I first stepped into the Pipe Dream office in September of 2013, and I hid in the corner. I liked to write, sure, but I would be damned before I considered putting my name next to 550 words for everyone to see. I left the office and never expected to return.
Well, spoiler alert — I came back. This will be my 112th article for Pipe Dream, and while I am no math major, that should equate to well over 60,000 words.
More importantly, that represents a whole lot of stories. And these stories, unsurprisingly, have not always been good ones. Juicy, sure. But the more clicks, views and page turns a story gets, I have come to learn, the more frustration or outrage has been caused.
So here I am — scrolling through Pipe Dream archives, publishing articles in my last few days at this university about students having occupied an administration building for almost two weeks — asking why.
I’ve watched the University ignore and disregard its students’ protests and students insult and attack each other. I’ve seen safe spaces become compromised and student leaders alienate and disrespect entire student groups. I’ve heard accusations of harassment, of complete disrespect and disregard and of abuse and assault.
Discourse is healthy, and many would say that speaking out is part of the college experience. While that may be true, having these voices fall on deaf ears should not be.
Listening is not glamorous, it frequently is not good publicity, and the messages are not always easy to hear. In fact, standing up for students and standing by students — that can prove to be downright inconvenient.
But as fate would have it, the most difficult tasks are frequently the most important, and a lack of willingness to do the heavy lifting is toxic. Turning the other cheek shows that the University was not built on a mission made for a diverse student body, but simultaneously tells students to make the most of the school anyway.
Throughout my time here, students have been trying to create spaces for themselves at a university that is supposed to be a catalyst to a successful future. I’ve heard the words “premier public” enough times to make my head spin. But there is nothing premier about ignoring students until they are forced to protest across campus in search of someone to hear them.
Three and a half unpredictable years of news have flown by and now, in typical Pipe Dream fashion, I am writing this article just before the deadline while trying to remember everything I meant to include.
Originally, I was going to write a sappy column. I was going to talk about how much Pipe Dream has taught me about myself and others — because it’s true, this office has brought me everything from an ability to see the most extraordinary in the most ordinary to an inexplicable love for em-dashes.
I was going to write about how Pipe Dream also threw challenges my way I never would have anticipated — and taught me how to handle conflict, tyrannical leadership, sexism and blatant pettiness in a workplace that is forced to maneuver the personal mixed with the professional. I was going to write about how leaving this office, both the good and the bad, will bring one of the most difficult goodbyes of my 22 years.
But this newspaper is not about me, and this newspaper was never about me. One of the most important parts of being a journalist is understanding that the words, the platform and the space — it is all made for everyone else.
I hope, naively maybe, that one day students will not have to fight to be respected by each other or to be heard by their administration. But for now, all I can say is that the paper I am tearfully leaving behind is one that will strive to listen and is full of reporters with open ears.
I am woefully bad at conclusions, probably because most of our news articles rely on quotes for profundity. Since this is my final article for Pipe Dream, I might as well stay on trend.
Only two words come to mind — which my favorite professor uses as an email signoff — that have come to punctuate my college career:
And now, to give credit where credit is due:
My news crew: Gabby and Pelle, thanks for putting up with me these past two years, and Brendan, despite your first impressions, you were the best Carla-replacement we could have asked for. Orla, Amy, Sasha and Jillian, I have no doubt you’re going to show us all up. Gabby, I couldn’t be more proud of you, and you’ll have my vote in 2032.
Pipe Dream friends past and present: I am grateful for all of you. Rohit, stay wonderful, stay waffle-y, and please remember to eat daily. Shauna, please remember everything will always turn out okay. Caleb, I’m so impressed by your never-ending curiosity and drive. E.Jay, never stop sending “Hello, it’s me” texts. Carla, I am forever thankful that our friendship was able to flourish even when we were prohibited from taking bathroom breaks together. Cheers to the real-world shenanigans to come — I’m anticipating a lot of cake-worthy celebrations.
My garbage girls: There are no other people I would rather have spent senior year constantly communicating and cuddling with. Phone-free Sunday breakfasts were the highlights of my weeks. Odeya, nobody is mad at you, and nobody could ever be mad at you. Read that sentence, memorize it, learn it and believe it.
Regina and Sofia: Thank you for years of friendship and cohabitation, for shenanigans and support, and for always being there even when I may not have deserved it. You kept me sane through ant infestations, bad decisions and collapsing ceilings. Knowing you both has been a pleasure.
Julie: Thank you for being my responsibly irresponsible second half, and always thinking 13 Steps ahead. I’m so lucky we Stumbled Into each other; college without you would have been quite the Dilemma.
Sheena: I don’t know where I’d be if you had never slid down next to me in the hallway in middle school. Nowhere, probably. Nine years later and you still can’t get rid of me. Here’s to 90 more.
And of course, Mom and Dad: thank you for always being there for me, and for managing the stress of a child who entered college as an intended psychology major and then made the sharpest turn possible. I’ve always appreciated your support, especially all of those times I forgot to say thank you. I love you both.
Alex Mackof is a senior triple-majoring in Africana studies, English and philosophy, politics and law.