The final issue of the 2017-2018 Trinitonian is here, and as expected it’s full of bittersweet nostalgia as seniors reflect on their memories at Trinity. However, that reflection doesn’t have to start and end with those who are about to graduate. We, who will be staying behind to finish our studies in the upcoming semesters, should take a moment to look at our accomplishments so far and see what we can do to enhance those strides in the future. As I reach the halfway point of my college career, I feel the need to join the bandwagon of reflection and think about how my role here as an opinion columnist has influenced my perspective so far on campus.
I joined the Trinitonian team last fall in the height of the controversy surrounding an op-ed titled “TU conservatives are beating liberals at politics.” The editorial brought a significant amount of online student animosity towards the paper, since many felt like it ignored the significant effort that liberal student activists had been putting into making issues heard on campus. While some took shots at the relevance of the paper itself, the conversation generally focused around the fact that the editorial had failed to recognize many events and efforts put on by progressive student groups.
However, when I navigated through the flurry of Facebook comments demanding that the Trinitonian editorial staff do better journalism, I couldn’t help but feel that I, on a personal level, was one of those progressive students who had fallen into what the paper had called a “dogmatic liberal slumber.” While I fully recognized that plenty of progressive activism events on campus had not been entirely represented, I wondered if hearing about and attending those events had made me more complacent than active. Sure, I thought, there are plenty of progressive events, but what change had I actually enacted on my campus? I was proud to call myself a progressive person, but what good does that do when I hadn’t even helped enact many of the changes I supposedly believed in? In short, I felt like many commenters had missed the point that the editorial staff had been trying to make: it’s not just about having more events, it’s about devoting your time, your effort, your livelihood to a cause that matters to you. While there are progressive students on our campus who absolutely embody that principle, there is also a silent mass of those who love simply watching it happen, who leave their likes on Facebook and call it a day. I saw myself as one of those bystanders, and I knew I wanted that to change. I applied to the Trinitonian that evening.
My time here since applying has been a rapidly accelerating but exhilarating ride: I learn new things about the campus I live on, I meet amazing people who devote their spirit to this publication and I get to challenge myself to think critically about my beliefs and hold them up to opposition. However, I’m not explaining all of this to ask for congratulations on my transformation as a person. Obviously, I still frequently find myself stuck in the bystander position on a lot of things I care about. Other experiences, such as my short time abroad, have helped to enliven my actions, but I still think there are plenty of ways I can take a far more active role in my passions.
I don’t mean for this to just be a story about being more active with progressiveness. Whether you devote your life to politics or cover your ears to every single mention of the news, find the things you care about and hold on to them. Too often we conceptualize our university as a degree factory: four years and then you’re equipped with a piece of paper that lands you a job. Instead, challenge yourself to embrace interests to a new level. Take that chance, whether it falls under your career plan or not, to jump out of that bystander role, and you might realize that you should’ve done so much sooner.