Demarest Hall

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Demarest Hall

Demarest Hall is a residence hall for undergraduate students attending Rutgers University-New Brunswick in New Brunswick, New Jersey. It is named for Reverend William Henry Steele Demarest, who was the eleventh President of Rutgers College from 1906 to 1924.

General information[edit]

Demarest Hall is the only Rutgers residence hall completely dedicated to Special Interest Housing. The hall offers a large, friendly and open-minded community and also a strong and active Hall Government. The heart of Demarest, however, are the Special Interest Sections. These sections cover a wide range of topics spanning the social sciences, the humanities and the fine arts.

As of the 2017-2018 school year, Demarest hosts the following sections:[1]

Hall Government events and programs cater to the interests of the sections and their members. The sections themselves meet weekly for one-hour sessions in which members lead discussions about various topics that are considered a part of that section's Special Interest. These discussions may be oriented around politics and cultural analysis, hands-on projects tapping into the creativity of the members, and presentations on topics pertaining to the section. All of the sections are student-run, as is the dormitory's Hall Government, allowing the students to mold and direct the sections as they choose.[2]

In the late 1990s and early 2000s a number of language studies sections were among the officially funded special interest sections of the dormitory, including French, Spanish, and Italian.

Sometimes, unofficial sections may develop from different residents in the dormitory, often being conducted out of their own rooms inside the dormitory. If there is enough support for the recognition of the section, it may become official in the dormitory and be entitled to funding from the Rutgers University Residence Hall Association.


Demarest Hall rear
Demarest (third from right), in 1904, with members of the New Brunswick Seminary faculty. His predecessor as Professor of Ecclesiastical History and Church Government, Samuel Merrill Woodbridge (third from left) is seated in robes next to him.

Demarest Hall is a dormitory on the College Avenue campus of Rutgers College in New Brunswick, New Jersey. It was built during 1950 and 1951, and was named after Reverend William Henry Steele Demarest, President of Rutgers University from 1905 to 1924. Unlike the brick monoliths which comprise most of Rutgers housing, Demarest has a more handsome architecture and has a cupola with a weather vane, hence the unofficial Demarest motto, "We've got a big gold cock."

Demarest originally housed only freshmen, but older students protested. Demarest became the football players' dorm (until the mid-1960s) with sets of football player andirons in the two Main Lounge fireplaces indicating this status. One set of the football player andirons remain in the Main Lounge fireplace to this day, though apparently the other set was stolen between 1993 and 2004. Rumors persist, and have been partly confirmed that the stolen set of football players is now at the Rutger's Club dining establishment. While current Demarites are negotiating to retrieve the historical pieces, it is widely believed [by whom] that the football players will remain at the Rutger's Club for the foreseeable future.

In the mid-1960s, Demarest began housing Honors students. These students formed special interest sections as a way to learn from each other in informal discussion, as a relaxed, more in-depth alternative to the standard classroom lecture. Some sections were created in conjunction with academic departments, such as French, the first special-interest section, created in 1966. Some early Demarest sections included Arts and Crafts, Women's Studies, Puerto Rican Studies, and Natural History.

In the late 1970s, Demarest became an official special-interest hall, with funding from the Office of the Dean of Students; this funding was later assumed by the Bishop House Office of Residence Life, which was founded in 1980. Students ran the sections autonomously until the first time Rutgers College overbooked itself into a housing shortage and decided to implement the lottery system. Demarites had, up until then, been able to freely return to their sections year after year, but now it seemed that living in Demarest the next year would depend solely on the best lottery numbers, rather than their desire to remain active in the Demarest community.

The residents of Demarest made a deal. They would accept limited supervision from the Office of Residence Life and implement certain requirements for living in the dorm, such as required individual projects, while still reserving the major decisions, such as the establishment of sections, for Demarest residents. In return, they would receive guaranteed housing in Demarest and the right to control section membership.

The autonomy did not last. In 1987, Residence Life imposed an unprecedented degree of supervision and administrative procedures on the special interest structure. Among the changes were the enumeration of membership criteria, the reformulation of most sections along strong academic lines (Arts and Crafts, for example, became Visual Arts), and the appointment of a faculty advisor for each section. The sections were segregated, their members forced to live together in contiguous blocks of rooms. Sections were required to answer directly to Bishop House. Residence Life never directly informed Demarites of the new rules; they had to find out about them by reading an ad in the The Daily Targum. Berni Calkins, the then-Assistant Coordinator of Residence Life, who was primarily responsible for this low point in Demarest/Bishop House diplomacy, refused to cooperate with Demarest residents or even believe that some residents had rights under the Constitution, despite repeated invitations for her to attend a Hall Government meeting to discuss the issues.

In 1989, a new Demarest populace and a mostly-new Residence Life staff, including the inimitable Anna-Marie Toto, began a less bitter relationship, including SIC, the Section Issues Committee. SIC was formed to give Demarest residents a better opportunity to tell Residence Life their concerns about section-related issues. SIC was composed of the Residence Counselor, all the section leaders, and two additional representatives from each section who had lived in Demarest for at least a year. SIC was responsible for reviewing section program proposals, drawing up section budgets, reviewing section applications (for entire sections, new and continuing), and determining the criteria and procedures for section member applications. The sections were desegregated, wounds healed, and people actually started working together.

The cooperative spirit seemed to have evaporated with Anna-Marie Toto's departure from Bishop House: Residence Life retained control over the sections, but did not fulfill its part of the original bargain. However, Dean Calkins left to be a full-time mother, and Demarest has since undergone a renaissance—including the appointment of an official Demarest Historian position in Hall Government.

New policies were enacted in the Fall 2009 Semester to create an environment where only Demarites who are actively contributing and participating in the various sections and events will be allowed to return. This new policy while already currently in effect, will be changed slightly so that Room-Selection will occur prior to the distribution of Lottery Numbers. This change reflects a new direction for Demarest where some members who would return to the dorm only did so due to a poor lottery number. The new policy actively seeks to remove these denizens who use Demarest as back-up housing in case they get a high lottery number.

Beginning in the Fall of 2011, Demarest will be one of three residence halls at Rutgers-New Brunswick to test a new program of co-ed living environments. Students of any gender who wish to share a room with a roommate of the opposite gender may do so under this gender-neutral housing program, provided both parties select this housing option together.[3] The bathrooms on the second floor are gender-neutral, and require a swipe of a Rutgers ID card to enter. For many years, all of the building's bathrooms were unofficially co-ed.[4][5] Freshmen do not live on the 2nd floor. Most freshmen live on the first floor, although there are a handful on the third.

Favorite traditions[edit]

Demarest, known for its diverse residents and special-interest housing, hosts many events related to cultural and religious celebrations. Also, the hall is known to host several events such as in-dorm coffee houses, concerts, hall reunions, Bagels & Times (NY Times, Sunday edition), socials and themed parties.

The worldwide community of those who have ever lived in Demarest Hall is known as "Demarest-in-Exile."

In popular culture[edit]

Demarest Creative Writing Section alumnus Junot Díaz refers to Demarest in his Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Diaz has said of Demarest that it "is Rutgers in the most profound way for the very reason that it is unique and special and, in some ways, seems to be outside of it."[6]

A shot of Demarest Hall appears in The World According to Garp, roughly an hour and a half into the movie.

Famous former residents[edit]


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°30′13″N 74°27′01″W / 40.5036°N 74.4502°W / 40.5036; -74.4502