Regardless of whether you know who Stephen Sondheim is (don't feel bad, I didn't either until covering his campus visit), the Father of Broadway's words should still strike a chord: The only things worth doing are the ones that scare you.
When I learned I'd be home for my brother's concert last month, my chance to heed Sondheim's advice glittered like the black, sequined top of lead singer Jenny Lewis (former "Troop Beverly Hills" child star) at Rilo Kiley's Philadelphia show last summer.
Hers was a performance that a) considering the homosexuality-on-campus dialogue that has dominated the opinion section this semester, could beckon enemy lines closer as Lewis could seduce you regardless of where you've set up camp along the sexuality spectrum and b) made me itch to be on stage.
Entonces, I informed my brother that, if need be, I was perfectly willing to lend my vocals for a song or two. He said his girlfriend was already singing one, but he'd keep me in mind. As I couldn't offer him a date to the senior prom (among other things), I'll let you decide who won that one. There's also the small fact that I can't sing.
Now what? As I saw it, I had two options to achieve fright-induced self-growth: I could deploy myself to Iraq ... or apply to become the next opinion editor.
Considering I've wanted to move to the gunless colony off the coast of Canada since age 10, and this chica on the right side of my picture said she'd yet to see a female in that square, I quit polishing my M-16 and finished my Collegian application.
Another friend had also kindly informed me that my news articles were boring, minus a lone opinion piece from Spain. As I thought back to the days abroad of making Facebook albums instead of appointments at CAPS, I realized I did value self-expression.
The week that Facebook disabled my posting capabilities (coincidentally the same week the headline "Spain holds 121 over child porn" surfaced after I'd ignored friends' advice to nix the photo of a naked child on the beach), I folded into a temporary depression until my censorship ceased (thankful I wasn't in China, despite a nostalgia to feel like a rising world power again as the euro halved my bank account).
The corporate ownership of the U.S. media might throw even our First Amendment right into question, but The Collegian is the university's only independent student organization. So although three protesters from the crowd who threw shoes at George W. Bush last week in Canada were arrested (so proud to be half-Canadian) and their original Iraqi inspiration jailed, on these pages we welcome you to throw as many (metaphorical) shoes as you'd like.
To quote Defiance, Ohio: "After weeks of winter that just wouldn't quit and the headlines remind me the world's gone to shit, I [write into the opinion section of The Collegian] because sometimes that's all that someone can do. ... And this feels better. Better than it has in weeks," (slightly modified, but it was hard to hear at the concert).
What you write has the chance to be printed 4,000 times. It will never be easier to be published than here in college, and, as alarmists cry, newspapers might be dead before you get another shot. And with The Collegian online, your opinion can spread faster than campus gossip of whom you'll hook up with tonight or "who got fat while abroad."
Other online benefits include: usurping your seventh-grade floor hockey tournament win as the only yield when you Google yourself; providing alternative reading to the Irish ancestry database for internet-prowling grandparents; and getting called out by Turkish university officials because you "neglected to sign up" for "the excursion to the Polish mountains" (really dropped the ball on that one, Mike Padovano).
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People (should) respect your opinion if it's honest and has substance.
For example, a classmate recently volunteered his belief that sex should wait until marriage. And whether anyone agreed with him didn't matter. On a campus where "Never Have I Ever" gets played more than the tuition gets raised (drinking game to dethrone Kings, anyone?), I respected him for saying something real.
What's more alluring than free speech?
Gentlemen, according to an unofficial July 2008 poll taken by some colleagues at the Pennsylvania State University Main Campus, "Every girl enjoys a good throw down." Refine your aggression first with a strong opinion piece. (Hint: "You're going to have to sit on my lap because I paid for this bus," -anonymous frat bro, doesn't count.)
Ladies, the men's dean's office has warned of the rise of the "female sexual predator." WILL may pounce on the double standard. But after witnessing the Stillwellian (see "A League of Their Own") bus behavior of the wasted, screaming/stumbling freshmen girls on the way downtown two weeks ago, I think we could raise the bar. Expose some thought, not your left breast on the dance floor - submit to the opinion section.
What elevates an academic to an intellectual is "se opina," according to professor Ricardo Ramos-Tremolada. Besides tempting those students who change the signatures of their e-mails the second they gain a new title (and probably before the person they're replacing has removed theirs) with the chance to be more ingratiating than usual, the new identity category would offer a helpful, new descriptive ("The junior-KA-B1-first dining room-business major academic or intellectual?"), not to mention an erudite opinion forum.
Or for the Facebook status updaters, reporting every location or emotion change, channel your meticulousness into something others might actually care about, and submit it to the opinion section.
After a hangover-free breakfast my first Saturday morning home for spring break was spoiled by my little sister's blasting of Asher Roth's "I love college, and I love drinking, I love women," (at which point he can't think of a fourth thing he enjoys, so he returns to, "Man, I love college,"), please, restore my faith in the college mind. Think of a fourth thing.
On a campus where heterogeneity has been stymied by Greek life, single-sex housing and Vineyard Vines, we've been socialized to be too timid to stand out.
I'm personally just recovering from the scar seared into my freshman skin when a peer informed me, smoothing her pastel, giraffe-print Lily Pulitzer skirt, that, "We don't wear tie-dye here."
(Really kicking myself now for imprisoning that shirt in the dungeons of my dresser - my sister just informed me tie-dye is "all the rage for spring. Lucky you!")
So: Learn from my insecure mistake. Detect what makes you tick, or what ticks you off (e.g. when my professor told me upon discovering my new position, "But you don't have any opinions"), and respond. Our school is teeming with personality when we allow ourselves to be ourselves.
If Randy Jackson can a) tote that self-important title, and b) have a dance show at all, you can write an opinion. You can't expect an exceptional section if you refuse to join the crew. Positive things, negative things ... to keep with Defiance, Ohio, I'll be "just glad it feels like anything at all."
Contact opinion editor Maura Bogue at email@example.com
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