On Staying Vigilant, at Home and at Large

This issue marks the conclusion of my second semester as editor in chief of the Voice, meaning I’m two-thirds of the way done. Next semester, I’ll have to focus more of my energy on mentoring the next generation of Voice editors, rather than adhering to my typically preferred method of sucking up as much work as possible for myself.

While my problem-solving approaches might lean toward the solitary, I of course could not do all of this myself. Most people don’t see the inner workings of this newspaper before it gets printed every week, but as you might imagine, it relies on a lot of communication and cooperation. The current team of Voice editors has been, hands down, the best I’ve ever worked with, and I was still extraordinarily impressed with them this issue. The content they’ve gathered is strong and relevant: you’ll find commentary on current, pressing topics like net neutrality and the Keystone Pipeline, coverage of community welfare efforts in New London, and student takes on artistic works on campus and beyond.

But, while we’ve gathered a lot of great content here, limitations of time and space mean that we can’t treat every topic. There are some key things missing from this issue.

We’re missing a chance to discuss the Senate tax bill, which slipped into approval just before 2 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 2. Passing by just two votes, the bill is characterized not only by the impediments it poses for social services and the tactful loopholes it offers to businesses and religious interests, but also by its haste. Senate Democrats lamented that they were given insufficient time to read the bill before the vote, meaning that some of our elected officials showed up to the vote less-prepared than many students arrive to end-of-semester class meetings.

We didn’t get to comment on what happened at UConn last Tuesday, when Lucian Wintrich, White House correspondent for the Gateway Pundit, attacked a woman during his own lecture. Toward the end of a talk titled “It’s OK to Be White,” a woman approached the podium and removed some papers, to which Wintrich responded by chasing her into the crowd, where he “grabbed her, pulling her back in a violent manner,” the Hartford Courant reports. The lecture was cut short when Wintrich was arrested by UConn police, and he was later charged with breach of peace and released on a $1,000 bail.

Wintrich, called a “conservative boy wonder” by Fox News, was invited to Storrs by the UConn College Republicans and has previously been denounced, according to the Courant, as a white supremacist and “a dangerous pseudo-intellectual.” The College Republicans claimed that they did not wish to promote white supremacy with Wintrich’s visit, though the organization’s president Tim Sullivan apparently told the lecture’s attendees that Wintrich’s speech would not be suitable for “a bunch of snowflakes.” The debate that currently rages on about Wintrich involves a series of familiar questions, including which speech should be protected under the First Amendment, how to discern between productive versus inflammatory oppositional discourse, and what level of responsibility we assume in reaffirming white supremacy by giving neo-Nazis a platform.

On issues here at Conn, we lacked the space to mention the ongoing “master planning” process, which was discussed in open fora for faculty, staff, and students last week. I attended the session intended for faculty and staff, and though I counted over 75 attendees stuffed into Cro’s Nest, only one was an identifiable faculty member. The event, presented by the prestigious and surely expensive consulting firm Sasaki, provided obvious revelations: we learned that Tempel Green is one of the most valued spaces on campus, that students dislike the Plex for its sterility and long for more apartment space, and that classes in New London Hall are preferable to those in Bill. We got stunning revelations on traffic: a majority of pedestrian traffic flows from academic buildings on the southeast side of campus toward Cro, and the “main entrances” for vehicular access campus are the two gates on Route 32 and the one on Williams Street. And best of all, we learned that survey respondents identified the “campus heart” as the space between Shain and Cro, so our hearts reside in the pit that houses Floralia. How touching.

I understand why a vast majority of the faculty skipped, given that the meeting was tedious, and the insights less-than-insightful. But while students and faculty may have scorned the “master planning” event, staff members presented a variety of passionate and innovative ideas, many of which had to do with the campus’s notorious shortcomings in accessibility, but also included ideas for improving waterfront access and optimization of student spaces. To me, this fervent desire to be heard suggests a lack of platform. Student opinion, at least, is constantly sought through surveys and fora, but how often do we listen to our staff?

Whether we’re looking out at a national level, checking on our in-state neighbors, or self-reflecting, it’s important—even when it’s exhausting—to keep thinking critically about current events. That’s why news exists, after all: it’s not just for us to consume, but also to question, and even to change. I hope, as you flip through these pages, that you’ll raise questions of your own, and consider joining our conversation.