How does one sum up a year of college life? Of opinions and happenings, features and reckonings. It would be an act of folly to say that a newspaper fully represents the community of which it is a part; more foolish still to think one newspaper out of this college’s three could be entirely indicative of a collective experience. Yet with that qualification, what does the past year in The Gazette tell us about the past year at Swarthmore? Here are my thoughts, and they are in no sense comprehensive.
From the national #MeToo movement in the fall to the campus-focused Organizing for Survivors, issues of interpersonal and institutional power with regard to sexual violence and trauma were central to campus discourse. In the fall, I wrote an essay about my experiences with the topics of the #MeToo movement. Abby intertwined political commentary with personal experience through her analysis of the Roy Moore situation, concluding with the exhortation to take survivors seriously. The Spring of 2018, like the Spring of 2013, brought the challenge framed by that exhortation to the forefront of Swarthmore’s consciousness.
In the opening lines of Shakespeare’s Richard III, Richard Duke of Gloucester says, “Now is the winter of our discontent / Made glorious summer by this son of York.” 5 years ago, then-President Rebecca Chopp, riffing off these lines, dubbed Swarthmore’s spring of 2013, “The Spring of our Discontent.” What’s lost in Chopp’s allusion though, is that those lines of Shakespeare refer to Richard’s past. “Now the winter is made glorious,” (text mine) is how those two lines read together, paraphrased. But Shakespeare’s grammar in these lines is weird; it invites a different reading. There is a curious way in which the stasis of the first line, taken out of context, refers to an immediate present, as if foregrounding the brutality and discontent to unfold in the rest of the play: “Now is the winter of our discontent.” “Discontent” for Richard is both the past, and the future, always presently in the process of being “made glorious.” Thus, Chopp’s “Spring of 2013” cast as the winter of Richard’s past, also imagines, alludes to, foretells our present moment, our Spring of 2018, of similar unrest, of similar discontent.
For a comparison of those two time periods of Swarthmore’s history, read Aidan’s five-year retrospective. Look, too, to what others had to say about the response to the broken Title IX system, to the news coverage in the Phoenix, to Isabel’s long form piece in the Review. Look to Voices. To the stories of survivors and the demands of O4S. Look to the countless letters of support for survivors including The Gazette’s own. Look to the Voices founder and Editor-in-Chief Lindsey’s virtuosic, 50-page article on this semester’s movement. Of course, look at the national coverage the present sit-in has received, as well as Bayliss’s in-depth campus coverage in The Phoenix. Large expressions of discontent come in waves, it seems, and Swarthmore is no exception.
In many ways, the discontent of this year was also about discourse. Sid’s op-ed about Colin Kaepernick’s mode of protest generated controversy about race and the role of campus newspapers. Lindsey’s response piece, “Silenced No More,” focused on racialized trauma and who gets a voice. The formation of Voices points to this, to the question of who ought to speak, as well as when and how. Issues of race of course went beyond issues of discourse. Abby’s op-ed about deprivatizing Delaware County’s prison, and Abby and my review of Jay-Z’s 4:44 tour addressed racial issues off campus, as present in our prison systems, and as represented through music and verse.
Bekah and Matt sent us op-eds about their qualms with campus discussions about Israel and Palestine; as did Ben and Emily. These op-eds, as much as they were about discourse, were also about the intersections of religion and social justice, a topic tackled head on in the roundtable discussion John organized on Religion, Morality, and Social Justice. The College was asked to consider this question as it pertained to our curriculum when a group of far-right, Catholic protesters stood on Chester Road and criticized the Fall 2018 course Queering the Bible, a story which The Gazette broke in-real-time through Instagram, and then subsequently with an article on the site.
Concurrent with all of this campus unrest is physical campus and personnel change. The college is building a new dining hall and student union, and the books have left McCabe. Thanks to Ethan’s diligent transcription of public safety reports, we know about the 6 instances of people being trapped in campus elevators. The bells were removed and then repaired. The positions of board chair and provost are turning over; Tom Spock and Tom Stevenson, in my interviews with them, impart knowledge of their respective positions, and Salem Shuchman and Sarah Willie-LeBreton express excitement for theirs. Shane Lounge was redesigned, notably lacking in soundproof chairs. Read our cynical, satirically framed coverage of it, and of the well-intentioned but worrisome shifts in administrative attitudes toward mental health. Read, too, Nicole’s profiles of CAPS users and their experiences with mental health.
The Gazette has not just been somber this year, though. Amaechi introduced us to satirical fiction, notably writing a hilarious piece about being trapped in McCabe. Kevin brought sports-writing back to the paper, with a flair best captured by the beautifully earnest Wrestlemania article. Carrie published a review of Feng Xiaogang’s film Youth. Elena wrote a compelling review of the Kiefer Rodin exhibit. Sid in pure form had a regular column on markets, and I in similar fashion dove into the archives and published secrets from the Book & Key Society. The Gazette has always been a home for quirky interests and personal expression, and this year has proved no exception.
Last, I want to highlight the profiles of community members. Angus profiled Tommy Bothwell ’20 and his work with pedagogy in Chester. Abby profiled Jonathan Kay ’20 and his work on sustainability. Lisa profiled Super Smash wiz David Liu ’18 and Jeopardy! semi-finalist Rebecca Rosenthal ’20. Vanessa did video profiles of Environmental Services (EVS) Technicians Kim and Nona. Aidan published his Research Spotlight series, at present totaling 9 interviews with faculty members across the College on their research areas. The people in our community have always been my favorite part of this college. For while we are in a state of discontent, we are, too, in a state of change, and through the work of all members of the community, we are in a perpetual state of being “made,” and of being “made glorious.”