When I first accepted this job, Amherst was reeling from a months-long election scandal and would soon erupt with controversy over a ban on fraternities. I was a soon-to-be sophomore with no idea what I was getting into. All I knew was that this newspaper was basically consuming my entire life already, so I might as well make it official.
Thirty-nine issues, 18 months and three semesters later, I’m finishing up my last issue as editor-in-chief. It’s been an eventful couple of years at Amherst: In my time as editor-in-chief, we’ve reported on conversations about social life and Title IX policy, the ongoing mascot debate and the momentous events of last month’s sit-in.
It has also been a time of great change for The Student. We expanded our design staff from one lone layout person to a team of six design editors. Under the capable leadership of Brendan Hsu, Gabby Bishop and Andrew Kim, this team redesigned the newspaper’s entire print edition and masthead. Our managing arts and living editors revitalized the paper’s arts coverage, bringing a greater focus to student performance and visual art at Amherst. We also greatly expanded our news staff and created an entirely new training program for news writers. Next up, we’re hoping to increase our emphasis on in-depth and investigative reporting and to work on revamping our website. I’m excited to work with the new editors-in-chief on these and other projects next semester.
Over the past three semesters, I have been awed, humbled and profoundly grateful to work with such a dedicated group of editors, photographers, reporters, designers and publishers. Each week, more than 20 people put aside work and sleep to stay in the office until 1 a.m. (if not later) in order to bring this paper to you by Wednesday morning. And that’s not even counting the many staff writers who juggle biweekly writing assignments with all their other commitments, or the team of four publishers who work tirelessly to make sure that The Amherst Student continues to thrive as one of the few financially independent college weeklies.
A lot of our friends wonder why we do this. After all, it’s easy to feel like the work of a small college newspaper doesn’t matter, especially in weeks when the most exciting news is that we got new furniture in Val. But over the past couple years I’ve had the privilege of editing pieces by student journalists that have started conversations on campus, held this institution accountable and sparked real change. From Nora Gayer’s brave and insightful piece on having a chronic illness at Amherst to Madi Ruoff’s funny and thoughtful op-ed on student workload, it’s abundantly clear that student journalism can make a difference.
At its best, a college newspaper should be an independent forum for student voices, for the free exchange of ideas and for informing the community (and the public) about an institution that sometimes keeps us in the dark. The Amherst Student has come a long way in the past 147 years, and it still has a long way to go.
Luckily, I’m sure that my successors, Lauren Tuiskula and Elaine Jeon, will be more than up for the challenge. Lauren is a junior English major who currently serves as one of the paper’s managing sports editors. Elaine, a junior econ major, was managing news editor for a year before becoming assistant editor-in-chief this past semester. I am beyond thrilled that they’ve decided to accept this job, and I know they’ll do great things with The Amherst Student.