A letter from the editor

By Emma WestRasmus

It is rare that The Mac Weekly generates a stir. For all of the issues we cover and opinions we air, our pages don’t often illicit more than a faint murmur of acknowledgement each Friday. A few sets of eyes in Weyerhaeuser inspect the pages to make sure there are no surprises or dramas brewing, a few alumni browse the online version to stay up to date on the alma mater, and a handful of students peruse the sections slowly at lunch. The attention Hannah Zeeb’s “First year, first critiques” has drawn this week has catapulted The Mac Weekly into conversations and conflicts in a way that is not the norm for this newspaper. For the first time that anyone can remember, The Mac Weekly website not only broke the top ten most visited college paper websites hosted through our website provider, but is number four in most hits this week thanks to this story. We were bested only by powerful daily newspapers at Ohio State, Notre Dame and Texas A&M. Needless to say, Hannah Zeeb has hit a nerve. This is not to be mistaken for a pat on our shoulder, a celebratory toast that we as a newspaper are finally relevant. This is not the time or place to bemoan low readership or perceived low interest in the stories we run. In part this is a recognition of the editorial failings that allowed Zeeb’s piece to be published with orthographic errors. Typos, which to some degree may have compromised the seriousness and professionalism of Zeeb’s piece, were the responsibility of The Mac Weekly to correct and we recognize our failings to do so. We apologize to Zeeb and to our readers for the oversight, particularly in light of the intense scrutiny and widespread attention that this piece has received. With that said, The Mac Weekly stands firmly behind our editorial choice to publish “First year, first critiques.” Many in the community have expressed confusion, disgust and curiosity with our choice to run the story, and many more have understandably voiced concern for the well-being of the author of the piece, who has been the direct and indirect target of a level of vitriol and verbal aggression that has made my stomach turn. The spotlight and largely negative reaction that such a piece has generated for the author is certainly a valid concern, and The Mac Weekly has taken her well-being seriously. But I unequivocally stand behind the decision to publish the story and to give Zeeb the space and platform to speak from her experience and to own her truths. As a senior at Macalester, I can’t say that points of Zeeb’s opinion piece didn’t sting a little bit. As with many of the arguments that run on our opinion pages, I didn’t agree with everything she said or how she chose to say it. But Hannah Zeeb’s fresh eyes may have picked up on some fundamental disconnects and hypocrisies within this student body that a few years within this environment have desensitized us to. This article may be the best thing that has happened to this school in the three years that I have called Macalester my beloved—and in many moments my not-so-beloved—home. Truthfully, I too have been disillusioned by the way the Macalester I am part of and the Macalester I want to be a part of often do not seem to be one in the same. I came to a school I perceived to be the epitome of engagement and participation. As I move through my last year here, I still sometimes look around and wonder if I am in the place I applied to, the place I perceived Macalester to be, the place I still expect it to be. 35 percent of students took the time to vote for the leaders of our student body last spring. During an election year, a sea of empty seats met the distinguished national and local elected political figures invited to kick off our school year at convocation. My own class of 2013 has such a dismal attendance rate to campus events we have RSVPed yes to that we may start to be charged money for our failure to show up. Baffled administrators, leaders and department coordinators call this figure “unbelievably disrespectful” on the part of a student body that fancies itself engaged, mature and dedicated, and a senior class that is months away from entering a form of adulthood. So where does this leave us? Zeeb’s article brings us to a point in which we as a community can take one of two paths. We can summarily dismiss the experience captured in this article as something that rubs us the wrong way or doesn’t resonate with us at the moment (although I would take a moment to consider your own memories or early journal entries from our first month in this place—does it really sound so different from your very real, visceral, initial perceptions?). But we could also step away from the initial inclination to defensiveness and instead make a deliberate and perhaps uncomfortable step towards engaging in auto-critique. How are we perceived by Congresswoman Betty McCollum speaking at a supposed bastion of civic engagement while she looks out at a nearly empty Kagin? What do we look like to staff in Weyerhaeuser questioning the maturity of chants at sporting events and students saying yes to things they never follow through on? How do we come across to Hannah Zeeb who is looking around Café Mac and wondering where the hell she is? Are we so self-involved that we will forward the only Mac Weekly article we’ve read all year to all our friends without even considering how those words implicate us? Hannah Zeeb’s article has been widely disseminated through the larger Macalester network but most importantly has ignited a conversation among the 2,000 students that each day make choices about how we move through these spaces and relationships. Every day we are creating and reshaping the community that Zeeb indicts in her article­­—we choose what events we are going to attend, what parties we stumble to, the statuses we craft on Facebook, and what tables we set our plates at in Café Mac. refresh –>