Exit Letter: Scott's Exitorial

As he phases out of his current role on The Student, Managing Opinion Editor Scott Brasesco '22 takes stock of where the Opinion section has been over the past year and a half, along with where it's going. He remarks on the grueling but fulfilling experience that is The Amherst Student.

I officially became one of The Student’s two Managing Opinion Editors almost two years ago in the beginning of March 2020, a little more than a week before the college asked us all to leave campus due to the uncertainty and possible danger caused by the at-the-time little known coronavirus. I remember a single rushed production night when I was introduced to the editors-in-chief, Olivia Gieger ’21 and Natalie de Rosa ’21, and then a second — when I still barely knew any of the Editorial Board — in which we discussed plans for moving off campus and how production would continue.

I’d applied for the position in the hope of finding a place to make a deeper contribution to the Amherst community, but within my first couple weeks, I had already left that community behind. It certainly wasn’t how I expected my time at the paper to begin, and I had trouble settling into my role at first as I tried to get to know the Opinion writers, my fellow editors, The Student as an institution, and most challengingly, The Student’s convoluted website.

It was over the next year — The Student’s first entirely remote year — that I truly came to know our lovely editors as we all muddled through our pandemic semesters together, yet apart. It was a profoundly challenging year for The Student, which had always been centered on in-person interactions, interviews, and mentorships. As for myself, I spent the entirety of the year off campus and the newspaper became something of a tether between myself and the distant Amherst community. It was where I heard stories of the goings-on of campus life, both positive and negative, and where I had an opportunity to really interact with fellow students outside the classroom.

I’m particularly proud of work I did alongside the Black Student Union in editing and publishing the #IntegrateAmherst campaign, one of the major causes of the college’s anti-racism plan, as well as my work to help other students and community members, such as Amherst’s staff, use the paper as a platform to make a difference at the college. I became familiar with student yearnings, from things as broad as better efforts at racial inclusion at the college and a deepening of the college’s commitment to financial aid and as narrow as better support for lactose-intolerant students or the need for better performing spaces.

I also wrote a few articles of my own, which I am proud to report have improved over time in both quality and scope. One of my first articles was on the American judiciary, which I excitedly noted was retweeted by a blue-check scholar on Twitter until later realizing I had written that he “failed to recognize the value of the judiciary as an institution” in the article. In contrast, my most recent article revealed my personal struggles receiving mental health care at the counseling center — struggles that I viewed as part of a larger problem with the college’s approach to mental health care. Many people shared their similar stories or statements of support with me in the following days, though the counseling center itself sent in a letter not-so-subtly accusing me of “discourag[ing] students from seeking care should they need it.”

The main focus of my time at The Student, however, was reworking the way that the newspaper planned and carried out its editorials. While historically they had been the products of the Opinion editors’ own thinking and writing, my co-editor Becca Picciotto ’22 — now editor-in-chief — and I started sending out topic surveys and holding editorial meetings to make sure editorials were representative of the views of the whole Editorial Board. In our view, this gave the editorials more weight as the voice of the paper, and this seemed to prove true as we noticed the subjects and critiques we made being brought up in faculty meetings from time to time over the course of the year.

It was through this weekly exercise of leading editorial discussions and writing the editorials themselves — the editors often joked that I was a columnist who wrote under the pseudonym “The Editorial Board” — that I truly came to engage the issues facing the Amherst community every week, both on and off campus. To me, it became a way of meeting that original goal of leaving the college better than I’d found it — a way to take action myself and support others as we worked together to make the college a better place.

I suppose that as I’ve come back to campus this year, spent my weekends editing articles and planning editorials, and endured our dreaded 8-to-10-hour production nights (all of which is unpaid, mind you), this dual sense of duty and community has really been the thing propelling me forward. To this day, my friends do not understand why I’m willing to lock myself in Morrow’s basement and stay up so late to produce the paper each week. Each week I delivered less work than expected, my poor thesis advisor, Professor Javier Corrales, has cautiously asked: “How many more weeks do you have left at The Student?” And sometimes I fail to understand why I do it, too. And yet, I can’t imagine going through the pandemic without The Student, its editors, or any of the fine writers I’ve had the pleasure of working with in my time here. It’s been my deepest connection to the home I’ve made here and my surest way of doing my part.

I cherish the friendships I’ve made working at the paper and the moments we’ve had together along the way. From getting into the nitty gritty of peoples’ qualms with any given situation on campus while writing the weekly editorial to roaring with laughter as one editor took a personality test online that came back with the response, “No personality,” I feel I’ve truly gotten to know and enjoy each and every person there during those late-night meetings, and I know I’ll miss them next semester.

I’ll miss editing the Seeing Double column — the mainstay of my section and often a source of turbulent newsroom discussion. Many thanks to its authors, Thomas Brodey ’22 and Cole Graber-Mitchell ’22, for their dedication to producing a column that is just the right amount of weird, tackles significant Amherst issues, and is always a delight to read.

I’d also like to extend my gratitude to our outgoing editors-in-chief, Ryan Yu ’22 and Becca Picciotto ’22, who have been a constant presence during my time at the paper and my go-to sources of advice and amusement. Ryan, I hope you’ll come to believe my many compliments which you have always been so sure are sarcastic — you deserve all of them. Becca, thank you for being such a stalwart partner and mentor as I started at the paper; from the beginning to the end, I’ve always been able to count on your ability to take the poor drafts I wrote late at night and make them beautifully unrecognizable by morning. As silly as it seems, I’ll really miss our late nights together next semester.

And last but not least, I’d like to give special thanks to my co-editor, Skye Wu ’23, and our team of assistant editors — Kei Lim ’25, Dustin Copeland ’25, and Tapti Sen ’25. I know I couldn’t have stayed as long as I did, no matter how much I wanted to, without your enduring support and willingness to both challenge me and learn yourselves. I’m confident I leave the section in good hands as I depart, and I look forward to seeing what comes next for the Opinion section and The Student.