Collegian Opinion Desk Reflections: What we’ve gained from different opinions

Jayla Hodge

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the authors only and does not represent a stance taken by the Collegian or editorial board.

The opinion section of The Rocky Mountain Collegian is home to a large diversity of opinions and backgrounds. We are the type of people who many think wouldn’t be friends, but thanks to the unique open culture of the desk, we have been able to form a truly united community. This year, the members of the desk crafted a reflection to share what, in such divisive times, we’ve gained working through our differences.

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Jayla Hodge, Editor

Writing for — and now having the pleasure to lead — the opinion desk has taught me above all else to be brave. Brave enough to publicly use my voice in a world that can relentlessly bash thoughts different than our own. Brave enough to critically think, listen and consider ideas that are different than mine.

The desk has taught me to hold grace, knowledge and compassion as ways to connect to even people I have very little in common with; these are the foundations to which a community is built.

There is nothing more expensive than a closed mind. Being apart of the desk helped me connect to all the various Rams that have called it home. From our passionate debates around identity and politics, to our memes and roast sessions, I’ve learned regardless of the opinions we hold, we are far more alike than we are unalike. This is a lesson that will carry us each far beyond our years at Colorado State University.

Leta McWilliams:

Before I started writing for the opinion desk, I believed my thoughts, feelings and quite frankly opinions were all inherently unique. Ignorant as I was, that’s why I started writing for this desk in the first place. Now, after three years writing on this desk, I’ve learned that I’m not alone in my way of thinking, and neither is anyone else. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, what radical or neutral opinions you hold—someone will always agree with you.

This desk is a platform for students to share how they feel about what’s happening in the world around them. It’s easy to focus on the negative comments and backlash you receive when publishing on this desk, but behind those trolls are people who are happy you spoke up, people who feel like their voice is being heard because of something you wrote, people who stand by you when the negative comments start. You are never alone in your way of thinking.

Abby Vander Graff:

If the forceful personalities of The Collegian’s opinion columnists are noticeable through our writing, the emotion and volume multiplies when we are all together. From every direction fly discussions of “Game of Thrones” and astrology, but also of race relations, how disability should be portrayed in the media and whether or not the Pillsbury Doughboy is anti-semitic.

To an outsider it may seem inappropriate to shift between the serious and the lighthearted so casually, but opinion has taught me that both are equally necessary conditions of life. As I sheepishly eavesdropped on conversations, and then gradually joined the ruckus that is the opinion desk, I realized that its fiercely passionate members care so much about the large and the small because together they make up one thing: community.

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Falling into the demographic majority for most of my life, the sense of belonging that makes a community valuable and enriching is something I took for granted. CSU has not always been for everyone, but through our advocacy to change that we have created something useful — a platform. Opinion taught me how we make room for one another, and I’ve yet to hear a better definition of community than that.

Renee Ziel:

Before joining the opinion desk, I thought less critically about the organizations I was a part of. The thought that I should hold my peers accountable crossed my mind significantly less. Joining The Collegian and taking on other responsibilities across campus has encouraged me to stay true to only the truth and to analyze whether people are staying true to the values they and their organizations hold dear. Since becoming more involved, I opened up to the different ways people think, work and live.

This is great on its own since I’m gaining new perspectives, but a journalist, for example, not holding to journalistic values is not so great. I feel it is my responsibility as a fellow student to hold such a person accountable and to make this campus better even in the little ways, and to not think critically about my peers is counterintuitive to this.

Katrina Leibee:

I once wrote a column discussing how coming to CSU has helped me consider other political ideologies, but really it was the opinion desk. Before writing for this desk, I thought that I was solid in my beliefs, but after getting to discuss them with a group of smart and open-minded individuals, I was able to understand that it is okay for them to change.

As someone who changes my mind a million times a day, this desk has been the place for me to propose my opinions, but also the place I go when that opinion transforms entirely a few days later or even halfway through writing a column. My opinions have changed on columns I wrote just a few months ago.

This desk is my favorite group of people, not only for their loud opinions on the most important and most minuscule topics, but also for their quiet attentiveness when it is my turn to voice my opinion, no matter what it is or how often I change it. I am grateful everyday that I have a place where I know my voice is truly always welcome.

Rory Plunkett:

Before I wrote for The Collegian, I was certain that I had no voice at Colorado State University. I never felt as though what I thought about the community even mattered. Then I got a job at the opinion desk and I wasn’t sure that people would even care about what I wrote.

Being a white man in America, I am very conscious of how my identity can contribute to the homophily in America. I never wanted to contribute to an echo chamber where only one demographic is heard. However, when I started to write for the opinion desk, I realized I had an opportunity to put other people’s voices into the media. Just because I was the one writing the articles didn’t mean I could be the only one speaking.

My favorite part about the experience is finding my beat, which is to raise awareness about the lack of resources for people with disabilities in Larimer County and America. I found it difficult to tell other people’s stories through my articles, but once my stories were published, people in the community commended me for writing about such necessary yet overlooked topics. I had to take risks that might have been scary, but after seeing the results, I couldn’t be happier for taking those risks.

Ethan Vassar:

Prior to joining the magnificent opinion desk currently keeping the entirety of this publication afloat, I was oblivious to the concerns and struggles that minorities on this campus face. Joining the desk as a naïve freshman, I quickly became aware of the lack of diversity on this campus that is now blatantly apparent to me. I was so unobservant that I did not know places like El Centro, the Black/African American Cultural Center, Asian/Pacific American Cultural Center and the Native American Cultural Center existed.

As a straight white dude, I see plenty of myself represented on campus and feel accommodated, and it sadly took me joining The Collegian opinion desk to realize this. I would probably have stayed unaware if not for the opinion desk and the variety of individuals I have the pleasure of calling my colleagues.

Joining the desk has given me a better appreciation and understanding of what life is like for minority groups and how to better carry out meaningful conversations with people who identify with a different group than myself.

Shay Rego:

Before I came to write for the opinion desk, I thought I would make a unique addition. Boy was I wrong. I sat at a small desk with a group of equally verbally opinionated folks. I learned how to construct an opinion column argument and the importance of backing up my argument, but at the time, sadly, I didn’t belong.

My freshman year, the editor at the time gave me the wrong impressions of what it really meant to write for opinion. She made me feel like my opinion wasn’t good enough. It lead to me having to leave the desk. 

I came back Fall 2018 and was welcomed with open arms. The love I feel from the desk and the community of The Collegian has given me something to belong to, something to be proud of. I felt welcomed here. 

Now, I see the opinion desk as a well oiled machine where everyone needs to work together to come out on top. You might see a bunch of writers, but I see a gang of friends. We have fun, argue with each other, tease each other, but at the end of the day, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Now I feel like I was always supposed to be here.

Kenia Ortiz:

In college it is already hard enough trying to find out who you are meant to be while also learning how to use your voice. Being a part of the opinion desk has helped me learn to listen to and accept the opinions of others. There are varying truths on the desk, and I have learned to listen and validate each of them — even if I don’t agree.

As a woman of color, I have been given the privilege and opportunity to share my truths and learn about other truths along the way. Coming from a community with problematic, deep-rooted beliefs made it hard for me to be confident in who I was becoming and what I supported because there was no understanding back home. I am thankful for the desk for giving me an outlet to write and connect with people who were on the same journey as me.

Growth can only happen when facing a challenge. I have been challenged to share my views with the world knowing many disagree, but I have decided that the discomfort is worth it, because I could be writing for the unheard voices in my community.

Marshall Dunham:

I’ve learned a lot while writing for the opinion desk at The Collegian. My favorite thing I’ve learned by far is that it is possible to start important conversations and draw attention to relevant public issues through massive amounts of humor and satire.

In the past, I always viewed humor as something that was just fun. It wasn’t until I started at The Collegian that I learned just how useful words of sarcasm and satire can really be. Whether its poking a little fun at a political figure, or sarcastically joking about some CSU budget decision, I’ve really fallen in love with how easy and fun it is to bring about change and start public conversations through humor.

The Collegian opinion desk can be reached a letters@collegian.com or online @CSUCollegian