Just Listen

Nile Williams

I have been on the Maroon-News for the past four years. It has been the one stable presence throughout my entire Colgate experience. I have met some of my closest friends through my work on the newspaper, and I know that my involvement on it will stick out in my entire Colgate experience. But instead of writing something warm and fuzzy about being a part of the newspaper staff for the past four years, I would rather speak about one of the more important lessons I feel I learned from being on the Maroon-News.

I was Commentary Editor for the paper for two years. In this role I had the opportunity to come into direct contact with the views and opinions of students on this campus. For the most part these were relatively innocuous, but there were also many times I would end up reading the article of someone who had some real grievances they wanted to express about the world or Colgate. There was also many times that I did not necessarily agree with these expressed viewpoints, and yet as a part of my job I had to read them at least relatively closely. I think this experience contributed in some meaningful way to my development as a person. Just going through the process of having to read the words of someone I might have disagreed with forced me to engage their viewpoint in some way. I had to take what they were saying somewhat seriously, if at the very least to articulate why I disagreed with them. This became an important lesson for me. I would have to acknowledge that people had real reasons for holding the opinions that they did, and while what people would say did not necessarily change my mind on things, I would at least have to think about what they were saying and why.

This process of just taking the time to listen and take in what another person has to say is probably the most important lesson I gained through my experience of being on the newspaper. But I also think this also speaks to one of the deepest problems we have on this campus. I have had too many conversations with people who complain that when it comes to especially contentious issues on this campus – Greek Life and race are two good examples – the biggest frustration they face when trying to discuss is the fact that the other side refuses to just listen to what they have to say, without feeling the need to react and shut them down. I have had this experience all too often myself, and the frustration I have felt because of it has made me not want to continue the conversation. This is a universal experience. And yet I have found the most productive conversations I have had are not the ones that necessarily come to a solution, but ones where at the end I came back with a better understanding of where the other person is coming from. This is what I would recommend as a part of the future conversations about issues we will continue to face at Colgate.

This is not my attempt to solve all of my school’s problems in one final swoop, or offer some nice way of dealing with issues, it is just what I feel this school really needs based on what I have come to observe over the past four years. I think for things to work and get better we need to take each other seriously, and learn to sympathize at the very least where people we disagree with on this campus are coming from. We are a school of under 3,000 students, and with a close knit community like ours, I know this cannot be that hard. It’s stupid that we still have these sorts of problems that hold us back from talking about these issues. In other words, just listen.