Exit Letter: Caring Is Infectious

For his final issue as editor-in-chief of The Student, Liam Archacki ’24 pins down why he took this path, what it meant to him, and how it drove him crazy.

If you happen to find yourself in the Morrow Dormitory basement between the hours of roughly 5 p.m. and 4 a.m. any given Tuesday night during the academic year, you’ll be greeted with an entirely unexpected scene.

College kids hunch over computers in a cluttered room. Some are tweaking text boxes or playing with font spacing in Adobe InDesign. Some are layering Google Docs “suggestions” (they’re not really suggestions) onto the words that will in a few short hours become the articles that fill the pages of The Amherst Student. Others still are eating Doritos or cracking jokes about professors or just staring aimlessly off into the distance and listening to the indie rock pulsing out of a nearby speaker until they have to continue with the seemingly endless slog of work that must be done in order to make this in-some-ways-ridiculous enterprise happen by the hard deadline of 9 a.m.

They’re not paid. Their sleep schedules are messed up. They are, occasionally, neglecting their academic work.

So what could they possibly be doing here, in this dingy basement room, at an hour at which they should definitely, all doctors would agree, be sleeping?

This is a confusion that is not lost on us, the editors of The Amherst Student. Most of the time it is implicit; it fades into the background, this sense of the absurdity of what we are doing. On some occasions, though, someone will have the gall to verbalize it.

Just a couple weeks ago, if I recall, a certain bushy-haired, bespectacled news editor (who will remain entirely anonymous) said, during a rare moment of quiet around 1 a.m., “It’s crazy that we do this.” Everyone else in the room just kind of looked at each other, perhaps worried that this particular editor had gotten a little too real. “I mean, I’m not complaining. It’s still crazy, though.”

The thing is, he was right. I’ve spent a lot of time over my three years as an editor for The Student wondering why I do it, wondering why it feels so important to do. Sometimes people will ask me, point-blank, why I do it. I usually give a tongue-in-cheek answer about the incredible importance of student journalism, about raising up our community’s voices, about making a difference — or some equally pious cliche.

And this isn’t actually bullshit; all of that stuff is important. But it isn’t why I do it. In some ways, I wish it were.

If I think back to how I became an editor in the first place, it was so arbitrary. There was a position open and I applied because I like writing and I had nothing else going on and it certainly wouldn’t look bad on my resume. In other words, it was just something to do.

It has continued to be, in a sense, something to do. But why this? Why is this the thing that has consumed my life?

There’s this niche concept in psychiatry known by its French phrasing: folie à deux. This translates to madness of two. It’s when one person takes on — it’s transmitted like a virus — the delusion of another.

I think what happens when you join The Student is somewhat analogous. When I first entered the newsroom I encountered people who were inexplicably, irretrievably, hopelessly dedicated to what they were doing. They cared about it more than anything else, it seemed. It was confounding and exhilarating. It was infectious.

So if you ask me why I did it, the answer is I couldn’t help myself. I had no choice in the matter, really.

Right now, as I’m writing this (I’m not a sap, I swear), it’s past 3 a.m. and the last few editors are still in the newsroom (I can hear distant laughter) and I’m out in the hallway to focus on finishing my exit letter, and I feel the strangest mix of joy and sadness.

I’m thinking about all the people I’ve met, about all the things they cared about, about all the crazy — crazy — things they did for the things they cared about.

Former Editor-in-Chief Yee-Lynn Lee ’23 stayed up until 9 a.m. every week for a year, doing the work of two editors-in-chief, to put out what are surely far more pristine issues of The Student than the current tenure. Former Senior Managing Editor Theo Hamilton ’23 once painstakingly removed the background of a photo of a tennis racket, tracing by hand the little spaces between the racket’s strings one by one, over the course of three hours. The photo wasn’t used.

Kei Lim ’25 and Dustin Copeland ’25, current senior managing editors and soon-to-be editors-in-chief, make rounds of remarkably boring copy edits on every article that we publish. I have no doubt that they will be excellent leaders.

Sam Spratford ’24, the best fellow editor-in-chief I could’ve had, has contributed to my craziness more than anyone else. Sam has, at every turn, made up for my weak points and my oversights (which are not few). Sam has taken on more responsibility and done so with more resilience than I could have ever imagined was possible for a person. I’m absolutely positive I could not have done this without you; this much is obvious.

We’ve reached the Oscar-acceptance-speech portion of the exit letter and I can already hear the music beginning to play. I’ll keep it brief. To all of you: You know who you are and what you’ve done. You cared so much that it infected me and made me crazy and I couldn’t help myself. Thank you.