Halloween is no longer a holiday for the young children, believe student service professionals at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). “We see the holiday as a wonderful opportunity to tell our students that it is okay to take a break,” said Humberto “Humby” Baquerizo, assistant director for the NJIT Campus Center.
Baquerizo, a 1995 NJIT graduate who grew up in West New York and lives now in North Bergen, will spend the greater part of his day today dressed as Superman passing out Hershey bars, M&M’s, bubble gum and more to students. More than 100 students are walking around the usually staid science and technology campus also in costume. Later tonight, more than 150 students are expected to attend a Halloween Party in the Campus Center featuring prizes for best costumes.
Science and technology universities like NJIT, typically encourage an intense academic campus environment. Students must complete a rigorous academic workload to graduate. The course load of the typical student includes a demanding dose of math and science courses. Party school it is not.
“Halloween, though, follows closely upon the heels of our second set of midterm examinations,” said Baquerizo. “Our thinking is that as the semester wears on, students need a place to distress, hang-out and recoup their sanity. Why not use Halloween, as a way to say, kick back and have fun.”
Candy will be available today at the student services department on the first floor of the Campus Center. Anyone who wanders by the department will see student service staff members joining Baquerizo also dressed in costume. Office walls are draped in stringy, spooky trappings and oversized posters. Other departments throughout the university are also participating in the party and giving out candy to students.
Although this year is not the first one for departments to provide such trappings, it is the first time that so many staff members came dressed in costume. “Just walking around for a few hours this morning,” said Baquerizo, “we’ve seen more costumes than I can recall.”
The student activity push today ties into other recent campus changes. Along with a series of new buildings—including the Campus Center—all completed within the past five years, there’s also been the emergence of NJIT’s new sports program. Today all are changing the image of NJIT from a commuter school to a more comprehensive university. “More and more students remain on campus at nights and on weekends,” said Baquerizo. An increased number of student activities have driven the change including the new sports program.
In 2003, NJIT launched a campaign that will result in the reclassification of its overall athletic program (currently offering 15 varsity sports) to Division I of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) from Division II. The process has included recruiting more female student-athletes. To date, one NJIT team has achieved full Division I championship eligibility, with others to follow in a process slated for completion in 2009-10.