Hi, I’m Alex Wilkinson, a sophomore, and the Op-Ed Editor of The Wesleyan Argus, and I want you, the diverse, talented, and passionate class of 2014, to help me lay the foundation for the first ever opinions section in Wesleyan history.
How can a brand new student at Wesleyan possibly start contributing to an Op-Ed section before their first college assignment? Here’s the short answer. What makes an op-ed truly special is not extensive experience (though that certainly helps), not an exceptionally eloquent writing style (though that helps too), nor even a life-changing event (though if you have one of those, come talk to me)—if you have a story that you feel passionate enough about to share to the Wesleyan community, then you can write an op-ed.
I clearly can’t speak for all of you, but what made my orientation truly special last year (and what I suspect has made all of yours special too) was listening to everyone’s fascinating personal stories and sharing my own. I was excited not just by differences among our stories, but also their similarities— the hobbies and passions students from completely different cultures shared with one another. It is these similarities that can form strong bonds even among people with completely divergent backgrounds, and cultivate broader understanding and tolerance of the world’s diverse cultures.
Sharing such similarities does not end with freshman orientation. The connections I have made with people of completely different backgrounds from my own has continuously expanded and enriched my own perspective, guided my studies, and provided the foundations for unexpected friendships.
However, much like forming close friendships, connecting with others through personal experiences is not always easy. Just as crafting a long-lasting friendship requires a delicate mix of trust, tolerance, curiosity, and a dash of serendipity, sharing important truths to others about your own life—and the culture that has shaped it—requires just the right kind of environment, one that instills the ability to learn from differences, appreciate similarities, and feel open enough to share one’s experiences in response.
Wesleyan strives from the very beginning of our academic careers to foster this kind of environment. Many events within freshman orientation are meant to instill openness and understanding—the first hall meetings establish guidelines for respect among dorm residents and “Unspeakable Acts” presents the importance of mutual respect and understanding concerning sexual issues.
“In The Company Of Others,” an event on Saturday, Sept. 4, is a particularly relevant example. For those who have not yet seen it, it will likely be one of the most moving and inspirational events not just of orientation, but of your entire Wesleyan careers. For that hour, a few courageous individuals share personal and challenging experiences so that they can hopefully inspire you early on to explore personal identity and express yourself to others, no matter how difficult that may be.
I reflect on this event as I consider the difficulties involved with my own goals for the Op-Ed section of The Argus. Just as Wesleyan attempts to cultivate the sharing and understanding of diverse experience in freshman orientation, so too do I want to establish the Op-Ed section as a space to share important experiences and opinions, personal or otherwise, with the entire Wesleyan community. I want the Op-Ed section to be a natural extension of the creativity, diversity, intelligence, and openness fostered at our school through the elucidating, insightful content it promotes each issue.
This challenge can only be met based on how willing you, the class of 2014, along with professors and the rest of the student body, are to share your experiences and perspectives. It does not matter whether you
write about a summer trip to Nepal, an opinion on our government’s commitment to climate change, a personal account of your relationship with a particular culture, or even just interesting reflections from a course you’re taking; my job is to help present your perspective to the Wesleyan community so that you are perfectly comfortable with how you are being represented to your peers and professors.
I will close with the central point I made earlier about what, to me, de- fines an opinion article. Whether the piece be funny or serious, informative or whimsical, direct or sarcastic, or perhaps some combination of all of these, an op-ed is always a well- reasoned argument concerning some- thing you’re passionate about, and is
ideally relevant in some way to the rest of the Wesleyan community.
As you might have already guessed, my passion is discovering, cultivating, and sharing the stories of others. So I wrote this piece, grounded in my own experience and the com- munal experience of orientation, to advocate for the importance and relevance of The Argus’ Op-Ed section, and your pivotal role in contributing to it. Hopefully I have succeeded in this endeavor, and have convinced some of you to consider writing an op- ed for The Argus.
Alex Wilkinson is a member of the class of 2013. If you have ideas for op-ed arti- cles, you can email him at acwilkinson@ wesleyan.edu.