Stoking the fire, keeping the flame

The meaning of Spartan life

Jacob Martin

I had last week off from writing in this weekly space. The break gave me the valuable opportunity to passively observe the events that have transpired around a column published two weeks ago titled “Manifesto of a girl interrupted by the Greeks.”

Before I go any further, I’m not going to say whether I agree or disagree with the six women who wrote the editorial; I’m not commenting on the Case Western Reserve University Greek system at present. Rather, as stated in last issue’s staff commentary, I too wish to “congratulate these six women who had the courage to express their concerns,” and it is in this vein of free speech and deliberate audacity that I wish to continue writing.

I spent most of last semester writing about community or the lack thereof on campus. I spent two weeks exploring the conceptual notion of dialogue and what it means for us among other related subjects, rooting these explorations in an attack against the overarching theme of student apathy.

I used to write for both news and arts and entertainment in this paper, but was prompted to transition to opinion upon the discussion generated from the publication of an editorial critiquing Bon Appétit, university smoking policy and SAGES last September. It upset people and drew a good deal of backlash, too much of which was focused on insulting the author.

This is what’s happening now and it is exactly the reason we need more columns like “Manifesto” which—to be brazenly frank—piss people off.

If it takes pushing CWRU undergraduates to anger to get them to talk about campus affairs, then I will devote this space to sensationalism and radical views in future pieces. If students are concerned merely with what they deem an offensive voice than the issue behind that voice, then I will turn a forcefully critical eye on topics like mass student behavior trends and our hallowed Greek system.

To many of those students evaluating those six women, I implore you to think before you open your mouths. Formulate a coherent, intelligent, evidence-based opinion and subject yourself to scrutiny in a letter to the editor of your own.

Comments like, “Those girls are just f***ing feminists,” “I’m glad they wrote that, the more people they offend the better” and “They are probably just jealous because they didn’t get into the sororities they wanted,” are not productive additions to campus dialogue. Rather, they are deplorably ignorant judgments of character.

This paper is called The Observer, and those six women did just that—they observed. The beauty of a newspaper’s opinion section is that evidence to support what one writes doesn’t necessarily need to be statistics and models and graphs; it can be pure unadulterated visceral human experience. Admittedly, my column installments are reflections based largely on personal experience and quiet observation, but fact nonetheless.

The start of my spring semester has brought me the excitement of a new course schedule and the prospect of stimulating directed thought. But with those things came the very clear revelation that my gentle approach at community building has failed. It’s obvious that a cattle prod of controversy is required to instill any sort of change within one’s awareness.

But what should be expected of overworked, overstressed, overdriven, overachieving, overwhelmed, overzealous, overactive, oversexed, overloaded, overhauling undergraduates? Perhaps I’m the truly overzealous one because it would seem ideals like intellectual camaraderie and healthy, argumentative dialogue and some sense of communal belonging among CWRU students are impossibilities.

For the rest of the semester, I will ask questions about the nature of a thriving academic community. Questions like what is a professor, a student, a mentor? What is the purpose of extracurricular activities like a Greek organization or leadership group? What is diversity?

There are no answers to these questions. They don’t reside in the realm of certainty; theirs is that of uncertainty. They float around unanswered in the gray interstices of our subconscious minds, deemed insignificant compared to the rigid, monotonous, and mundane tasks of our daily existences. But someone’s got to ask them, lest we lay doomed to the thoughtless conformity of stunted, stagnated growth.

“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” —Winston Churchill