I started working on my history senior thesis last week.I’m telling the story of the 2010-11 national anthem controversy at Goshen College, a tale of politics, convictions and identity. Those of you who were around 13 years ago probably remember it well; it’s a fascinating topic — for those of who you don’t know it, I would recommend looking it up.
But this isn’t about that subject — what I love about writing this thesis is that I’m using this very newspaper as my most important primary source.
The Record is beautiful in that way, I think. Studying both history and journalism, I’ve come to believe that newspapers serve two central purposes. They inform and educate people on current issues, but they also represent a culture and identity. The latter means that papers can become a “looking glass” into the past.
In my history classes, we often talk about presentism, or looking at the past through a modern-day lens. It’s a real problem in historical study, and one of the best ways to avoid it is to read a newspaper from the time you’re interested in.
Papers capture emotions, tensions and thoughts in a unique way, and I think that’s even more true with a fully student-run paper. The Record has a history of being blunt and straightforward with student perspectives, and that is something I believe is important to preserve. We strive to be a source of accurate, important and diverse coverage of the GC community, and part of that is capturing a range of student emotions effectively.
Thanks to this research, one thing that I’ve come to appreciate about this school is that the aforementioned range has grown — and grown drastically.
In 2010-11, over 50% of students were Mennonite and 79% were white — just 8% identified as Hispanic or Latino. Today, we are from over 40 denominations, and Hispanic/Latino students now make up over a quarter of our student body. We come from 30 countries and 32 states.
All of that is fantastic at face value, but we know that we are far, far from perfect.
As a white Mennonite man myself, I don’t truly know the lived experience of BIPOC individuals on this campus. But I do know that people experience micro- and macro-aggressions on this campus every day. And, as a person of privilege, I know I’ve committed those myself.
But I have learned about those experiences from reading (and working on) this paper. I believe that this space can be — and is already — a vessel for people to voice their experiences: to share what goes well on campus and what problems this place still has. The Record simultaneously announces the new improvements of GC while elevating the voices of frustration and injustice that so many students feel on this campus.
My hope is that, as a staff this semester, we can continue to do what the job of The Record has been for over a century: to tell the stories, share the voices, and express the opinions of people from all walks of life on this campus. No, we won’t be perfect, but we can do our best for this campus. I truly believe that The Record represents this school’s identity better than anything else.
That’s why this page will make room for either opinion or features; why we’re printing features (and sports!) in color; why we’re trying to continue making the small improvements that I’ve seen this paper make over and over again throughout my four years here — all to better represent the students of GC.
We can’t cover everything in eight pages. But we will continue to do our best.