“The best they could do was pick up their pieces.” Rider may not be the Italian restaurant and we may not be the couple of Billy Joel’s lyric. But, as Joel recounts the good and bad of the summer of 1975 for Brenda and Eddie, it would be wise for us to do the same after a year that sometimes seemed to fit Daniel Powter’s Had a Bad Day. But for Rider, it would be bad days.
While looking out the window in class on Wednesday, when perhaps we should have been paying attention to the stimulating lecture, we saw white stuff falling, reminding us it’s almost time to bid adieu to 2007. It’s a year that some of us would rather forget for the tragedies and unimaginable losses it brought, compounding a seemingly endless cycle of bad news and press invasions. Yet this turbulent period also had its great times, and the Rider community showcased resiliency and the will to persevere.
This year has been heart-wrenching. The death of freshman Gary DeVercelly in March left us all reeling and hoping better days would soon come. But, unfortunately, the very opposite happened as additional losses this semester left no one untouched. News of senior Thomas Galletta’s passing broke just as students moved back onto the Lawrenceville and Princeton campuses and classes got underway. Then, in the span of four weeks, we lost freshman Ryan Marsich, political science professor Dr. David Rebovich, freshman Justin Warfield, junior Nicholas Costa and senior Alicia Lehman. It’s never easy to lose one of our own. But, out of the sadness of these untimely losses, we are reminded of how precious life is.
Trying to focus on classes, homework, family and friends got even harder as national news grabbed our attention. The war in Iraq escalated as President Bush announced on Jan. 21 that an additional surge of 21,500 troops would be sent to help calm the insurgency. To date, 3,887 American troops have died. Tragedy hit close to home as a massacre at Virginia Tech on April 16 left 32 dead and others injured. Just this past week, eight holiday shoppers were gunned down at a mall in Omaha, Neb. It’s harder for us to go about our lives at Rider when we realize all that transpires on the outside.
The down-to-the wire contract negotiations between the administration and faculty union provided us with some tense moments in September and October as a potential strike loomed. Even though some students were probably excited at the thought of having a few days off — better known at some colleges and universities as a fall break — seniors worried about the impact it would have for graduating on time. The differences on academic governance, promotion and tenure, compensation and many other issues at one time seemed as large as the Atlantic. A lot was at stake in negotiations that up until the end went at a “snail’s pace.” The 244 full-time and 247 part-time members of the union had signs painted and were ready to walk the picket lines. Luckily, both sides came to their senses and avoided a story that would have brought another barrage of media with it.
In the end, the glass is still half full. Our men’s and women’s basketball teams are having better seasons compared to last year, giving us all an added reason to bleed Cranberry as we proudly shout R-I-D-E-R at the games. The generosity of our community was evidenced by the 271 Thanksgiving baskets collected and distributed to local organizations that ensured the less fortunate were able to enjoy a holiday meal. Productions like Sweet Charity on the Lawrenceville campus and Into the Woods on the Princeton campus lifted our heavy hearts and provided us with bouts of much-needed laughter. The new Starbucks made its debut this semester, supplying students with another caffeine outlet. The Rider Bronc also got a makeover this semester, gaining a new, fiercer look that with any luck will scare away our competition on and off the field.
“Beleaguered” is the way some media outlets portrayed Rider this fall. Let’s not allow such an image to be the one displayed as we say goodbye to 2007 and usher in a new year.
Written By Opinion Editor, Jamie Papapetros