In my first semester as a student at The College of Wooster, an acquaintance of mine, Madeleine O’Neill, convinced me to come copy-edit for the Voice, playing on my pedantic disposition toward grammar. During the second semester, acquaintance Dominic Piacentini invited me to write a movie review for the “Arts & Entertainment” section. (I chose to attend and review a matinee showing of Nicholas Sparks’ Safe Haven. I was alone, all of my friends refusing my offer to buy their tickets if they would accompany me.) Now, Maddi and I have dated for two-and-a-half years, and I consider Dom a friend I now see far too infrequently (he graduated last year).
In many ways, my time at the Voice has been a case study of my experience at Wooster. Acquaintances pull you into new activities and become friends along the way. You find yourself taking on multiple roles you never knew you wanted simply because that’s what the organization needs (thus my yearlong tenure in “Features,” a semester editing “Viewpoints” and a semester as a chief copy editor).
I’ve stayed on the Voice not because I enjoy its constitutive activities — the task of managing a section can be an onerous addition to the variety of other obligations that encumber one at any given time — but because I think it serves an important function on this campus (and that it can continue to improve the degree to which it does so). My first year at Wooster, this paper was publishing articles such as “Student Opinions on the DOMA Case.” Why were we as a student newspaper ever wasting space on student opinions about national issues? There has been a decided shift, as I see it, to covering issues of local relevance and importance to the student body.
Do we always get it right? No. Of course not. Nobody ever does. Sometimes we didn’t know how to handle a new situation, such as the unfortunate passing of Melissa Schultz last school year, which we covered in the “Features” section with the hope of paying tribute without exploiting the tragedy. There was general disapproval, and we probably got that decision wrong. I, for one, will always regret the terrible job I did covering the receipt of the Barry Goldwater scholarship by two students last year. Because of how I went about collecting information, I accidentally ended up making one of the student recipients and a professor involved with the award feel as if the Voice did not consider it an important story. This was a terrible mistake on my part, and I have not ceased to remember it.
But this persistent striving at the core of what we do at the Voice is, I think, an important aspect of human activity. We come to the paper each week not because we’re paid or because we receive any sort of recognition — we’re far more likely to piss off administrators or students, often by asking questions they don’t like or covering issues they think should have remained silent (see certain administrators’ questioning of why students need to know about the Res Life budget or student outrage because we dared to name a student trafficking in a large amount of drugs at the College) — but because we want to do our best to make the campus a better, more-informed, more-active place. This is what drives us; this is to what we are committed.
I’ll end with one final comment. This year, I have also chaired Campus Council. This desire for a more-active campus body is essential, or else students are going to get screwed over. I’ve watched your representatives vote against policies designed to serve students simply because administrators didn’t like them.
You need to elect people who don’t roll over as soon as college employees disagree, who are willing to stand up for and who are capable of articulating student interests and desires. There have also allegedly (according to at least one member of the Campus Life Office) been discussions about eliminating Campus Council or restricting its power in certain areas so that administrative offices can determine their own rules after obtaining “student input.” Again, if the student body isn’t more active (and if we at the Voice fail to provide you with the information fueling that activity), then we will shift to a governance modality wherein the power of students is suppressed and administrative agents manage and rule us.
I don’t want this, which is why I’m on the Voice and on Campus Council. For better or worse, I implore you to fight for your interests as students. Let acquaintances drag you somewhere new to fight for something new. Maybe it will make a difference, maybe not. But there’s no harm in trying.
Ben Taylor, a Sports Editor for the Voice, can be reached for comment at BTaylor16@wooster.edu.