Remember the good times
I remember the first time I saw a news van roll onto the College Avenue campus. It was the end of September last semester, and I had just walked out of my "Investigative Reporting" class. My phone was flashing uncontrollably, and the emails and voice messages were piling up. This could only mean one thing — something big had happened, and I needed to get to the office or any available computer as soon as possible.
Once I heard what happened — it was discovered that a University student killed himself by jumping off the George Washington Bridge — I knew it was going to be a late night. The editors and I started sending reporters and photographers out to Busch campus, getting on the phones with University and police officials and trying to anticipate any spontaneous student protests.
That night was, in a sense, a defining moment for many of us here at The Daily Targum. It was unusual fielding off phone interview requests and sending photos to major media outlets like The New York Times, Fox News, CNN and many others. It was a challenge for us to re-layout our entire paper at the drop of a hat as the story developed. We had never experienced anything like that before, and we thought we wouldn't again for a long time.
But we were wrong. The news trucks returned about a month later, when football player Eric LeGrand was paralyzed from the neck down during a game. There they were again after winter break — outside Brower Commons, the Rutgers Student Center and sometimes even the classrooms by Voorhees Mall — when the University announced its plans to test gender-neutral housing, something in the works for years. And again in March, the news vans appeared when a University student allegedly murdered his girlfriend, set to graduate this month. And again, back in early April, when a certain student organization paid $32,000 for a reality TV personality to teach students to "study hard, but party harder."
The vans returned two weeks later, when four people were shot and mayhem erupted in New Brunswick after the annual Rutgersfest concert and carnival. And then again when University President Richard L. McCormick announced the concert's demise. And then again when Dharun Ravi, roommate of Tyler Clementi, was indicted on 15 charges, ranging from bias to privacy invasion to tampering with evidence.
As student-journalists, seeing these news vans, reporters and photographers scrambling around campus meant certain things to the Targum's staff. It meant a chance to have a photo sold and published in The New York Times, or to provide resources to other professional media outlets, or to simply experience University students making history with their actions and words.
But as a student, seeing these news vans, reporters and photographers scrambling around campus meant something else. I would swerve around and scowl at the prying reporters, begging for a comment. I wanted to switch the TV channel every time Rutgers was mentioned. I also had to placate my mother, sincerely concerned about my safety, more often than I would want.
No one can deny that this year has been rough on the University. As students working at the campus newspaper, we wanted nothing more than to hang our heads on more than one occasion. But luckily, as the capturers of student life on campus, we were fortunate enough to witness first-hand all the good this University experienced and that didn't make it to the mainstream media.
Take early April, when Rutgers University Dance Marathon raised more than $380,000 for children with cancer and blood disorders. Or when two opposing cultural groups united to host an event to explore their nation's differences and tumultuous past. Or when students went around the city, picking up litter and garbage off the streets. Or when the Board of Governors approved a plan to install more solar panels on Livingston campus, making the University "greener" than ever before. Or when a magazine ranked our peers as some of the best recruits in the nation for the business world. Or when the University embarked on a two-yearlong campaign to promote civility on campus.
These were the times the news cameras weren't rolling, but they should be what we remember most this year as students. The University has definitely seen its ups and downs this year — some would argue more downs than ups. But we cannot forget all the good this campus brought us. Whether it was student achievement, athletic successes or even just the fond memories made among friends, we all know the real Rutgers that the media — and, to be honest, the world — hasn't seen this year. As students, we must continue to have pride in our school and faith in our peers that things will turn around. Who knows, maybe next year those news vans will return. Let's make it for something good.
Mary Diduch is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in political science and journalism and media studies, with a minor in Spanish. She is the editor-in-chief of The Daily Targum and welcomes emails at firstname.lastname@example.org.