It's a Rutgers bus. But not any old Rutgers bus, making its fast and determined progress between College Ave and Douglass or Busch or Livingston, clipping the odd car (or, on a bad day, another bus) on its way. It's the hotel shuttle bus, sitting waiting for passengers outside the student center, with (on closer inspection) a few depressed black spiders, left over from Halloween, adhering to its windows.
As this article in yesterday's New York Times makes clear, five hundred of our first year students don't have a dorm room, but are being put up in the Crowne Plaza hotel somewhere about five miles away. I can't imagine a more depressing start to one's Rutgers career (a Crowne Plaza hotel ten miles away?). The whole article is about the tendency of state universities to try and make more money out of recruiting out of state students, who will then pay higher fees - something that Rutgers plans to put some energy into doing. And there's certainly financial logic to this - although each out of state student means one place less for a New Jersey student. But how does one go about drumming up enthusiasm? Many of our dorms are not spectacularly seductive at the best of times (I once proposed, fervently, that we shouldn't ever ask new faculty to teach in the basement of the River Dorms in their first year, or they will run screaming away from New Brunswick - in my own first year teaching, I was once stopped in full flow by the sight of a rat scuttling along the pipes outside the window at the back of the dank room). Yet to imagine that we can entice students from New York or Pennsylvania or Connecticut to come here when we offer them a bus ride to and from corporate hotel land, rather than any simulation of vibrant campus life, is a true pipe dream.