I joined the Maroon-News during my first year at Colgate as a part of the Arts and Features section. It was a simpler time – we published articles about a cappella concerts, movie reviews and the occasional visiting ghostbuster. Our greatest challenges were persistent oxford comma usage and (attempted) erotic imagery in the technology column. In our section, Colgate was truly a glorious place to be; all lectures were fascinating, every orchestra concert was well attended and each senior we profiled raved about a blissful four years at this fine institution.
In my junior year, I transitioned to the Commentary section, and the stakes grew a little higher. It was the semester of the sit-in, and suddenly I was curating a very different image of Colgate. There were opinions aplenty throughout campus – or so I thought. Soliciting commentary pieces about social justice at Colgate was surprisingly difficult, and I was frustrated over our lack of coverage of campus events (it’s worth noting that in hindsight, I can see how myopic my indignation was). Regardless, it never occurred to me to write a piece myself. It somehow didn’t seem appropriate; I wasn’t an authority on the subject, and I didn’t feel like I was implicated in the conflict enough to chime in. I largely agreed with the premise of the Association of Critical Collegians (ACC) but wasn’t thrilled with all of their specific demands, and this stance just didn’t seem radical or thoughtful enough to warrant an entire article devoted to its exposition. I kept quiet.
This year, the controversies have continued. From the Colgate Forward Speak Out, to the senior Torchlight Ceremony, to The Vagina Monologues, I have been thrilled to see so many members of the Colgate community expressing their convictions. Yet in many ways I have been extremely disappointed in my classmates. Social media backlash has been harsh, personal and largely unsympathetic, which in my mind is unproductive and immature. Worst of all, it’s silencing. When the stakes are this high, and dissenters are abused by their classmates, few issues are worth taking a stand over.
For this reason, my senior year has been a deeply thought-provoking time for me. What causes do I care enough about to speak up for? What issues would I risk my reputation over? For what issues would I be willing to sacrifice the respect of my peers? It’s a scary thought, and I profoundly commend the members of this community who have gone to bat for their beliefs. Many of our classmates, myself included, have not been so brave.
I wish it wouldn’t have to come to this. I wish that we empowered each other to engage in conscientious and understanding dialogue. I wish that we encouraged one another to be confident in our convictions, without fear of resulting vilification and hate. I realize that this is not the way of the world, but in a close-knit community like ours, I think it’s reasonable to expect a higher standard of behavior.
So I’m putting myself out there, Colgate. Here’s what I believe:
I wholeheartedly endorse the mission of Colgate Forward, but I think some aspects of the Speak Out were executed poorly. I understand the discomfort surrounding the Torchlight Ceremony, but I ultimately support the tradition as it stands. I recognize the problematic aspects of The Vagina Monologues, but I was greatly moved by this year’s performance, and think its positive message far outweighs its troublesome components.
I wish I could say more. Articulating these stances to you, to friends and anonymous faces alike, is painfully unnerving. Mild as they are, equivocatory even, it’s scary to say out loud, never mind put in print. To some degree, that’s probably a reflection on me and my insecurities. But I think some of the responsibility lies with you as well.
I know that these are controversial issues, and that my opinions are contentious. I would be absolutely dismayed if they were not met with disagreement. Furthermore, I know I speak on behalf of the Maroon-News staff when I tell you that we are all genuinely eager to hear your thoughts, regardless of our personal politics. Please hear me when I say this, Colgate: This newspaper is for you. It’s your voice we want to hear. And if you want to challenge me, I welcome you – it’ll probably build character, or at the very least, inspire some sort of liberal arts-themed, discomfort-fueled road to self-discovery.
So I’m trusting you now, Colgate. Let me hear it. But please be kind.