It would most definitely be in my interest to wait a few hours and write this when my blood isn’t at a rolling boil, but reason isn’t in charge right now. I just attended the first meeting of the Journalism Pre-Professional Association at Sarah Lawrence, a group at odds with itself from the offset because we here at SLC do not recognize trade occupations as something that an undergraduate, or even a graduate student, should be taught. I understand the pedagogical motivations for this, and support the idea, even though it presents some difficulties in the later years of your undergraduate degree when the marketability of your supposed skills become jarringly important.
I walked out of the meeting at once violently motivated and discouraged. One student after another articulated precisely the issue that SLC has been grappling with for years: in a group of people who wear their individuality like a badge of honor, how does one foster community? This is being addressed systematically in the Sarah Lawrence Strategic Plan, which is a set of goals and objectives for the next ten years at the college.
I do not have any answers myself as to how the administration should go about changing this pervasive lack of community, but, like everything else successful at SLC, I have a suspicion that it will have to start with students themselves. What I have absolutely no tolerance for is the complaint of first-years regarding the lack of student publications on this campus. There are great student-run publications already in place, such as the SLC Review, which is an email away in terms of involvement and submission. I see that a first year coming in to SLC could see a lack of institutionalized journals and magazines in which to get involved, but this does not mean they haven’t existed in the past. The nature of Sarah Lawrence is attuned to geysers of involvement and enthusiasm around a one-time project, such as a literary zine, which then ceases to exist after the graduation of the motivated seniors who energize and legitimize the project. Everything is available to you! In a small conference room in the Sports Center gathered thirty plus individuals hungry for a place to publish their creative non-fiction and journalistic explorations! Instead of harping on the failure of the environment – take names and emails!
As for the editors at the Phoenix complaining of a lack of submissions, nobody wants to write for a paper that nobody reads. Create an air of respect for the paper itself, actually distribute it and make it relevant, and then every first-year and grad student in a non-fiction workshop will be asking their professor, “but do you think it could get into the Phoenix?”