For the past three years, I have willfully given up my Tuesday nights to spend a full working day or more in a small office on the third floor of the Rensselaer Union. After all that time, through all of the crazy that took place in RU 3418, it’s time for me to step back and let the next generation take my place. In my last notebook as Editor in Chief, I would like to take time to reflect on my time, and thank those who served with me.
My staff have heard it before, and I might have even written about it before, but I’m going to talk about it again. Because I can. It’s my last chance, give me a break!
I never meant to be here, and all of this is a big mistake. You see, I never really liked writing. I found it tedious and boring, and I was never able to translate my thoughts to the page. It didn’t help that if it’s not phonetic (fonetic) I can’t spell it. Much to my embarrassment, I still occasionally miss words in headlines that I should have caught.
I joined The Polytechnic because I was 1) late signing up for Navigating Rensselaer & Beyond, so there weren’t many and 2) I thought it would be cool to photograph the hockey games (it totally is). Chris Leong, then-EIC of The Poly, got me to stick around after NRB. He kept texting me on Tuesday nights, telling me to come down to the office and hang out for a while. Shy and uncertain about college as I was, I saw potential friends in this group, and ended up sticking around. I became Associate Photography Editor during the special elections, and then Photography Editor during my second semester at RPI.
At the end of my freshman year, disaster struck The Poly. Five of our senior most members were leaving the paper, many unexpectedly, and with them their talent and experience. With little experience running a newspaper, I took on the role of Managing Editor. Soon-to-be close friend and partner in crime Stephanie Kern-Allely joined me as the second Managing Editor, and together, with the guidance of Chris, we learned to sacrifice our Tuesdays.
That fall, my sophomore year, I found myself running for Editor in Chief. Not necessarily because I wanted to or thought I was ready, but because there was no one else. As it turned out, it was the best decision I had made all year. Surrounding me was maybe the best editorial board during my tenure. At the time, I called it the golden age of The Polytechnic. We had knowledge, experience, and plenty of time left to improve. I was feeling confident for the year ahead. We produced some fantastic papers that spring, culminating in our March 30 and April 6 issues, the Spring Town Protest and the controversy surrounding the Executive Director of Student Activities.
That fall, another set of good editors decided it was their time to leave. Again, I was left wondering who would take up the responsibility and fill their shoes. But that’s what I love about this paper; when there’s a void, someone steps up to fill it. Although not quite the dream team I had my first semester as EIC, the editors who surrounded me did a damn good job at producing the paper.
My yearlong term was up in December 2016, but I knew my time on The Poly wasn’t over. As a first semester junior, I was the senior most member of the paper (and had been for almost a year). Most of the staff consisted of freshmen and sophomores. I ran for another term, one of the few times in Poly history that an EIC would serve longer than a year. I knew I wouldn’t last the whole term, but I also knew the editors needed a little more guidance before they were ready to fly on their own.
Being Editor in Chief for so long has given me the rare opportunity of leadership. Not just as the head of a given club, but someone with real responsibility and deadlines to meet. Each week, I felt obligated to serve the Rensselaer community to the best of my abilities, knowing that what I write, photograph, and proofread will be read by hundreds of people.
During our endorsement interviews this year, I asked the candidates what it means to be a leader. They each gave different answers, but none were what defines leadership to me. During my time here, I learned that being a leader means that the responsibility falls to you, and no one else. When shit hits the fan, it’s the leader who has to take responsibility and face the consequences, whatever they may be. When you’re in charge, there’s no one to hide behind. There have been a few times during my tenure that I really messed something up: articles in bad taste and lack of respect for my editors, to be general. The hardest part of my job was taking responsibility for those actions. It’s given me great respect for people who can go out and admit their defeat, accept responsibility, and work to fix it instead of dodging and deflecting.
Since this is my last notebook, it’s time to say a few thank yous. First, I need to thank all of the editors who have served with me over the years. All of you have been fantastic, and done fantastic work for this paper. The Polytechnic is fortunate to have, or have had, you. I couldn’t have done it without you.
Next, I need to thank Chris Leong for convincing me to stick around. Without him, I might never have taken this journey, and my college experience would have been worse for it. He served as a guide and mentor, and for that I am forever thankful.
I think I owe a special paragraph to one of my Managing Editors. Tyler Carney’s name doesn’t often appear in the author section, and I don’t think he’s ever taken a photograph for us, but I owe him the world. Tyler, for those that don’t know, has probably laid out about half of the paper. Not like “I’ve done the layout for half of the sections at one point or another,” but “on any given issue over the past three years, pick a page. There’s a fifty-fifty chance Tyler did the layout for that page.” Maybe it’s an exaggeration, but… not too far from the truth. So Tyler, thanks for being the InDesign guru.
Last, I need to thank Stephanie Kern-Allely. Without her, I never would have survived this ride. Steph is to The Polytechnic what Tyler is to InDesign layout. That is, anywhere I needed help, Steph was able to fill in. Whether copyreading pages, throwing together an article, or taking over the layout of a section at two in the morning so we could be done by four, Steph has been there for me. Not only that, but she has been irreplaceable counsel in times of need. Many times as EIC, I was faced with difficult choices, and no clear path forward. During those times, Steph’s advice guided me through and helped me during the times I doubted myself. No one else could have filled the role like she did. Steph, it’s a shame you were only Senior Managing Editor for a semester, because we kicked ass. Regrets for never making Wellhofer, Kern-Allely elected GM, PU a reality.
To the current members of The Poly, I have confidence that the paper will continue to prosper in my absence. You know more than you think you do, and I have great confidence in your abilities as editors. I won’t be completely gone from your lives (what is dead may never die), but it’s time for you all to take the reins. Best of luck.