Coming of Age in New Jersey: College and American Culture

By Michael Moffatt | Go to book overview
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Further Comments
This language suggests that Rutgers is a big institutional thing existing independently of any particular actor's perception of it. Rutgers might be redefined more phenomenologically, however, as the sum total of all those imprecise partial understandings that all the actors who make it up have of it, as the negotiated and changing product of their combined understandings. (Power plays a role, of course; the president's understanding has considerably more impact on the sum total than some untenured assistant professor's. And wider definitions are involved as well. One thing most administrators do when planning any big change, for instance, is to call their opposite numbers at half a dozen similar institutions to find out how they do the thing in question.) For my summary sketch of some of the structural complexities of contemporary Rutgers, see appendix two.
See Moffatt 1985b, especially pages ix-x and 261, for a summary of some of my historical sources.
The subjects of these essays are "traditional" college students--in the "college-age" cohort (seventeen to twenty-two years old), residing on campus or, usually as upperclassmen, independently off-campus. Rutgers College served mostly late-adolescent students; adults who attended Rutgers-New Brunswick usually went to University College, the "night school." About one-fifth of the undergraduates at Rutgers College, on the other hand, were commuters with far less access to the pleasures of modern college life than residential students had.
Poindexter and nerd are two negative stereotypes for socially inept youths. Poindexter ("dexter" for short) was the name of a character on a favorite children's TV show, which most of the students had watched when they were much younger. In the late 1980s, the campy musical performer Buster Poindexter had taken his second (stage) name from this old youth cultural meaning. The origins of nerd are unknown (but see chapter 7, note 36).

Note that both terms, by the way, come out of the wider youth culture. They are not specifically collegiate. In past generations, there were college-specific words for such stigmatized students-- "throat" at Rutgers in the 1970s, for instance (see chapter 7, note 12).

One freshman woman on Hasbrouck Fourth in 1984- 1985, on the other hand, reported

-62-

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