The campus is in ruin… everything is aflame; the stately clock spire which once stood proudly atop Green Hall is no more. Over a period of months, the students of TCNJ have divided themselves into factions divided over one issue: Balls. It began with Facebook groups and polite comments concerning the art installation, but quickly turned into a war of ideals and prerogatives of both pro and anti-art spheres. A small protest against the balls slowly turned into a campus wide conflagration, splitting the student body into two parties whose sole purposes we re to ensure the destruction or preservation of the balls. SGA president Billy Plastine made every effort to tame and appease his constituency, while at the same time recognizing that the balls seemed “unnecessary and frivolous.” This effort fell to ruin after the February assassination of President Plastine, which was linked to the insurgent group “The Sparkly Hand.”
The week after President Plastine’s assassination was tense, as all campus organizations weighed in on the matter. While political groups were divided internally, many athletic groups and Hellenistic organizations took opposing sides over the balls, and the majority viewed the assassination of President Plastine as a necessary “terroristic” method to convey the student body’s utter disgust.
Following the division, those known to be ball supporters were victims of hate crimes and attacks; most notably the lynching of Nat Sowinski and Kate Whitman in front of Green Hall, which posed a violent warning to all ball supporters. The college attempted to maintain order in vain, for a divided campus ensured that a civil war was slowly brewing within the quiet brick walls.
In the oncoming weeks, acts of violence increased in both frequency and ghastliness, serving only to exacerbate existent problems; known Socialist Matthew Hoke beheaded the leader of the College Republicans, Brian Hackett, with a Swiss Army Knife. Local newspaper editor Michael Tracey, along with his female lover Anya Saretzky, was kidnapped and hobbled by the Campus Catholic Ministry. (Note: they may have been planning to attack him far before the balls were constructed, but this was considered the catalyst to finally paralyze Mr. Tracey and his companion.)
The turmoil culminated on Wednesday, March 17, 2010, at a meeting convened by the Student Government Association, in what became known as the Saint Patrick’s Day Massacre.
This meeting began as others before it, with Senator of Culture and Society Sean Parsons making efforts to calm the turmoil. He began his infamous address to the General Assembly by saying “Balls are not what divides us, but rather the manner by which the balls were imposed.” Moments after this utterance, Senator Parsons was shot in the arm – the bullet narrowly missing his chest – by a rebel assassin who had taken advantage of the SGA’s open invitation attendance policy for meetings. The gunman then shot all the members of the Executive Board execution-style, crippling the Student Government’s ability to effectively govern. Before collapsing, Senator Parsons brandished his derringer and shot the vigilante in the face, instantly killing the rogue who was later identified as political deviant Ron Seidel. The bloodshed was the greatest this campus has seen since the butchery at Lake Silva in 1901, in which 55 students were summarily drowned for rejecting the school’s policy on columns, earning it the title “The Wet Slaughter.”
The events of that fateful Wednesday afternoon sparked a chain reaction which eventually led to the suspension of all organizations on campus. With no club constitutions binding their behavior, the pro-ball faction, or Ball Backers, unleashed a torrent of violence, which in turn provoked a vicious anti-ball response. On March 23rd, the anti-ball group, known as the Ball Busters, destroyed the Blue Ball in front of Paul Loser Hall. The Ball Busters rolled the sphere down Pennington Road, through Trenton, and in a victorious display of defiance, drowned it in the Delaware River. The Ball Backers were in frenzy; enraged, they began the systematic removal of all known Ball Backers from campus. Going from residence hall to residence hall, the group rounded up every “Buster” and caged them in front of the Clayton Brower Student Center. In a horrifying display, all those who refused to renounce their allegiance to the Ball Busters were burned at the stake. The National Guard stood hopelessly by, unable to begin an attempt at rescue. Those who had maintained neutrality on the ball issue were enraged; the once powerful Ball Backers were now the targets of random acts of violence. On April 15, 2010, now known as the Tax Day Revolution, the Busters destroyed the three remaining balls. Deciding that a campus which supported the balls was not worthy of existence, the Busters burned each academic building to the ground during afternoon classes, leaving over 1,800 dead and the campus in ruin.
In a bold yet tragic display of patriotism, TCNJ President R. Barbara Gitenstein, as one witness described, “Brandish[ed] two military assault rifles, while at the same time throwing, at random, homemade explosive devices towards anyone who stood in her way.” The late President Gitenstein killed over 350 students with a flamethrower, and successfully defended Paul Loser Hall before being ruthlessly drawn and quartered. The hall, now renamed “Savior Gitenstein Hall,” commemorates her valiant efforts, as well as her unsanctimonious death.
Let the brutality of these events give us pause as we reflect on our actions and the actions of those close to us. It was a situation similar to the peasant revolutions of 1848; cities blockaded, divided by ideology which threatened to wipe them from the annals of history. The College of New Jersey may have had the best of intentions by installing these balls, but the nightmare which accompanied them can never be wiped from the memories of those who lived and survived the episode.