Believe it or not, the state that Villanova gets the most students from is not Pennsylvania. It’s the one and only, the armpit of America, the place everyone loves to hate: New Jersey. That’s right; 23% of Villanovans are from the Garden State, followed by 20% from New York and 16% from Pennsylvania.
Naturally, debates about the existence of the elusive Central Jersey are bound to take place on campus. I have heard this conversation arise plenty of times in just my past six months of being here.
I am from Manalapan, N.J, a fairly large town in Monmouth County that is right smack in the middle of the state. Central Jersey is a wonderful place. It’s a suburban wonderland where the New York and Philadelphia media markets coexist and where Rook coffee dominates. Before college, I never heard much of this debate (besides seeing it mentioned on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert). Central Jersey was taken as a given. It was all around us. At Villanova, this was no longer the case.
For a topic this heavy, I had to call upon the expert defender of Central Jersey: myself. In the battle to defend the honor of my homeland, my main foe was Josh Tsai. Josh is from Moorestown, a Burlington County suburb of Philadelphia (in Southern Jersey). I had myself and Josh mark where we generally place our regional divides. The divisions were not exact, since we used horizontal lines for simplicity.
Merely upon looking at these divisions, the fight began:
Josh: New Jersey’s just too small to have a Central region. Even if it did it’s like… Central California. Or Central America. They’re just subsets.
AJ: Central America actually exists -
Josh: But it’s a subset of North America.
AJ: So you think Central New Jersey exists just as a subset of North Jersey?
Josh: If you really want it to exist, it will exist. But I just think definitively it just should not be a thing by the operational definition of north and south.
AJ: Okay well what differentiates North and South Jersey?
Josh: Hoagie vs. sub, pork roll vs. taylor ham… If your city is Philly or New York.
AJ: Okay, well then how do you feel about the wide array of people that are part of both the New York and Philadelphia media markets.
Josh: Well we have the Turnpike that basically separates the state in half.
AJ: The Turnpike is totally diagonal. So if you were to say above the Turnpike is North and below it is South, then that means that even parts of Burlington County would be North Jersey then. Maybe even your town.
Josh: Well it doesn’t have to be demarcated by county.
AJ: I agree it doesn’t have to be demarcated by county. So you think parts of Burlington then are-
Josh: LEADING QUESTION
Josh: It’s a thing in debate. As a courtesy or something you’re not supposed to do that. But. I mean it’s fine.
AJ: Well, what does that— Okay nevermind. Central Jersey has existed since the dawn of time. Even before the colonial era, what is now New Jersey was divided into three regions based on dialects of the Lenape languages. And it’s interesting that all the people against Central Jersey haven’t even been there before, let alone lived there.
Josh: I don’t have to go there all the time to have an opinion. And if you ask Governor Murphy he’d say there’s no Central Jersey.
AJ: No he wouldn’t! He’s from Central Jersey, in Middletown. The New Jersey government actually officially recognized Central Jersey in December.
Josh: Okay I gotta leave but I just wanna say that Central Jersey does not exist. Yes, there’s the media markets that overlap which is due to corporate greed and the companies trying to get as much money as possible. I’m sorry I could not be of more assistance. Goodbye.
At this point, Josh had to leave for a club meeting. But Matthew Matolka promptly stepped in to continue the discussion. Matt was born in Oakland in North Jersey but spent basically his entire life in Cleveland, Ohio.
Matt: Let me talk, let me talk. Alright, here’s some outside influence. Your state’s pretty small so like how can there be Central if there’s a North and a South, you know?
AJ: Is there a Central Ohio?
Matt: Yes but that’s a different question because Ohio’s more of a square, and we actually have a city in the center of Ohio, so you could call the Columbus area that. Whereas in New Jersey you got — Actually New Jersey isn’t even a state, it’s just a suburb to Philly and New York City. And that’s my cup of tea.
AJ: People come to New Jersey for the sake of itself too. We have the Shore.
Matt: Oh you have a beach, just like half the country does.
AJ: Ohio doesn’t have a beach.
Matt: Yes we do, Lake Erie dude.
AJ: That’s a lake.
Matt: Still a beach.
AJ: Fine. Thank you for your time.
I ended with a heartfelt closing statement to the remaining people in the lounge, who could not care less.
AJ: I just feel like those that dismiss Central Jersey and split it in half do so knowing that they’re negating the importance of the region. Central Jersey isn’t a place that can just be ignored. It contains two of the most important colleges in the state, Rutgers in New Brunswick and Princeton. It has some of the trendiest beach towns in the Northeast, like Long Branch, Asbury Park, and Belmar. It has the tallest and second-fastest roller coaster in the world: Kingda Ka, at Six Flags Great Adventure. Heck, it has Trenton, the state capital. And with that, I rest my case.
That same day, I sent out two polls about the existence of Central Jersey to the St. Monica Hall GroupMe. One poll was for New Jerseyans and one was for everybody else.
In both of the polls, the number of responses for and against the existence of Central Jersey was nearly even. Truly, if there’s any takeaway from all this, it’s that most people outside of New Jersey don’t care at all.