Making Waves

Jesse Listernick

Virginia Woolf, in her essay A Room of One’s Own, states the following: “Yet he was angry. I knew he was angry by this token. When I had read what he wrote about women I thought, not of what he was saying, but of himself. When an arguer argues dispassionately he thinks only of the argument; and the reader cannot help thinking of the argument too.” Last week I wrote an article on how the term “minority” has come to only mean one who is non-white in our society and the implications this notion has for the Colgate community. I failed to adhere to Woolfe’s doctrine – that the message can be veiled by emotion and, unfortunately, I feel that, in my article, it was for a lot of people. The purpose of this column is not to clarify my message but to show how college really does provide an atmosphere conducive to personal growth and learning. There is also something about college — a sort of aura that surrounds it — that influences people to be active.

Almost immediately after “Making Assumptions: The White Male Bias” was published, an e-mail was sent to me asking if I would be willing to meet with the director of the ALANA Cultural Center and the student who created the flyer. I promptly accepted. This e-mail marked the first time where I felt my opinion held any significance and affected other people, prompting intellectual debate. I would never have taken the risk of publically expressing such a stance in high school. But, what about college has enabled me to be courageous enough to write such an article? College provides an environment where you are free from the demands of parents, free to party whenever you want, etc. College is also a place where you are at liberty to express your opinion without having to answer to the administration or parents of concerned high school students; the people who you have to answer to, however, are your peers. I believe it to be so much easier to express your opinion to your peers because they are sharing a common experience with you and forming their own opinions as well, even though their views might be different from yours.

When I went to ALANA earlier today for the meeting regarding my article, the director did not participate in the discussion at all; only the student who made the flyer and I voiced our opinions on the issues my article raised – a concrete example as to how, in college, you only have to answer to your fellow students. He told me that he thought my message was somewhat vague due to the clear emotional presence that pervaded it. I then remembered what Woolfe had stated in her essay, that too much emotion could damage what you are actually trying to say. Had I chosen to attend this meeting I would have never have heard this student’s criticism of my argument, drawn the connection between my article and Woolf’s notion of what good writing is and thus would not have been able to learn and grow from the experience of writing my article.

Where else, besides on a college campus, can you incorporate what you learn in class (I read Woolf in Modernity), feedback from your peers and your own opinions into personal development? Not only did this student and I discuss the article, but the director of ALANA suggested that us two put together a forum on what it is to be a minority, which he would fund. I was amazed that he was willing to give me such an opportunity – an opportunity that I believe to be only available in college. I have not even been at college for a year and I have already learned that voicing your opinion can only lead to positive consequences. Thus, I would urge everybody to have the courage to express your opinions, even if they are controversial.