It’s a Thursday night ritual: the exodus of Montclair State University students by rail to the New Jersey Institute of Technology in search of an exciting evening at NJIT’s Frat Row.
The train that leaves at 9:09 p.m. from the Montclair State University train station and arrives at Newark’s Broad Street Station by 9:41 p.m. is a train crowded with students, many standing for the entire 32-minute ride. There are showy outfits, thunderous laughter and bottles of water filled with vodka. Students often become rowdy and find themselves bumping into sweaty strangers as the train moves towards Newark.
This unpredictable night is filled with teens letting lose, and getting to know their fellow classmates outside of the classroom. For many of these Montclair State University students, this experience is their college experience.
“I’m on the train because the train ride is part of the experience,” said sophomore Katie Martel, 19, as she broke out in song one recent evening, shouting with her classmates, “No Music!” and then clapping her hands in excitement. “It wouldn’t be the same if I just drove there. This is fun to us. I don’t even know how I heard about it, but it has always been a Montclair thing to go to NJIT on Thursday nights. It gets really packed, but it is the best time you’ll ever have.” Martel says she plans to return the following Thursday night with her friends, and even some new friends that she made on the ride.
While the students know this train as the 9:09 to Newark Broad, Lisa Torbic, spokesperson for NJ Transit, refers to this train as Train 6274. She says there are 894 seats in the train and eight cars per train that travel in the line. “Sometimes there are seats available. It’s just that customers do not want to sit down next to strangers,” Torbic said. “Some prefer to stand.”
Not everyone on the train is headed to a party. On this same night, Montana Houston, 19, a Montclair State freshman, unwittingly took the busiest train of the day to Trenton for a funeral. “I didn’t know it would be like this, where I can’t even sit down,” admitted Houston as he nervously stood in the corner, waiting for the other students to get off the train. “I didn’t take a taxi or an Uber because it would have cost me over $100 to get to Trenton. This train is the cheapest form of transportation.”
Houston said he was aware that on Thursday’s, Montclair State students go to NJIT for a crazy night. Eventually, he got accustomed to the loud setting. After all the students got off, Houston remained with his overstuffed Adidas duffle bag in hand while he gazed at the multitude walking into the dark streets of Newark. And there does seem to be a multitude, despite the $15 fees for the round trip.
As the train pulled into Newark Broad a crowd formed inside and all the students pushed each other in attempts to be the first one out of the door. Dark skies and a line of harsh street lights welcomed the passengers to Newark. Police officers with dark aviator shades were scattered on the platform. Students roared in excitement and then raced down the narrow staircase. As the students got closer to NJIT, blue and red lights could be seen from a distance. Three police cars were stationed in front of the party houses and four police officers were standing outside with their arms crossed, monitoring the masses.
“There are other alternatives rather than taking the train, but this is the safest as far as not drinking and driving,” said a police officer who asked to remain anonymous. As he walked away with a ticket book and a pen in hand, another officer asked him, “How many do you think were on the train tonight?” He scratched his head and said, “I don’t know man, maybe 400.” After an exchange of hand shakes, the two laughed and said, “That was it?”
As students embarked on the five minute walk to NJIT, some began to run in fear that they might not get into the party due to capacity. Male students paid $10 while female students entered for free. However, in order to enter the frat house one must have a college ID, no exceptions. For each male, there must be four females.
Long lines and loud laughter are inevitable. But as soon as students were admitted into the parties, they quickly realized that it is not what it seems like from the outside. Students were hit with thick musty air and Sean Kingston throwback songs. There was little space to move and long lines for the bathroom. There were outdated composites on the walls showing pictures of all the fraternity brothers. The floor got slippery from all the spilled drinks and there were dozens of empty red solo cups falling out of trash cans, but the fraternity brothers didn’t seem to mind the visitors or the mess.
“To be honest, NJIT is a very male-dominant school. We don’t mind the mess or the people,” said Antonio Rosado, 21, a student and fraternity member from NJIT. “The way I look at it is, since we are the ones hosting the party it is up to us to clean it up. I wouldn’t make someone come to my house and have my guest clean it for me, that’s why we don’t mind MSU.”
As much as the students think the party train is an exclusive secret, Montclair State’s staff is very aware of the migration to another campus. Dr. Karen Pennington, Vice President for Student Development and Campus Life for Montclair State University, said, “If that’s your happiness, if that’s your bliss, then you’ve got to make sure that you’re doing it in the right way.” Pennington comfortably allowed her arms to rest on her desk as she leaned forward and explained the importance of students making good choices and recognizing the value of their own perception. “If that train is your bliss, then you need to know when you need to take a step back, or when you need to take a step forward,” she said.
For the homeward-bound trip, the last train of the night heading to Little Falls arrives in Newark at 12:45 p.m. The multitude of Montclair State students rushed back to the platform at Newark Broad Street Station in hopes of making it on time.
During the wait, students attempted to cool off, yet smeared makeup and sweat stains were still evident. There were drunk people either passed out or calling strangers their new best friends. At the same time there were groups of students sitting on the floor exhausted from a long night. Upon the train’s arrival students once again crammed into the small doors and scanned for available seats.
Despite the train going off campus, Lt. Kieran Barrett said the University Police Department works with NJ Transit police and NJIT police in the case of an emergency on the train or platforms. In October, a Montclair State student was arrested and charged with the sexual assault of another student on a train platform at Newark Broad on a Thursday night after a frat party.
Barrett reminded students that if they choose to take part in off-campus parties such as this, they need to know where they are going and should do everything they can to remain safe, lucid and able to make decisions.
“Your actions and interaction with other students can have a positive impact on whether someone becomes a victim of violence. We cannot stop individuals from choosing to board trains, question where they may be going or prevent them from access to public transport,” said Barrett.
The 9:09 to Newark Broad will continue to provide that wild ride for Montclair State students in search of memories to define their college experience.