The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Brazen Word

In my final week as a columnist, I have spent much time (between papers
and studying) reflecting on how both the University and I have grown since I first
started this weekly rant just two years ago. I entered this regular discussion with a national political bent, having few harsh words for the University. I leave less interested in politics, more interested in philosophy and literature, and with a mixed bag of feelings about the institution I will graduate from in less than three weeks.

About a week ago, a senior by the name of Lisa Gotimer-Strolla, president of the Math Honor Society and head skull of the prestigious Skull and Circle Honor Society, reminded me of why I started to write this thing in the first place: to expose injustice and to spark social change within my immediate environment. She informed me of an early Fall 2006 meeting with a Student Life administrator at which she was told that “honor
societies aren’t worth our money,” meaning Student Life’s. She explained that
this administrator objected to the idea of “student money” contributing to honor
societies which “don’t contribute to the school,” unless they execute events and
service programs.

“The fact that maybe we increase the academic prestige of this University, that
maybe we can be known as a place where people go for more of a reason than ‘We
have money,’ [should be reason enough],” Gotimer-Strolla explained.

The aforementioned administrator could not be reached for comment, perhaps
a result of what Gotimer-Strolla calls an “extended three-day lunch break,” referring to her contention that Student Life is “unorganized” and simply uncooperative.

But I suppose that’s just conjecture. I suppose.

Long story short, the Skull and Circle Honor Society, an elite group of six
exceptional students, has recently cut ties with Student Life, as they now operate
entirely out of St. John’s College. Good for them, I say.

In my three years working at The Torch, administrators and faculty have
repeatedly asked me a single question in several different ways: “How do we get
students more involved?” Until recently, I haven’t had an answer. I saw the
endemic of St. John’s student apathy as completely irresolvable.

But as I have become acquainted with the piles of paperwork student organizations
are forced to shuffle through on a monthly basis, as I have witnessed organizational
congress meetings filled withmore hot air than substance, and as I have
spoken with numerous heads of organizations, I realize that there is a nearly
universal sentiment among students involved: Student Life does more to deter
students and to hinder what should be a fulfilling experience than they do to help.
They are, unfortunately, a necessary evil for students seeking to get involved in
extracurricular activities, or so it seems. Now this isn’t to say that all or even
most of the individuals working in Student Life are poor workers. I don’t
doubt that some of them do a good, honest job with the aim of helping students
advance in their academic and social experience at St. John’s. Still, the bureaucratic
nonsense of policies concerning monthly reports, organizational roundtables,
leadership development programs, and organizational congresses do nothing
but bore, annoy, and waste time, a rare commodity for your average college student.

I don’t know what the intentions behind these programs are, but I do know
what students generally think of them. As Gotimer-Strolla says of organizational
congress meetings, “You spend four-plus hours on something that is generally
summed up quite well in a booklet.”

The problems with Student Life are many. If you’ve paid any attention to The
Torch this semester, you know that the department has had trouble identifying
its place within the University mission statement, which labels the school as
“Catholic, Vincentian, and metropolitan.” But despite this administrative shortcoming,
I remain hopeful for the future students of this University.

Courageous students like Alisha Brizicky, who successfully executed a
two-night rendition of “The Vagina Monologues” in her backyard this past
weekend, demonstrate that you have the ability to overcome arbitrary restrictions
enforced by the powers that be. Whether you agree with the message
of the controversial play or not, it would be ignorant to not appreciate her efforts.
Faced with a resounding “no” to her inquiry of hosting a performance on campus,
Brizicky was resourceful and persistent, and hers is a story of independence,
strength, and resounding success in the face of adversity. She deserves all of
our congratulations.

Finally, I remain hopeful because of The Torch. I remain hopeful that this
University’s independent student newspaper will continue to question and critique
the consensus of the administration and of the student body. I remain hopeful
that The Torch will encourage administrators to get it right and empower students
to make noise when they don’t. I remain hopeful because, after a slew of
awards and (better yet) reaction from administration, The Torch has proven
itself to be a powerful force in steering the lifeblood of this University.

I’ve resisted tradition here, avoiding a 1,000-word sappy thank-you letter to
all of my friends and colleagues. But to pay homage to the editors, students, and
faculty that have shaped who I am today (of which there are too many to list here),
I will close with the same words that Al Silvestri, perhaps the most talented
Editor-in-Chief to have ever served The Torch, has repeated again and again in so
many of our conversations. To Greg Leporati, the new Editor-in- Chief, to all of the faculty, and to the students that can help continue to improve this University:
“Keep fighting the good fight.”

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