I’m not an alumnus, and I won’t be for two years. I would like to offer some advice from down here as an undergraduate at Georgetown directed at all of us future alums as well as those who currently enjoy the distinction.

About three weeks ago, someone called my cell phone and called me a moron. He is an alumnus who wanted to tell me how stupid I am for doing so and so or such and such with the College Republicans. I listened carefully to his verbose tirade, nodding along and almost agreeing with some of his gentler points questioning the College Republicans’ stance on the USA Patriot Act. I do not take issue with the call itself, as my cell phone number is posted on our Web site. I do, however, take issue with the manner in which he presented his educational credential: graduate of Georgetown University. My mind conjured up an image of a frightened child presented with a scary police badge. Congratulations, you graduated from Georgetown. I have intense and proud respect for all members of our university community, but using one’s status as alumnus in an attempt to scare us lowly undergraduates is pernicious to the very notion of a university community.

My eyes rolled back quickly as I scanned across the e-mail. Another alumnus decided to respond to the College Republicans’ point-counterpoint [“Democrats vs. Republicans: Patriot Act,” The Hoya, Nov. 21, 2003, p.3] with a lengthy e-mail questioning the jurisprudential understanding of a first semester freshman. No, the individual who wrote the article doesn’t have an LLD, or even a JD, or actually even a college diploma. He’s a high school graduate with a moderately researched opinion. I like to claim the same status from time to time. Yes, the statement “you don’t even have a law degree,” is appropriate when one stands in a courtroom making opening arguments wearing a Georgetown sweatshirt and flip-flops. But when a freshman pens an opinion in a campus paper, it’s less than productive to point out that his name ends in COL ’07 and not Esq.

Some lovely feedback e-mails warrant mention. Once a week, someone e-mails me with a complaint. Sometimes it’s a well-thought-out, polite and constructive statement about the goals and orientation of the College Republicans. More often, these electronic parcels come in the form of awkwardly phrased hate mail ending with that juicy and cliche flourish involving a large piece of lambskin covered with Latin writing. They have a diploma and I don’t. Mention of a Georgetown Diploma commands respect. The mention of a diploma at the close of a whining hate letter, tacked on for fear factor flourish, however, makes me sad.

The most interesting calls and e-mails involve “contacts.” You attended Georgetown, and amassed a large network of “contacts” that will punish me for my misdeeds, namely disagreeing with you, Mr. or Ms. Class of yesteryear. I can’t help but smile when the contacts appear in the discourse. I have a few contacts here as well, only I call them peers and do not conjure their names to intimidate or reiterate. I’m still waiting to walk back to my dorm one night and suffer an accosting from a roving band of robed “contacts.”

We’re all intelligent. We all have opinions. Some of us are attorneys; some of us are lowly undergraduates. We can all criticize each other. However, we can also engage in constructive and respectful criticism without smashing others with our status: that $160,000 parchment representing membership in an ever-growing community of scholars, friends and citizens of the world. Our diplomas are membership cards, not weapons.

David Benjamin is a junior in the College.

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