Dancing up a storm with friends

As The Hatchet’s managing editor, my biggest job is reading all stories we print. I muse over verb choice and make sure we don’t get sued. I have a favorite punctuation mark – the long dash. I chisel away excess words and am agitated by misused prepositions. I occasionally rework leads, or return stories to section editors for overhauling.

I see GW through The Hatchet’s text stream, know its administrators by how long they wait to respond to reporters’ calls, remember tuition hikes and campus controversies by the shade of spot color we used in particular editions.

After a year in this job, stacked on three others writing and editing news, I am confident. At last, style rules are written in the motion memory of my typing fingers. At last, the guys across the street at GW Deli keep my favorite tea in stock. How sad to leave just when I’m quick and caffeinated enough to do The Hatchet justice. How sad to leave just when the team of editors Tyson and I hired have grown so strong I’m wowed every time I enter the newsroom.

Student journalism can be a thankless undertaking. The hours are horrendous, the pay low, the critics many. We shoot for professionalism, still welcoming the most inexperienced of writers. We view our work as community serving, community spirited – though that same community often is postured to skewer us.

Still the paper comes out twice each week, each edition willed into existence by the love and talent of a very few. Editors, though laurels from the outside can be few, I know how hard you work and am so proud of you. If Ty and I did one thing right this year, it was picking the people to surround us.

To our many-textured GW community, thanks for being the stuff of some great stories. You entrust us with your words, with the passion behind your activism, your plans as campus leaders, your experiences as students. I hope when you find yourselves sources in Hatchet articles, we capture you fairly. Continue to read us, call us on mistakes, call on us when you have stories to tell.

To those who criticize to criticize, ignoring people like you is among practical skills The Hatchet teaches.

I will remember – and admire – this University for its dynamism. It’s not too dusty, too staid to innovate with its academic programs.

GW’s English department redirected my course from what I imagined would be a future in journalism, to pursuing graduate studies in literature. Your professors hooked me, tugged at my imagination, at my conscious.

I regret times I was too shy to visit your office hours, to tell you why I thought your lecture was fabulous or disconcerting – and times I was so overdrawn from juggling studies, Hatchet and internships that even my writing was sleepy.

I hope the University recognizes what a truly exceptional group of scholars, of people, comprise its Department of English.

Tara Wallace – You take on everything and somehow do it all with such style. I’ll never forget your Christmas-time revision session to help me with my grad applications. You brought me to the English Honors Program, and have guided my course since.

Margaret Soltan – Listening to you teach modernism, so sharp, smart, gracefully quick, sold me on the field, pushed me to engage.

Jeffrey Cohen – I thought taking two of your courses and having you direct my thesis this semester would make up for not meeting you until my senior year. But even now I fall short. I love your teaching, your thinking – with your direction, I imagine the Human Sciences program will continue to grow as one of the most exciting things GW has going for it.

Truly, much exists to praise at GW – but bear with me for an interlude of concern. I worry that lurking large and lazy on this campus-stepping-into-its-identity is a culture of consumerism. Unfortunately, “I pay $28,000 a year to come here” is a student battle cry increasingly invoked for the fluffiest of causes.

Four years at GW is a mega-investment, and what do we demand for our dollars? Cable in the residence halls. More enticing cuisine at J Street. Off-campus partners for our GWorld cards. Another row of stairmasters.

Even more unsettling, we expect high grades and entertainment value from our professors. After all, we’re paying enough.

We don’t want to be shaken – the years until we’re mailed a diploma should be soft and sweet to swallow. We plan our class schedules accordingly.

Certainly I don’t want to be unfair to a community that defies pigeon-holing. GW’s dynamism is mirrored in its students, many of whom demand excellence from themselves again and again.

But we should ensure our education doesn’t lose its edge. I’d hate to be taught by phalanx of politically correct professors. Nodding glassy-eyed at our classmates’ comments – snoozing in tune-out tolerance – is the real waste of our investment.

Now to friends and Hatcheteers.

Tyson – Editing skills can be picked up over time, collected like stamps or rocks hanging heavy in children’s pockets. But leading this paper requires something far beyond easy acquisition. You are our chief because first you gained our friendship, and with it grew our fierce respect. Your sincerity kept me at The Hatchet for a final year – and I’m so grateful to you for that.

Your impact at the helm has changed this paper in ways that will long survive your year as its leader. The Hatchet visually has never been better. The Web site was your brain child. It would not exist without your extra hours and creativity. And you understand all our quirks, almost never get mad at us, and have this fabulous capacity to keep The Hatchet fun – an enterprise undertaken by friends.

We’ve stayed up way too late way too many night in a row together, gritted our teeth over the right thing to do, built a staff, a paper, a friendship. I’m not looking forward to being in separate cities. Who will I toss exasperated looks? Who will be my partner in problem solving? So this is what happens when you start letting non-journalism students run a newspaper.

Megan – You taught me to make sangria and understand the layers of a great story. You are committed to pushing limits with your writing, and have brought with you some of the best work The Hatchet ever has printed. You move and speak with poetry. We should have gone to Greece, been debutantes, eaten tapas. I’ll so miss our Wednesday-night “what-to-do?” sessions – though I hope we’ll carry on long-distance. Won’t we need re-invention a few more times? Neruda out of context: “From the air to the air, like an empty nest/I went among the streets and the atmosphere, arriving and saying good-bye.” Too soon to say goodbye to you Megan.

Claire – Shooting flames of bravado and self-assurance, you get us in line and let us have it when we’re wrong. I so admire the force of your will, the generosity of your heart and the sharp teeth of your loyalty. You’re outrageous and smart. The Hatchet will be sadly quiet without you thundering through it. Will we ever go dancing?

Heather – You defy the beauty’s-only-skin-deep clich?, as yours extends from kindness and firm championing of the weak. You draw people toward the shade of your compassion and warmth of your friendship.

Monique – Quietly you’ve worked for four years, mothering us, turning out the news, ensuring we don’t take race matters for granted. Thank you.

Returning editors, I can’t wait to see what you come up with next. Ali’s energy, Margaret’s style, Matt’s news-hounding, Shruti’s careful detail. Jay, you manage to bring artistry into even into the most space-constricted photo. Stacey, it’s such a comfort to know you’ll catch my slip-ups. Dustin, you impress again and again. Helder, my drinking chum (hope we’re never questioned on the mother/son thing) and walking history source, I’ll miss you. Want to play that pushing game?

Dave – I am endlessly confident in you. The Hatchet will benefit from your editing and your judgment, so be bold. Verbs = friends. Never “there are” or “this is.” Other tips and back-patting forthcoming during our night at Moby Dick’s and Chief Ike’s. I’m proud of you already.

Becky – The day you st
arted working here was the day I started to truly love The Hatchet. We munched carrots, taste-tested teas, won gold medals in the AP style olympics, said “lovely” and gesticulated wildly. How quickly you surpassed anything I could teach you. Somehow the most complicated stories enter you, flow through to your fingers in graceful lines, with humanity, with clarity. The idea of rooming with you, chatting about all things not-Hatchet (maybe a bit of Hatchet) while we sipped soup and ate cookies, softened grad school rejections. Now that I’m going, losing another year with you tints excitement with sadness. I’ll be reading The Hatchet to yell (hypocritically) at you if you stop writing – and to see the new shoots of your leadership. I will insist that you visit me, call you at random times, travel to D.C. and pull you into dance clubs. Maybe all this will ward off missing you so much.

And to my best friends, Reena, An, Nikki, Ed, Sejal, Waldman – you’re the most special part of my GW years. I know the upcoming weeks will be filled with attempts to pack in time together, and impossible goodbyes. But I can’t finish this piece without telling you how much I love you. Before coming to college, I was sleepless worrying I wouldn’t make friends, that I wouldn’t find people to challenge me, spill my heart to, debate. You are all that.

Nikki, my twin, can you believe we drove to Tuscaloosa? I’ll always be your number one fan. Ed, all roads lead to the Pentagon. We have occasional tiffs, but I sure do hate it when you’re not around. I love your jokes and talking news with you. Sejal, I know part of you dreads remaining in D.C. after this Commencement and round of friend departures. But you should be confident, you’ve stepped into your own here. Med school may keep you in town for a few years, but these will be years of success, new friends and mobility. Reena, everything about you sparkles, defies limits. Four years living with you have exploded my horizons. Though your Peace Corps years will give me fits of worry, I so admire the passion that drives you.

Waldman, our lives have so mingled we’ll never be able to divvy up yours and mine for a clean break. What a strange conglomeration of puma parts and bunny ears. I love you.

Mom, Dad and Catherine, It’s been difficult being so far from you. Thank you for making it possible for me to spend these years at GW. I can hardly wait to be only an afternoon’s drive away. -30–Lee Rumbarger will be going to UT-Austin to get an English Ph.D. During her stay at UT, she also will become a domineering and ruthless teaching assistant. Afterward, she will become a professor at the Martha’s Vineyard GW campus to hang out with Tyson Trish.

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