I wish I could say that 53 were some significant number in my life — my home address, my lucky number, something like that — because that would be one hell of a lede. But sadly, the number 53 holds no special significance for me, except that this column will be the 53rd installment of “Talking Backward/Fair Enough” — and also the last.
At the end of December, I’ll be graduating from Penn, and also changing roles within the DP after two years of being a weekly columnist. I have decided unilaterally that that’s a significant enough event to warrant some retrospection.
The DP’s analytics people tell me that there are a fair number of people (enough, at least, that they can’t all be my relatives) who for some unfathomable reason read this column nearly every week it comes out. I find that hard to believe, but also tremendously humbling. The prospect of such people’s existence also provides me with a brilliant defense to the charge of pure self-indulgence which would otherwise arise fairly from my decision to write a self-reflection column in my final week: The computers told me somebody else might care.
So, having offered that apologia, a few parting thoughts and recollections.
First and foremost, I’ve really enjoyed writing this column, no matter how you slice it. I’ll try to avoid some of the usual “farewell” tropes by saying that it’s been a really excellent experience, and I’ll leave it at that.
I’ve had some fantastic exchanges with readers over email, both pleasingly laudatory and strikingly hostile, which is all well and good. A student who I’d never seen before once spat at me while walking on campus, which I regard as something of a badge of honor. To paraphrase Charlie Young from “The West Wing,” if they’re spitting at you, you know you’re doing something right.
One time, my column got me interviewed on NPR, which I’m pretty sure is a qualification for membership in the highest rank of coastal-metropolitan liberal media elites — though I’m still waiting for my invitation to join the Pizzagate conspiracy. I’ve also developed a bizarre paranoia which causes me to suspect that I’ve just been recognized unfavorably any time someone on campus looks twice at my face.
To my enduring surprise, despite frequent forays into hot-button campus controversies, I’ve still never written anything as unpopular as the column in which I suggested that the Fling concert should be defunded. I think that says more about Penn than anything I’ve ever managed to put on paper.
I don’t want to overstate my own extremely limited impact on any issue of consequence, but if you’ve cared at all about any of the things I’ve written about consistently — the sorry state of campus political engagement, disturbing trends and behaviors in higher-ed administration, viewpoint diversity in academia, and so on — please keep your eyes open. I’m calling it quits, but none of these problems are, and the hypocrites will win by default if they’re allowed to go unchallenged. They always seem to anyway, but stay mad nevertheless. There are, in my opinion, very few windmills out there that don’t deserve a good tilting.
And finally, the inevitable thank-yous. Thanks to you, dear reader, for elevating this endeavor to some degree beyond pure self-indulgence. Thanks to the DP staff, Shawn and Isabel in particular. Thanks also to Alan, Bruce and Clara. It’s been fun.
And that’s all he wrote.
ALEC WARD is a College senior from Washington, D.C., studying history. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TalkBackWard. “Fair Enough” appeared every Wednesday.