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St. Olaf Sentiments

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It’s strange to be writing to you in this way. The “you” I’m referring to could be you, if you’d like. Really you’re just the person I’ve always seen on the other end of this newspaper, so if there is no you, at least I don’t have anyone to see me embarrassed over the misunderstanding.

The reason for this tortured introduction is that once you read this my tenure at the Manitou Messenger will be over. Don’t worry, I’m just graduating. Still, there are a few things that I want to tell you before I go. I’ve been here a long time, so forgive me for being grandiose. 

I’d be lying if I said that I did this job for you out there. Realistically I did this job because when I was a first year I really liked writing and I just went further and further down the rabbit hole. But I do think about the impact of this newspaper a lot. I don’t have delusions of grandeur and I know that people don’t read the Mess to decide what they will think or who they will be. Hell, I know that a lot of people don’t read it all. But I also know that people do.

So maybe I didn’t get into this paper for you, but any effort to create something good was for you. And I don’t know if I’m the one who did it, but while I was here some damn good things were created and some important stories were told. I know when I leave they will be too, hopefully many many more.

It took me a long time to realize exactly what this newspaper is. The value of it. Truth be told we put out a lot of fluff. A lot of time is spent filling up pages just for the sake of it. Because the pages can’t be empty. I know it’s easy to dismiss the Mess, and the flaws are most obvious from the inside. But I believe there is something special about the Mess and what goes on here.

A school like St. Olaf calls attention to itself as a place to busy yourself for the sake of becoming better, and that certainly does happen. People bounce from class to activity to class and they ostensibly learn and grow. You stay here for four years and then you are gone. When you get that busy it is easy to take basic things as given. The school operates in a certain way because it does so you can focus on class. I see the Mess as an entity which call attention to the structures that be and an opportunity to document our passive reality.

It is easy to feel like the temporariness of our time at St. Olaf means that what is happening here is not essential. As if change does not matter because it will only effect students in the future, and my future is defined by the things that I can learn in my classes and the electives I can stack. Surely that experience does matter, but it breeds conflict in the self to not take stock of your surroundings.

I don’t believe the Mess exists solely as a force to deconstruct St. Olaf College, or even solely a check on power, although surely it can serve those purposes. The Mess is an invitiation to consider. To take stock of this environment and understand it. It is the role of student press to encapsulate and reflect this microcosm of the world, even if it feels strange and brief.

Maybe I am just nostalgic because my time is coming to an end, but I do think that some great things have happened here. I’m sure I could have done a better job. Certainly there were stories that needed to be told that I didn’t, and I hope they still will be. But, in this brief time I was on the Hill a lot happened and a lot changed. I hope once I leave even more happens and changes, and I know it will.

I don’t fully know what to make of my time here, but the Mess was one of its cornerstones, and I think that sometime, for a while, we did something worth doing.

campbe1@stolaf.edu