Exit Letter: Theo Says Thank You

Senior Managing Editor Theo Hamilton ’23 reflects on his time with the Editorial Board as he says goodbye to The Student.

On March 9, 2020, I received two of the most significant emails I’ve opened during my time at Amherst. Other members of the Class of 2023 probably remember the first as clearly as I do: a 641-word blast which announced that, in response to the global spread of Covid-19, students were expected to leave campus over the next week and begin remote learning for an unclear duration. The second, which by the time I’d read the first seemed almost minor in comparison, was an invitation by then-Arts & Living editor Seoyeon Kim ’21 to take an editing test for the Arts & Living section. Now, however, with the clarity of nearly three years of hindsight, that second email seems like it ushered in just as tectonic a change.

In the months prior to those two emails, I’d started experimenting with writing for The Student. The topics ranged from my musical interests (as in a review celebrating the 25th anniversary of a favorite Oasis album which the Arts & Living section was kind enough to publish even though that anniversary had passed months prior) to my cinematic interests (like my review of “Watchmen”). These forays into writing had made me interested enough in the paper to apply for a position as an A&L editor. But, ironically, it was only after moving off of campus that I began to fully appreciate The Student’s ability to enhance the campus community. It helped that I was by then a new assistant A&L editor, clicking into editorial meetings every Sunday to hear from editors across all sections about pressing news and week-to-week concerns of students. What really made the difference, though, was the weirdness of life off-campus, as I kept close with friends but felt helplessly adrift from any sense of “Amherst” as a whole. The Student provided a space where the concerns and interests of the college community could still be voiced, representing a unique type of togetherness in a turbulent period.

I took the next year off of Amherst, not wanting to use up another block of credits on remote classes, but I kept working for The Student, driven in part by my experiences of the paper as a vital source of community connecting students on and off-campus. At that point, along with Lauren Kisare ’22, I was one of two editors at the head of the A&L section, and some of my proudest memories at the paper will always be the steps we took to keep the section running during that bizarre period — The Student’s first entirely remote year. These steps included hosting biweekly workshops for writers to learn about the section and discuss each other’s articles, piecing together a writing schedule to spread work equitably across staff writers, and just reading through submissions and (hopefully) providing thoughtful feedback.

Last year, The Student returned to operating fully in-person. Lauren left to study abroad, while Alex Brandfonbrener ’23 and Brooke Hoffman ’23E became my new section co-editors. The return to campus brought all sorts of challenges in and of itself. The Student returned to a weekly paper format with very little institutional memory, which meant learning and re-learning how to get the paper into print on a reasonable weekly schedule.

I’ve emphasized how much The Student functioned as a bastion of community while being on campus was impossible. But while the experience of learning remotely from all corners of the world is now a remote memory (or not a memory at all!) for most of us, I still constantly see ways that The Student enhances the campus community, especially since becoming a senior managing editor last spring, a position that has meant working with each of the paper’s sections. Sometimes, this takes the form of activism and calls to action for the school, like last semester’s “Better Amherst” series, which made the case for the necessity of offering more service-oriented learning at the college. Of course, it also means accurately communicating the details of breaking news. Frequently, it means reminding us that the campus community is so much larger than is suggested by the tunnel vision that students can so easily slip into as we move back and forth between classes with our peers and meals with our friends — this week’s article on the impact of dorm damage on college custodians is a great example.

Last but not least, I want to thank the many people who have helped make the newsroom such a rewarding place to work, even when — on nights like tonight — I’m here at 4:00 a.m. poring over line edits (or trying to write an exit letter), falling further and further behind on classwork, and mentally preparing myself to ask my professors for a new array of extensions.

There are too many names to name. I will miss working with the whole editorial board — and I will especially miss all the moments of laughing and not-quite-working.. I can’t extend enough gratitude to the other members of this year's leadership team, Editor-in-Chief Lynn Lee ’23 and Senior Managing Editor Liam Archacki ’24, who have put literally countless hours into helping this paper maintain its exceptional journalistic standards and steering it from strength to strength. Lynn, thanks for your stalwart and thoughtful leadership, and for your tireless commitment to the paper. Liam, thanks for being the best co-senior-managing-editor I could’ve asked for, and I can’t wait to see what you and Sam (Spratford ’24) achieve as EICs next semester. And thank you finally to my A&L co-editors over the years. Lauren, thanks for your mentorship and advice — it basically taught me how to be an editor. Alex, thanks for spending so many nights on InDesign duty, and for all the laughs along the way. Brooke, thanks for thinking up some of the best titles to ever grace The Student’s pages. I’ll always appreciate the friendships I’ve made and the moments I’ve experienced working here, alongside so many other students dedicated to thinking and writing critically in service of the campus community.