I’ve had better days than Sept. 26.

Before I went to bed early in the morning, I learned that some students had written in Red Square that THE HOYA is racist. Later in the morning I received a phone call from a university administrator asking my permission to toss out dozens of copies of the newspaper from the previous day whose masthead had been defaced by those infamous six letters – some in red, others in green.

And as I headed to my first class, I got a call from my roommate that a rock had just shattered our window.

After the dust settled, one thing became incredibly clear – if we live on a campus where racial tensions can flare up so easily, we have ourselves quite a problem.

Asked recently by a local reporter how I responded to the wave of criticism that this newspaper received from those who felt that our coverage of the on-campus Jena Six rally was insufficient, my answer was a rather simple one: I listened.

I listened when Center for Multicultural Equity and Access Director Dennis Williams said that it’s our responsibility to seek out a more representative staff. I listened when Georgetown’s NAACP Chapter President Ellie Gunderson (COL ’10) said that a number of minority communities feel that the most prominent student organizations do not adequately represent them. And I listened when Director of Student Programs Erika Cohen-Derr said that it can be intimidating for students to join an organization when they don’t see many similar faces at group meetings.

I think that we can get to the root of these problems once we begin to listen to each other. Listening involves talking. Both had been largely absent in my over two years on the Hilltop.

On Oct. 23 – just a month after the Jena Six rally and its aftermath – over 100 students gathered in McShain Lounge to begin this necessary dialogue. The forum was encouraging because it got people who had previously run in entirely separate social circles to talk to and listen to one another.

But a fruitful dialogue will have to move past introductions, and we’ll have to reach the level where we feel comfortable criticizing one another – without labeling others by hurtful names – and reforming ourselves.

So here goes.

To Pierce Nixon: I applaud you for expressing your honest views on our pages, but nobody will be better off if you continue to do so in the flippant manner with which you did.

To The People Who Publicly Called THE HOYA “Racist”: I will always support your right to write or say whatever you please, but there are more constructive ways to solve problems than by hurtfully labeling others. I wish you had felt more comfortable reaching out and talking to me, as so many others did.

To The Person(s) Who Threw a Rock Through My Window: Grow up. You too can benefit from talking to and listening to others. I hope that you’ve begun to do so.

As far as THE HOYA is concerned, there are a lot of hard questions that we’ve been asking ourselves, though I’m sorry that it took such drastic action for us to do so.

The first one that ran through the minds of many on staff was: Could THE HOYA really be a racist organization, as the chalk in Red Square would suggest?

But I can confidently assert from my experience that THE HOYA is not racist – and that applies to our coverage, our recruitment and training practices and the personal views of those on staff.

So then the question became, if we’re not actively favoring certain groups over others, then why have so many accused us of discrimination?

The fact is, THE HOYA is an unfortunate reflection of the divides that pervade this campus. If you were to put every member of our staff and each of their closest friends in a large room, some minority groups wouldn’t be represented too well.

And for an under-resourced student newspaper where social connections play a large part in determining both our recruitment and our coverage, it’s a problem. Especially since we’re the organization with the best opportunity to promote racial dialogue on campus.

This problem is a direct reflection of the fact that it’s often difficult to find a lot of meaningful interaction between those of different ethnic and social groups on campus.

But it shouldn’t be an excuse.

THE HOYA – as well as other organizations whose mission is to represent the entire university community, such as New Student Orientation and GUSA – fails the community every day it does not actively seek to best represent the entire campus.

And it’s time that we shape up.

Beginning with our training-intensive period at the beginning of next semester, we will be reaching out to many different student organizations, because truth be told, we want our staff to represent the Georgetown student community as well as possible. This will be one of my top priorities over the next five months.

And we should make a more conscious effort to keep our reporters in communication with those social groups that would feel most uncomfortable in the room with the staff of THE HOYA and all of their friends. That shouldn’t just stop with certain minority communities – there are so many groups on campus that we can cover more comprehensively, be it administrators in the Office of Investment, employees in O’Donovan Hall or students in the business school.

Of course, these are only a few immediate steps that we can pursue, and there are things down the road that would put us in better position to represent the whole community.

If we were a non-profit corporation independent from Georgetown University, we would eventually be in a better position to attract a more representative staff, since our current relationship with the university does not permit us to adequately compensate staff members.

And if the dialogues that have begun continue and eventually break down the divides on this campus, then such a conscious effort to promote diversity at THE HOYA would hardly be so necessary.

So that leads me to my final suggestion, which applies to everyone on campus: Reach out to one another. Interact with the kind of people you may have given funny looks in high school. Stop self-segregating from the day you step foot on campus. And be critical of yourself and think of ways that you can be part of the solution.

Even after chalk has faded and broken windows have been replaced, there is still a lot that needs to be done before this problem goes away. So let’s all think long and hard about ourselves and this community, and let’s use our knowledge of the two to encourage positive changes for both.

If I’ve learned one thing from my five semesters on staff at THE HOYA, it’s that this staff will be up to the challenge.

And if I know anything about this community, then we’ll all be.

Max Sarinsky is a junior in the College and the outgoing editor in chief of THE HOYA.

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