I’m the girl who wrote the sorority article. For better or worse, that’s the piece of my writing that most people on Penn’s campus have read. I publicized upsetting details about rush that the Panhellenic officials probably won’t tell you: getting cut, the exclusionary nature of Greek organizations, and some of my troubling encounters along the way. But I also shared many of my own flaws.
Many people are sick of hearing about the piece. I am tired of talking about it myself. But I’m not bringing it up to rehash old debates or get the last word. Instead, I’m writing about it to show my readers one of the most challenging parts of my life at Penn.
Following the publication of the article, I received a lot of cutting comments and nasty remarks. My Facebook feed and inbox were littered with a mix of responses. I was called a “terrible writer” and “pretentious.” I was told that I “attacked” affiliated women. What’s more, my definitions of feminism and female empowerment were called into question.
You get the point; a lot of people at Penn don’t like me. That’s the nature of the work I do here. But the gift that is being a student-journalist is 100 percent worth it.
I want to tell the people who left me these comments to think critically, and remember that there’s a person behind the articles. We’re all entitled to our opinions, but not to go after one another in such an aggressive manner. But the reality of being a journalist is that I have to take criticism in stride, because it’s something I’m going to experience on a daily basis in my career.
Last semester, I attended The Daily Pennsylvanian’s Marquez Journalism Conference, and had the chance to hear from alumni about their experiences pursuing careers in the newspaper and magazine industries. All of the journalists who spoke described just how dangerous their jobs are. Many of them receive death threats on a daily basis. Some compromise their lives to tell stories.
I don’t experience hatred to that extreme, and I probably never will in my time as a writer for on-campus publications. But one day, I might, which is why I have to remind myself why I’m doing this.
While being disliked by so many members of the Penn community has, at times, hurt my mental health, I’ve gotten the chance to stimulate an engaging dialogue on campus about pertinent issues. After the sorority feature I wrote, the Penn Association for Gender Equity hosted a discussion about Greek life. That truly reminded me of the value of my work.
Beyond just one article, my writing has given me the chance to meet so many people in different corners of the this school that I otherwise wouldn’t know. I revel in the moments when people stop me on Locust to talk about one of my columns. Even just seeing students reading the DP makes me inexplicably happy. And I especially enjoy cultivating connections with the people I interview. Just a few weeks ago, I got to write a piece about a Penn student who competed on "Jeopardy!"
I’m not writing this for the internet trolls, or disgruntled students who have read my pieces. This is for other student-journalists who spend hours line-editing pieces so that the Penn community has access to stories that matter. Because this job, however rewarding, comes with a lot of scrutiny that can leave us questioning if we’re doing the right thing.
Regardless, I can’t stress enough how special it feels to deliver stories to Penn students and faculty every day. Maybe it’s not something you can understand until you’ve done it. My friends from high school love to tease me about how my Facebook has evolved into a platform for newspaper-related promotional content. What can I say, haters gonna hate.
Jokes aside, I had a very difficult transition to Penn, filled with anxiety and insecurity and self-doubt. But there is no better reward than being a part of an organization that gives students a voice in a place that often makes us feel like we don’t have one.
ISABELLA SIMONETTI is a College freshman from New York studying English. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.