By: Jasmine Green and Aaliyah Roulhac
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — Hundreds of students line College Avenue, their boisterous cheers and chants filling the New Brunswick air with an unmatchable energy. When it is all said and done and the good fight has been fought, one group of students will reign supreme, finally proving that maybe you do not have to leave your bed to let your voice be heard. The Eighth Annual Homecoming Bed Races, sponsored by RUPA, took place on Thursday, September 21st. This year, 57 teams participated in the lively and charitable event, being asked to donate at least 400 diapers to the Cuddle Me Program and in turn, being allowed to take one of RUPA’s allotted 60 beds to decorate to their pleasing.
Karishma Motwani, a junior and RUPA representative, shed some light on the origins of this event. “We wanted something that would be a trademark and still support a great cause,”
Motwani said that The Cuddle Me Program supports children and families by providing them with basic essentials to promote their well-being.
The usage of beds as a means of student expression may seem unorthodox, but it is by no means ineffective. Theta Tau, two-time first place winners, participate every year and with a bed fit for an arcade, with light-up Pac-Man decorations, found a way to use their bed to express themselves and voice the interests of another important person.
“We sponsor a child from the RU4KIDS Program, Payton, and she loves to play Pac-Man,” said Guatam Venkatesan, a junior, about their inspiration for their bed design. “We did this theme because we knew if she came to watch the race she would have loved this.” Theta Tau was not the only team to integrate charitable efforts into their bed design. SCREAM Theater, an organization that uses improvisation to educate students on interpersonal violence, carried their mattress back to the start line from the finish line as a way of “Carrying the Weight”, bringing attention to the staggering statistic that 1 in 5 women on a college campus will face sexual assault.
Motwani further emphasized that RUPA does not place restrictions on student expression, which is why the event drew beds with [more serious implications] and beds that bordered on the edge of entertainment, rather than outwardly informative.
The Catholic Students’ Association was a student favorite and the winner of the “Sleep Tight, Dress Right” award for best team costume. With the Papal Visit aligning with Homecoming Week, it could not have been more relevant for CSA to use this to their design advantage. One member dressed as His Holiness Pope Francis, walking with several members costumed as bodyguards and holding a larger-than-life cutout of Pope Francis’s face, which flew down College Avenue in a way that only an attendee of the Bed Races could fully understand and appreciate.
Much to their surprise, the Off-Campus Student Association, who designed their bed after Inside Out, came in second place and saw their participation and subsequent victory as another integral step in their mission to integrate off-campus students into the on-campus buzz. For them, it was not the bed design itself, but their participation that helped them use their voice. “Commuter and off-campus students represent about 56% of the population,” Praveen Mamidanna, senior and president of OCSA, said. “Us participating shows that we care.” Upon their victory, OCSA said they planned to use this newfound momentum to push for more ways to keep off-campus students as integrated with the Rutgers community as possible. While the organizations all had excellent costumes, magnificent beds, and various messages to communicate, bystanding students had interesting perspectives on how the bed races gave students a voice.
Victoria, a Phi Mu sophomore said, “I think it’s a good way to express themselves or bring light
to social issues” Another student, first-year Samantha found the differences in expression
interesting, stating that organizations like SCREAM Theater were strictly about social
awareness while other student groups opted for less serious but just as expressive designs.
No bed went unnoticed, and a record of 2,777 diapers were raised. The Bed Races are instrumental to RUPA’s mission which involves making a change — something they’ve done for the last eight years. A million diapers later, they have accomplished their goal and will continue to express their need for charity and community outreach for Bed Races to come. The Bed Races transcend whether one team is faster or better costumed than the other. By donating diapers and receiving a bed to decorate to their liking, students get the opportunity to be seen and heard like no other, an opportunity that simply cannot be slept on.
Photography courtesy of Michaela Felix.