‘Rutgers Reflections’ offers glimpse into students’ lives
As Tulsi Desai walked to class on Busch campus Monday, a man texting on his Segway rammed into her.
After class, Desai, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, visited Kevin Lu and Deepak Shanmuganandamurthy’s suite and told them about her unfortunate encounter.
Her two friends thought her story would be perfect to quote on their newly created Facebook page “Rutgers Reflections,” and they asked her to go outside to take her picture.
As of yesterday evening, that picture collected 123 likes. And the “Rutgers Reflection” page, created 1 a.m. Tuesday morning, had more than 800 likes, Lu said.
“I had no idea that people would catch on to this, and that it would be actually interesting,” said Lu, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. “We just wanted to see how people would respond, but it seems like people are responding pretty positively to it.”
Their idea for “Rutgers Reflections” transpired after a long night of studying last Sunday. Shanmuganandamurthy told Lu to take a break so he could show him the “Humans of New York” Facebook page, in which a photographer posts pictures of people in New York City with an attached quote.
Lu said he sees the value in his project, and thought Rutgers could benefit from their own version of “Humans of New York.” Often times, students get wrapped up in own their lives and fail to notice the people that surround them. This gives reason for people to judge one another.
“We see someone and assume ‘Oh, that guy’s a nerd. This guy’s a jock. That girl’s a party girl,’” he said. “Because of that, we kind of lock ourselves into what we think they are and how we think their lives are.”
Shanmuganandamurthy, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, Lu and Desai recruited their friend Amr Tawfik, and he happily came on board.
Tawfik, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said he particularly appreciated this idea considering the size of Rutgers.
“It’s not like most other colleges with 1,000, 2,000 students,” he said. “We have, what, 20,000 to 30,000 people and there’s all walks of life here … people have so many interesting things to say that you’d never expect.”
On their first day on Monday, the group gathered about 15 pictures. Currently, the page should have about 30 to 40 pictures posted.
The group selected the people they approached on a completely random basis to provide the most authentic representation of the Rutgers community possible.
Unofficially, Desai said she has the responsibility of approaching people, then Shanmuganandamurthy and Tawfik start the conversation and write down noteworthy quotes and finally, Lu takes their pictures.
Lu said these conversations should try to unlock pieces of their subject’s personality that normal small talk cannot.
“Ideally, if we have to attach a rule to it, it should be as genuine as possible for the situation,” he said.
Desai said people at first seem confused when confronted by the “Rutgers Reflections” team. But once people understand their concept, most willingly participate. Those unwilling to talk are usually in a rush.
Shanmuganandamurthy said he has enjoyed the experience of talking with completely random people, which gives them the ability to experience small tidbits of their personalities and tastes of their lives.
Tawfik recalled meeting two students on Livingston campus who were especially entertaining.
“They were telling us this story of how they were playing frisbee and sometimes they throw their frisbee and hit girls,” he said. “But they also [do this] to hit on girls — literally.”
Desai enjoyed conversing with two students wearing scrubs that she said were quite funny.
“[Lu] asked them if they were a team, and the one guy was like ‘absolutely not,’ and the other kid was like ‘Die-hard yes,’” she said.
Although Lu said many freelance photographers have asked to join the “Rutgers Reflections” team, the group is in its infancy, and wants to establish firm, structural foundation before recruiting more members.
“Absolutely it will become an open organization because there’s just too much talent on Rutgers to simply say ‘we don’t want you. We want to do this ourselves,’” he said.
Lu also acknowledges that “Rutgers Reflections” will face several challenges as it continues to grow. For example, using the word “Rutgers” in their organization’s name could create complications, so they are trying to register as a University-affiliated student organization as soon as possible.
The team has always wanted to make an impact on campus with a creative, fun project that stands out, Tawfik said. This project is especially important for Shanmuganandamurthy, who never had the chance to immerse himself in his hobby — photography.
“You don’t have to ask for permission to do things that you want to do if you want to make a change on campus or if you want to bring some value to the campus,” Lu said. “Just go out and do it yourself. No one’s going to tell you to do it, you just have to go and do it.”