At the Crossroads, Encountering Illusion

Georgetown was my dream school. I first stepped onto this campus six years and one week ago, amid a sudden thunderstorm. Our group of Los Angeles high school newspaper nerds, in town for a conference, immediately surrendered to the dictates of the downpour, and fled to the Leavey Center. There, I held The Hoya in my hands for the first time, and after a cursory glance and appreciative nod for its Helvetica Neue captions, cast it aside, underwhelmed.

Fast-forward the better part of a decade, and The Hoya has overwhelmed seemingly every aspect of my life. Georgetown accepted me the first time around; The Hoya rejected me the first time around; perhaps stemming from some motivation to prove myself, my life has revolved around this paper for the past three years. And in that time, I have grappled with disillusionment — with the university, with The Hoya and with myself.

Every facet of Georgetown is imbued with eminence — the possibility of a veneer or blemishes never registered to me, as a starry-eyed incoming student. Over three years of reporting and editing, it becomes hard to picture Georgetown as anything but a collection of crumbling, scaffolded edifices; there are many cracks in the facade.

The nature of hard news is that much of the content is inspired by, quite simply, bad things. Op-eds (like this one) and editorials are perceived as stronger and more worthwhile if they discuss the bad. As evidenced by everything from off-the-record conversations to screaming A1 headlines to brave viewpoints that ignite firestorms, Georgetown has problems.

The Hoya, then, is here to cover them in a responsible, ethical fashion. As students who take ourselves quite seriously, this leads to a severe imbalance between academic and professional priorities. And, as students who take ourselves quite seriously, we are often met with derision or disregard by members of the community, sometimes merited in the face of unfortunate typos or thoughtless headlines. We purport to serve the community by delving into news, events and policy and providing a platform for voices, among other goals. If it seems like our audience does not take us seriously, it is time to question from where we derive our purpose.

And there’s me. I read the farewell viewpoints of the last few editors-in-chief — a popular thematic element revolved around the paper’s future and the role of journalism in a larger sphere. By contrast, this viewpoint has employed far too many uses of first-person by this point already. I came to Georgetown intent on joining the Foreign Service and retiring a well-respected, gracefully aged policymaker. Instead, I’m retiring from this job (term limits) having focused all my creative energy on The Hoya, commanding an uncertain amount of respect and featuring a permanent, ever-deepening frown line etched upon my forehead. A couple weeks ago, amid a weeks-long bout of utter sleeplessness, I could not answer if I would do it all again.

Then, it bears considering for what Georgetown stands. The instruction and encouragement to reflect permeates all activities at this school, but it has been something I have always been reluctant to face.

We each stand at our own crossroads.

Georgetown is 226 years old, and has taken impressive strides to address innovation; antiquated practices and labyrinthine policies and bureaucracy still stand, but no administrator is evil. Sometimes, I have really hated this place, but Georgetown is impressive, Georgetown cares, Georgetown is home.

The Hoya is 95 years old, and who knows what the world of campus media will look like by the time it hits its centennial. As frustrating as production nights and disparate respect may be, we can effect change, and we have; it does not matter if we are slagged off for perceived liberal biases or for self-importance if we are doing our very best to practice good journalism and shed light on important stories.

I am 21 years old, and someone has told me that this is the best job I will ever have — and it is coming to a close, rapidly. I am terrified of the future. But inspired by the little perspective I have been able to eke out in the process of writing this, I would like to thank Georgetown and The Hoya; I do not even know if I know for what, exactly, but the best gifts are intangible.


Mallika Sen is a senior in the School of Foreign Service and the 141st editor-in-chief of The Hoya. Her term ends Saturday.

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  1. Lynn Amarante MD says:

    The paper is disgustingly liberal. Don’t fool yourself. You have not done a good job.

  2. I am so impressed by how well-written this is. Good job, Mallika. You have cultured a university publication that allows students to be aware of important issues through a compassionate lens.

  3. Social Justice Warrior says:

    “it does not matter if we are slagged off for perceived liberal biases or for self-importance if we are doing our very best to practice good journalism and shed light on important stories.”

    Well as long as you “tried”, that’s all the counts. I’m so glad The Hoya has “tried” to come off as unbiased and lacking self-importance even if it utterly fails to do so time and time again.

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