As an urban campus, NJIT has quite a lot of traffic cones at its disposal.
Between directing traffic, road closures, and on-campus construction for NJIT’s 2020 Vision, there is an estimated 200 or more cones strewn across the university’s 48 acres. Though the cones are normally expected to be found in the above locations, they are just as likely be found lodged between tree branches, atop light posts, awnings, and statues, and shoved upside down into drains.
“It’s nothing new,” said Adrian Wong, a third year Biology major. “You always see them shoved in a tree while walking across campus, and just kinda laugh to yourself.” When asked just how long cone culture has been a part of NJIT, Adrian responded, “I can’t say for sure, but it’s been a thing since my freshman year.”
A recent creation of an Instagram account documenting these cones and the shenanigans they get up to, aptly named @Cones_of_NJIT, has only fueled the fire of “cone culture” at NJIT. The account, run by Sharmi Sukhia, a Junior Web & Information Systems major, operates on a submission basis and posts photos of the cones in unusual or entertaining spots, sometimes with students, and always with a clever caption.
The account has seen rapid traction in the weeks since its creation and now boasts nearly 80 posts and over 1000 followers. When asked about the account’s speedy success and origin, Sharmi said, “I thought I’d get like maybe a hundred followers at most, and then it kinda went crazy.” She explained that a friend of hers had originally come up with the idea of making an Instagram account a few months prior, but when a class project required Sharmi tackle content management, she chose to create the account herself. Her intent was to memorialize the cone, and eventually promote her article on NJIT’s cone phenomenon on the platform.
The account quickly gained popularity and inspired students to get more creative with their cone antics, from posing next to cones on campus, to even wearing them as headgear. Sharmi’s account also spawned the creation of two ‘troll’ accounts, @anti_cones_of_njit and @cones_of_joel_bloom. The individual running @anti_cones_of_njit declined to comment.
NJIT is not purely unique in its cone culture; while other institution’s may not play around with traffic cones, they do have their own ‘inside jokes’ among the student population. Murray State University in Kentucky, for example, has a tree with students’ shoes nailed to it. Though there are several theories regarding the tree’s origin, like the stories of a couple who met on campus to display their love, or a student art project—the tree has been a home to students’ shoes since the mid-1960’s and even has its own Facebook page. Meanwhile Swarthmore College, located in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, has a pterodactyl hunt every year, where students come together, dressed in garbage bags and wielding foam bats and swords to defeat vicious pterodactyls and other monsters, such as goblins, orcs, and trolls.
While these phenomena are entertaining and, surely, dear to students’ hearts at their respective institutions, in my opinion, none quite match NJIT’s, as cone positioning can vary daily and does not depend on an outside or immovable fixture (like MSU’s trees).
At the end of the day, if balancing a cone atop a lamp post is how the students of NJIT blow off steam and engage with one another, who is to fault them? It is innocent, silly, and always exciting to see where you will spot a cone next.