Space for reasoned debate provides insight into capacity for harmony at the College

0
77
COURTESY IMAGE // WM.EDU

I have spent the last two semesters working as an opinions editor at The Flat Hat. From being interviewed by a local newspaper about my favorite new statue in front of Zable Stadium to sparking controversy on “Swampy Memes for Twampy Teens,” I have learned a lot in my time working with The Flat Hat. Now, as I prepare to study abroad next semester, I reflect on many of the things I’ve learned during my editorship at the paper.

First and foremost, Creative Cloud Suite products, including our beloved InDesign and Photoshop, will crash when you need them most. If you haven’t saved your work, you will regret it.

Most importantly and on a more serious note, receiving opinions from all across campus has given me a lot of insight into the student population at the College of William and Mary, and I’m incredibly thankful for that unique perspective.

Students at the College clearly have a diversity of opinions, and being opinions editor means my email is often full of the latest campus hot takes. Whenever a slightly divisive event happens on campus, our section’s inbox frequently floods with various responses. What I have seen in these responses is how valuable thoughtful discourse can be. After all, reasonable people here at the College can disagree on trivial and serious things alike, and they often do.

I honestly think I have learned the most from the well-written, thoughtful articles that didn’t align exactly with my own views — even more so than the ones that have been more in line with my personal perspectives.

There is an important line to walk when it comes to disagreement. Some people have views that are incredibly harmful, and I understand that no matter how well thought out your disagreements may be, it will rarely be a complete or even partial resolution to someone with toxic views. But as a community at the College, I have seen the benefits of our ability to have reasonable discourse and have seen the divide that emerges when we resort to personal attacks. I have often been so impressed with the grace so many with our community have been able to handle the difficult discussions.

Some might say that the opinions section of a college newspaper holds little value, but I would disagree. I have seen the opinions section provide a voice for students who aren’t sure that they’ll be listened to.

And I have seen people in power make meaningful change as a result of articles written in the opinions section.   Ultimately, words have power. Over the past year, I have seen firsthand both the positive and negative effects of that power, and I have learned a great deal from both. The only time I have seen words lack power was in my complaint about the tiny plates in the dining hall. I still have seen no change in Sadler, and every day that I balance multiple plates to eat one meal hurts my soul.  Despite this personal sadness, I have greatly enjoyed my time as opinions editor.  Learning from this passionate community is an incredible opportunity, and I am proud to have done my best to foster a section where students felt welcome to make their voices heard and to have reasoned, kind and thoughtful debate.

Email Anna Boustany at aeboustany@email.wm.edu.