I don’t think I could have confidently predicted how any aspect of my college career turned out today when I first moved into that Mountainview College suite four years ago. For one day — the first day of classes — I was a biology major and a member of the First-year Research Immersion program, taking statistics and chemistry classes while living on a floor of nursing students. For anyone who knows me now, perhaps you can see why this version of me only lasted for that one single day.
I came home after my first day of classes, sat down on the floor in my common room hallway and called my parents to tell them I wanted to be an English major. And boy, do I remember their reaction. Looking back, I think we can all laugh at the emotions that night, crying as I registered for new classes and kept one biology course in my back pocket at my dad’s advice. I considered transferring, because I feared that Binghamton University was not the school for English. I was wrong.
Of course, it wasn’t just the classes that defined my college years. It was everything outside of it.
I don’t remember how I stumbled upon Pipe Dream. I am tempted to give credit to the English Listserv. I remember sending my application, only to hear back from the Opinions Editor at the time, Sarah, saying they liked my column so much they wanted to publish it the very next day. I was nearly peeing my pants from excitement. I will never forget what it was like to see my headshot, though unflattering, on the front page of a newspaper in every Pipe Dream stand on campus. Terrifying, but thrilling.
Getting to write for Pipe Dream helped me realize I had a voice, and that voice could be powerful. Once I started writing columns on social activism, I never wanted to stop. That’s also probably what led me to create Change of Tone.
When I was a freshman, I told my mom that I would never join an a cappella group because it was super lame. To no one’s surprise, I joined literally as soon as I could. I guess my mom got me on that one. I spent three years in a very talented group until May 2020, when things started to change. Between the Black Lives Matter movement and COVID-19 sending me home packing, my spring semester of sophomore year was difficult. I wanted to make a difference, but struggled finding the right way to channel those emotions. I was angry with the police, with politicians, with BU. But I was most angry with my friends.
I think one of the hardest realizations I have ever come to was that spring, when I noticed that my closest friends throughout college would never care about diversity and inclusivity as much as I did. And that even if they did care, they would never make it a priority. It broke my heart. So, I left the group.
After quitting, I questioned a lot about my life. I had effectively burned bridges with at least 15 people or more. I had all this hurt and all this anger and all this passion. What the hell was I supposed to do with it now?
Making a new a cappella group was actually my parents’ idea. In fact, my mom came up with the name, “Change of Tone.” I took my closest friends with me and just got to work. One year later, we’re chartered by the Student Association, have nine new members, arranged over 20 songs by Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) and LGBTQ+ artists and fundraised around $1,500 for charities that support marginalized communities.
I think a lot of people saw Change of Tone as a product of personal spite or revenge, but it wasn’t that. It was just that after so many unproductive conversations hearing excuse after excuse as to why we couldn’t diversify a cappella, or that “a cappella would always be white,” I needed something good to come out of one of the darkest times in my college career.
My first-ever Opinions Editor, Sarah Molano, actually wrote a senior column in 2019 that perfectly describes my feelings here. Like Sarah, I still worry about being known as the “annoying, angry activist girl.” But also like Sarah, I’ve realized I could make a whole damn career out of it. What exactly that career is, we’ll have to see, but I’m hoping two more years of graduate studies in English at New York University will show me. If I’m confident about one thing, it’s the power of books to inspire me in new ways.
I’m still learning how to be confident in my beliefs, but I have so many people who are there to help me through it. On that note, let’s get to the most important part of my last column: the thank-you’s.
To my professors, who consistently inspire me to do amazing things inside and outside of the classroom. You are all what makes the BU English department shine. Jennifer Stoever, I can’t thank you enough for all the opportunities and support you’ve given me. Vanessa Jaeger, thank you for encouraging me to apply for publication as a freshman and showing me what college writing meant. Jessie Reeder, thank you for introducing me to apocalyptic fiction, which kickstarted my interest in ecocriticism. John Kuhn, thank you for making Shakespeare fun, encouraging me to speak up more in classes and for helping me and Laura DeLuca when we were in full Ph.D. panic mode this fall. Joe Schatz, I promise I probably would have joined the debate team had I taken your classes earlier in my academic career. Dave Archer, thank you for getting to know me when I was too shy to speak up, because I have absolutely loved every second with the education minor. And, of course, thank you to Joe Keith. Had I not spent my entire sophomore year taking your classes, I never would have found the books which inspire me most. Writing my thesis with you was an absolute honor, and it will always be the academic accomplishment I’m proudest of. You’re in my thoughts.
To my Pipe Dream friends, who made this job so, so worth the crappy pay. Let me first thank the legacy of talented Opinions editors before me: Sarah, Evan and Liz. You three were some kick-ass writers. Liz, I love you so much, and I can’t wait to live closer next year and catch up. Thank you for showing me the ropes. Alexis and Jenna, you guys are truly the backbone of this paper. I’m so glad I got to sit next to you both this year and get to know such talented Copy queens.
To my Editorial Board, thank you for always being patient with me and supporting my rage-filled writing. Ric and Hamza, you guys did work I always admired with News. Hamza, you’ll make a killer Editor-in-Chief. Joe, thank you for always bringing some much-needed humor to our back room meetings. You should think about becoming a food critic. Lakhsmi, you were one of my very first friends beyond Liz. I’ll never forget our “screaming into the void” group chat. Sarah and Ciara, thank you guys for inviting me out that first weekend in September with Nicole, even if we did all get COVID-19. I love you both so much, and you both are responsible for all of Pipe Dream’s success this year. This is your formal invitation to come be city girlz with me and Nicole next year.
To Doris and Desmond, I couldn’t have left the Opinions section in better hands. I can’t wait to support you guys and your writing from afar. You are both so insanely talented, and I am just so excited for all that you do. FaceTime me whenever you want to complain about the newest hot take from a columnist.
To Change of Tone, I’m so proud of you all. Singing with you guys was the best.
To my best friends, Hannah, Haley, Kaitlyn and Ryan, I just love you all so much more than I can put into words.
To Paul, I love you, and thank you for making my senior year a million times better than I expected.
To my family: Mike, it was so awesome spending my four years at college with you. Kristen, I know you love my random FaceTimes. Jason, you’re cool, I guess. Gram and Pop, I love you so much, and thanks for surprising me at my last show. Finally, to Mom and Dad. I quite literally couldn’t have done any of this without you, but thank you for always supporting me and inspiring me to be fearless, brave and bold. You showed me I can take over the world, and take my word for it, I will.
Kaitlyn Liu is a senior majoring in English and is Opinions Editor. She was Assistant Opinions Editor from 2020-2021.