It has become custom for the outgoing Editor in Chief to write a notebook in their last issue of The Poly. Presumably, the goal is to say “goodbye” and to be reflective or introspective or something like that. Now, clearly I am continuing the tradition by virtue of this notebook being here, but really, the customary content of these “farewells” doesn’t make much sense to me.
So far, almost every past Editor has stayed around for at least a little while after their tenure as leader is over. Most take up the role of “Contributing Editor,” which has given the position the stigma of being full of “old” people (relatively, with respect to The Poly). So, why would one write a big farewell piece and then stick around? It’s like when you prematurely say “bye” to an acquaintance, then realize you’re parked next to each other, and now have to walk together awkwardly in silence. Or, something like that. But really, it’s not like this is my last issue or anything. Just my last issue in one of the four different editorial positions I have held in the past six semesters. I don’t plan on going anywhere yet.
As for reflecting, there’s not too much to reflect upon. After all, I’ve discovered that it’s hard for one to “accomplish” things when one is busy trying to fit the co-terminal program into four years instead of five while also running a newspaper.
But I did set out some goals back in February. Did The Poly accomplish them? Kind-of. One thing I hoped for was smoother production nights by way of better content submission. There was a while this semester where we had a strong push for strict article deadlines (with a few exceptions). That was nice, while it lasted.
Another goal I mentioned in my earlier notebook was soliciting student feedback. That certainly didn’t happen. In fact, I even stopped getting feedback from Reddit, namely because I figured it’d be better to have people submit articles for discussion themselves rather than forcing weekly issues onto /r/rpi.
Now we reach the part where everything I’ve said before comes together. I mentioned that I don’t plan on going anywhere next semester. I also mentioned that I won’t be Editor-In-Chief anymore. This presents an interesting opportunity, one where I have significantly more freedom to actually do things as a result of not having explicit responsibilities.
The main problem I’d like to deal with in the new plethora of time I expect to have next semester is one that (nearly?) every student-run organization at RPI has: Institutional memory. Students come, and students go, and things tend to be remembered for at most four years. Beyond that point, no student at RPI was around to remember, so events become distant memories (“GM Month? That was bad … right?”).
The solution: documentation. But not just the “what”—clubs are actually pretty good at remembering that part—but the “why,” which is what people tend to forget. I’ve seen a lot of “well, traditionally, we do this, so let’s do it that way.” And you can’t just document everything; too much information becomes “tl;dr” which is equivalent to having no documentation at all. A simple “this is how to do x. We do it this way because y” should suffice.
So, RPI, why not join me in this quest? If more clubs maintain concise sets of information for new members to digest, we can understand the actual reasoning why things are done the way they’re done. Then, once we realize how silly or dated that reasoning is (The Poly budget still has some line item about purchasing supplies for physically laying out the paper, such as razors), change can actually occur.
Oh, and “goodbye,” I guess.