School Year Marked by Tragedy, Controversy Wraps Up at Rutgers

By Geoff Mulvihill
|  Monday, May 16, 2011  |  Updated 8:45 AM EDT
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Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winning author Toni Morrison, right, and Ernesto J. Cortes Jr., a community activist, are seen on the stage during the Rutgers University commencement ceremony Sunday.

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Pulizer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison was the featured commencement speaker at the Rutgers University ceremony Sunday, when the school closes out a year punctuated by tragedy and tumult at New Jersey's flagship public university.

An estimated crowd of about 28,000 people gathered at Rutgers Stadium in Piscataway to watch more than 12,000 graduates receive their degrees. They also heard a keynote address from Morrison.

The 245th anniversary commencement marked the first time since the 1960s that Rutgers held the event in its football stadium and invited all graduates to attend.

It marked the end of a difficult school year for the university.

Freshman Tyler Clementi killed himself in September after authorities said his roommate used a webcam to spy on Clementi's encounter with another man.

The next month, football player Eric LeGrand was paralyzed while making a tackle against Army.

Officials pulled the plug on future RutgersFest events because three shootings followed this year's concert.

There was uproar after Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi of the reality TV show "Jersey Shore" was paid $32,000 from student activity fees to speak.

Student body president Yousef Saleh said it seemed every time one sad story calmed down, another ignited. Saleh says he believes a school that's been around since 1766 will endure.

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