Today’s guest post is by JGAPeppercommer Samantha Bruno.
As a Rutgers’ graduate, and the daughter of a Rutgers’ graduate, I am incredibly proud to say I bleed Scarlet red. I became a brand ambassador for the university long before I ever entered PR professionally. I showed the school to prospective students and their families as an overnight and classroom campus host and was a university tour guide and new student orientation leader. Receiving my diploma only increased my desire to show my Rutgers’ pride. I readily take advantage of any excuse to go back onto campus, including a recent invitation to film a video for their website on behalf of the career center.
All things considered, the past 13 months have been tumultuous for us Knights, to say the least. While making Melissa McCarthy’s hilarious SNL Skit possible, the handling of an abusive men’s basketball coach was extremely unfortunate, only fueled later by drama around the new Athletic Director. Recently, student protests around Condoleezza Rice’s commencement speech had me holding out hope that Rutgers might finally take their head out of the sand and handle a PR situation with finesse. I should have known to lower my expectations. With headlines like “Rutgers’ Ineptitude on Display Again,” Rutgers’ brand ambassadors, including both current and former students, can only do so much to represent the university in a positive light.
Condoleezza Rice declining the commencement speech gave Rutgers an opportunity to shine in the face of increased media attention. They failed. Sure, Rutgers will be remembered in this situation, but primarily for botching their handling of one of Rutgers most beloved figures, our #52. Having walked the same halls at the same time as Eric LeGrand, before his life changing injury while playing football for Rutgers, it’s disappointing.
Eric LeGrand has served as a beacon of hope in a dark moment for Rutgers. The show of support that came in the wake of his injury on campus was overwhelming. It didn’t matter if you knew him or not, everyone joined together in a show of solidarity. I remember getting emotional hearing that Coach Greg Schiano offered LeGrand a contract, however short lived, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This was a family, no matter how extended we were.
It’s not important who asked who to speak at the commencement or who rescinded which offer, the perception is that the RU Screw is alive and well, and after all, isn’t perception all that really matters?
There are times when apologies are appropriate and this is one of them. Publicly apologize to Eric. Apologize to the student body. Apologize to the alumni. Don’t you want the 65,000 current students to serve as a walking advertisement for the State College of New Jersey? As for the alumni, there are approximately 450,000 of us spread out across the country and around the globe. That’s an awful lot of rumpled feathers. When I received the e-mail from President Robert Barchi announcing former New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean as the new commencement speaker, I was dissatisfied that the letter didn’t address any of the issues and made only a general announcement. A little transparency could go a long way within the Knight community, but it doesn’t look like the money we paid to attend bought us that courtesy.
Call me naïve, but I am still holding out hope that RU pulls it together. Scarlet pride runs deep and if they took responsibility for a few mistakes, they would have an army of Knights standing behind them. If I may quote our fight song, Rutgers, give us something to “swim upstream” over.