Examining the St. John’s experience

As my time as Editor-in-Chief of the Torch comes to an end, I’ve spent the last few weeks reflecting on both my experience as a student leader on campus and as a member of the St. John’s community.

I’ve criticized administrators and students alike on numerous occasions this school year during my tenure as Editor-in-Chief. During the fall semester, I noted my disappointment in the student body for their apathy toward the New York City mayoral election and politics in general. This semester, I repeatedly voiced my disagreement with the University’s new schedule change, which I strongly believe will hurt student engagement-an already tenuous issue at St. John’s.

I also raised my concerns about the state of the school’s subpar library, which, if not fixed soon, will hurt the University’s credibility as an academic institution, and during this period of financial disarray that has hit colleges across the country, this is something that St. John’s cannot afford to ignore any longer. I urged both students and faculty members to support the women’s basketball team, since they rarely received the attention they deserved this season.

I was surprised, though, when one of my columns this semester received more feedback than I bargained for, and not from administrators, but from my peers instead.

In February, I suggested that St. John’s reduce its Freshman Orientation program to one day, in an effort to save money in a time of financial uncertainty. After my column was printed, I received a letter from an orientation leader, which was then posted on Facebook and got many vulgar comments directed at me.

These comments had my staff and I incredulous at the sheer immaturity of some of our fellow students because many of those who commented were already college graduates.

What was even more disheartening to me though, was the fact that many current St. John’s students began expressing their dislike of the Torch. And some even questioned why I had only written about my experiences instead of focusing on what other students might have thought.

I found this both ironic and sad because the Torch, the only student newspaper on campus, is the outlet that gives these students, and so many others, a place to express their opinions. In addition to that, my statements had been made in the opinion section of the newspaper. However, I still understand that negative feedback is common for journalists.

What I believe to be so great about this newspaper is that we are always open to hearing and printing diverse ideas from other students-and since we’re the only paper on campus, we’re the place that students should turn to, and not away from, if they have concerns that they’d like administrators or faculty to hear.

One of my favorite aspects of being an editor and a reporter has been getting to listen to so many student’s ideas and being able to tell their stories.

With that being said, I’d like to take one final moment to applaud a group of students at this university who are fighting for what I believe is an important and courageous cause and to share some thoughts about what I’d like to see in the coming year at St. John’s.

Last week, I sat down with two electoral-board members of the unofficial Gay Straight Alliance on campus. They told me that the University had held its first “Safe Zones” training session a couple of weeks ago, where they were able to have a discussion with various faculty members. In addition to this, the University also held a production of The Laramie Project-
a play centering around the death of a gay student-at the Little Theatre this March.
This is a huge step forward for St. John’s, the same school that was so vehemently opposed to having a performance of The Vagina Monologues on campus when I was a freshman, an issue that was well documented by the Editor-in-Chief of the Torch at the time.

And while progress has definitely been made over the last year, it is still not enough. Kyle Collins, a junior, has been fighting for a gay and lesbian awareness group on campus since Spring 2009, and while Safe Zones is a program that exists at many universities across the country in an effort to educate and promote awareness, it is still not the same as having an
official organization on campus.

I truly hope that the University continues to pursue this open dialogue between students, faculty and administrators, and allows these students the chance to create an official organization-I think it can only benefit a school that lauds itself as a diverse, metropolitan university. Collins, along with the other students involved, is working for a worthwhile cause that I hope the University continues to actively address, and in a timelier manner than it has this past year.

As my time as Editor-in-Chief of the Torch comes to an end, I can’t help but think of what my high school journalism teacher wrote in my yearbook almost four years ago: “Keep questioning authority”-that is the only way real progress can be made. Getting to write this column and seeing the response that many articles in the Torch have had on members of the St. John’s community have been such rewarding
experiences for me.

Luckily, I know that Justin Thrift, the next Editor-in-Chief of the Torch, is dedicated to the journalistic cause. And I am certain that the Torch will continue to impact the University in the years to come, challenging the way administrators run this school, and most importantly, giving a voice to the many students here.