You could know Matt Renetzky ’18—more commonly known as Mattzky—from just about anywhere. The Argus caught up with the ever-present WesCeleb to talk about judgment, the dangers of groupthink, and how Capitol Hill is essentially run by a bunch of children.
The Argus: So why do you think that you are a WesCeleb?
Matt Renetzky: I genuinely think it’s because of my kippah and the way that [when] you look at me, it’s not like, “Oh I think I’ve seen that kid before,” it’s “Oh I know I’ve seen that kid before,” because I’m the only one who wears a kippah on campus other than Rabbi David.
A: How do you think that has influenced your time here?
MR: I think it’s led to a lot of situations where I’ve been prejudged both here and also in the real world. But I think if anything it’s made the experience better, being a recognizable face and being able to be a symbol of people’s identity which can comfort them has been a really rewarding experience.
A: In terms of people judging you, what would you say to them…. What would you say to anyone you think has judged you for your outward expression of religion?
MR: I would tell them what every teacher tells a second-grader, which is, don’t judge a book by its cover, essentially. Just because a person has some label or wears something or acts in one way in one moment, that doesn’t define them and who they are.
A: An empowering Wesceleb, I like this.
MR: Thank you.
A: So what are you involved in on campus?
MR: I’ve been a tour guide forever. I have been an orientation leader forever, which is also how a lot of people know me. I do Jewish things on campus, kind of obviously, I guess?
A: Is there a specific group you are involved with?
MR: Yes, I’m involved with Chabad, which is one of the Jewish identity groups we have on campus. And I’m also on the Community Standards Board, formerly known as the Student Judicial Board.
A: Oh, it changed?
MR: Yeah, it changed, but it better reflects who we are and what we do. But a lot of people also recognize me from that, which is less than a pleasurable interaction sometimes.
A: Why does the name change better characterize what you do?
MR: We’re really focused on the student, and on the community, when we have hearings and do things rather than being focused on punishing and being judicial and being high-up. It really is kind of an equal playing field also; it’s about a process with your peers.
A: Do you think this is a more just system? Or is it more about nomenclature and how you present yourself?
MR: There is new leadership, obviously, in the post-Backer era. And then as a co-chair myself, I also help steer direction. So I think there has been a little bit of change, yes.
A: That’s great to hear.
MR: There was a time when someone saw me at a party—this goes back to prejudging thing—and I was taking pictures for the people whose party it was, because they wanted photos of the event. I took a picture of this person who I did not know or recognize, and he came up to me and he was like, “What’s up Mr. SJB taking pictures of people at a party?” and was all confrontational, and I was just like, “Um, ok. I do not remember you, if you had a hearing, I do not care, I’m not here to be the party police…”
A: So the SJB is not the party police? Or the Community Standards Board is not the party police?
MR: We don’t intend to be the party police, no. That’s not the mission statement. It does end up being like that sometimes, but…
A: What is your favorite memory of your time at Wesleyan, so far?
MR: That’s a really tough question. Maybe my first time at Miller’s [Pond]. I think just learning about that as a space which we have access to, and then now the memories that I’ve made going there, every time that I go there, it was for a big event, like the beginning of the school year or end of the year, or senior week, or all those times, I always find myself at Miller’s.
A: If you had to pick something, what would you say is your biggest regret?
MR: I think staying within my circles. People tend to really become friends with people who are similar to them in many ways, and I wish–I mean I can, there’s still time—to really get out of my circles and experience parts of Wesleyan that I don’t usually spend time in.
A: Do you have any plans for the future?
MR: I’m either going to go to law school in the fall or I’m going to move to Washington, DC and try to work on Capitol Hill.
A: So you’re into the whole politics thing?
MR: I love politics. I very actively love politics. People read the news and get angry; I read the news and get excited.
A: What about the news right now excites you most?
MR: The disaster that is the Republicans trying to legislate healthcare without reaching across the aisle.
A: What would you differently?
MR: I would, to quote Senator McCain, return to the regular order of things, and to get actual committee hearings and to force a compromise that’s not just pork barrel allocations. I also wouldn’t do anything, because I wouldn’t be elected, I would be advising someone.
A: But isn’t that really who does the thing?
MR: In some ways, yes. The Hill is just run by a bunch of 20-year-olds, which is kind of terrifying.
A: Did you read Al Franken’s book, by any chance?
MR: I did not.
A: A good portion of it talks about his campaign and he’s like, “This is run by children.”
MR: Literally, it’s run by children. And I want to be one of those children.
TA: Any parting wisdom?
MR: Yeah, I have two rules of Wes, which I told my students during orientation this year. The first rule is: Don’t stress, because everybody freaks out way too much about housing, about co-ops, about all these very silly, water-under-the-bridge decisions. That’s rule number one, and then rule number two is to think twice. There’s a lot of groupthink that happens at Wes, and I think if people were to take a step back, they would really enjoy their experience and get a lot more out of it.
Molly Schiff can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.