch with a friend at La Cocina. A ceremony for all six Rutgers University schools at the Prudential Center did not seem like a bad idea. It’s something I probably would have thought about doing because it made sense to knock it all out in one shot. Hindsight, however, is always 20/20 and having a ceremony for over 2000 graduates was not the best of ideas.

I didn’t mind waking up early to catch the shuttle and check-in. It was a day in which I had the opportunity to not only celebrate the accomplishment of earning my Bachelor’s degree, but also to celebrate alongside some of my closest friends. The cheers of my family and friends from the stands were just how I imagined as I walked onto the stage. While it was a day of smiling and cheering as Chancellor Nancy Cantor emphasized, it also felt like an endurance test for graduates: How long could one wait while he or she heard hundreds and thousands of names read before theirs was called to walk upon the stage?

The ceremony was much too long. Graduates and their families began to leave as the patience of many were tested. People left in droves as it wore on creating more noise than needed. It wasn’t fair to the other graduates who were yet to have their name called in front of their families. By the end of the day, it all felt like a cop out.

The extra money spent on having separate graduations seems to be worth it not only in the interest of time, but for the sake of simply sharing the joy and celebrating the achievements of young people.

My time at Rutgers University-Newark was certainly an experience I will not forget. Yes, even the graduation ceremony. It was the first time the university combined the ceremonies, but for the sake of future graduates I hope it was the last.

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RUPD to Promote Greater Visibility

publicsaftyishere

RUPD police officer stands outside of the Office of Public Safety next to Parking Deck I. Photo Credit: Matthew Cole

By: Scott Nisley

As part of their strategic plan for the upcoming Fall semester, the Newark Division of Rutgers University’s Police Department, has put visibility up at the forefront of their ongoing mission to provide service to the campus community.

For the RUPD this means implementing more patrols on foot as well as the use of a variety of security vehicles, including bikes, T3’s and segues. They are also making a concentrated effort to inform new students of the many services they offer, including Informational and risk minimizing services like safety seminars.

“As you know, we have a whole new class coming in,” RUPD Chief Huertas said. So we need to orient—educate these individuals. Our staff on the ground needs to make sure that if we see somebody—if they look unsure as to where they’re going or what they’re doing, that we reach out and try to assist them as best we can. Anything we can do to ease their transition into the school and the Rutgers Community.”

Huertas says his role as chief is to command all aspects of the department, including operations, as well as overseeing administrative and budgetary components that play into the job.

“The role of the chief is to oversee this command,” Huertas said. “To ensure [that we’re] providing services to our campus community, to ensure that we are providing those services in a timely and professional manner—to make sure my people are doing their job.”

Most of the time RUPD’s collective team pulls their weight. But sometimes disciplinary procedures are required to keep wayward officers on track.

“Those people who are not doing a good job—we need to talk to them, train them, educate them, and if necessary we need to discipline them,” Huertas said. “We just dismissed a security officer for various reasons—for not doing their job.”
Huertas also explained the chain of command and the rank designations within the department.
“Below me there’s a captain, that commands administration and operations,” Huertas said. “We have four lieutenants that command operations. And then we have a lieutenant in change of the detective bureau. And than we have sergeants, that are in charge of squads or specialized functions. And then we have patrol officers.”

As a campus police department the RUPD operates much like any other law enforcement agency in a municipality. They have much of the same day-to-day challenges and responsibilities any other department has to deal with. They also work hand-in-hand with local and federal law enforcement, as well as the New Jersey State Police.

“There are a lot of facets to supervising an operation like this,” Huertas said. “We’re not a part time department. We are here 24/7. As such, we have directives, we have polices and procedures in place that guide us in terms of what we’re supposed to be doing. And guide us in terms of how we’re supposed to respond. Anything that we do will come under scrutiny, not only by my superiors, but by the Attorney General at the prosecutor’s office, because we are a full-fledged police department.”

Because of this distinction, the Sergeants, Lieutenants, Captains, and Community Service Officers within the department are held to the same high standards expected in any local jurisdiction.

“Our officers are certified police officers throughout the state of New Jersey,” Huertas said. “They have the power to enforce criminal crimes throughout the state. Our officers can go from working here, to working in a municipality and there’s no change in their status. Their authority is the same.”

According to officials within the department, the experience officers draw from their training often leads them on to bigger and better things later in their careers.
“I have guys that come through this job and when they leave here they always do well,” Sargent Daryl Yelverton said. “They always go to other PD’s and do well. A lot of them go to Newark and they’re all like detectives, captains—people who have come through these ranks.”

Yelverton, aside from working as sergeant, also operates as a training coordinator within the department and has over two decades of police work under his belt. Even with all that experience, he says the job never loses its excitement.
“It’s not a cookie-cutter job—you never know what a day’s going to call for,” Yelverton said. “It’s a roller coaster ride.”

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