The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890

The Last Bastion

IT TAKES a special kind of place to drive me as crazy as the University has. The same goes for The Cavalier Daily.

For the last few years, it's been part of my job to hunt down the worst aspects of the University. Sometimes it wasn't too hard. I mean there were days when I was just surrounded by inefficiencies, idiocies and injustices that seemed so easy to fix if somebody - anybody! - would just open their eyes or get off their rear and do it.

And guess what? There were days when I just hated The Cavalier Daily, too. As hard as it is to believe, that infallible, well-oiled, truth-seeking machine sometimes inspired a redness of face that out shined my own violently red hair.

Yet it's precisely the two institutions' ability to infuriate that makes them so special. They suck you in, give you a say, and make you feel part of a team that's going places. They enlist you into traditions that are so unique and beautiful that you can't help but put up a fight when you see threats to them. So, say, when the governor froze University building projects or, worse, when the man started cracking down on Foxfields, darnit, you bet I had words to share.

"Student Self-Governance"

Yes, there's that phrase again. The hackneyed, ambiguous expression gets tossed around Grounds so much it's the conclusion to more jokes than motivational speeches. Believe it or not, the University has actually devoted top administrators to figuring out what the heck it is, and after that, how to revitalize it.

Well, this cynic actually bought into the idea a long time ago. Here's my take on it: Student self-governance is the healthy outgrowth of Jefferson's educational ideals, a peer-based honor system, and a you-can-go-to-hell Southern, aristocratic pride. It is the day-to-day compromise between administrators who think they know what's best in the long run and students who hate changing anything if they didn't have say in the matter. Most importantly, it is the irreplaceable way of teaching 20-year olds to think beyond themselves, fight the good fight, and deal with the risks and stings of leadership.

What it is not is the process of having your hands held, being spoon-fed ideas, or kowtowing to official plans. There is no educational value in this Kindergarten variety of student management.

That said, I'm immensely proud to have fought in the trenches of what I consider the last bastion of student self-governance. I'm proud to have worked for a publication that exposed an attack on Grounds and the following bungled Judiciary proceedings, that examined admissions policies and their tracking lists, that detailed a University study on the Honor System and the referenda that could have changed it all, and that offered reasoned dialogue and sensitivity in a time of national panic. I'm proud to have done it without advisers or University assistance. I'm proud too to have worked with one of the best collegiate staffs in the country.

Thanks and thanks again

I freely admit to thinking pretty highly of myself, but I think even higher of my friends. Most of them are friendlier and more well-rounded. All of them are stand-up characters.

Special thanks go to my predecessors, Mike Greenwald and Tom Bednar. Aside from being very good editors, both are wise, supportive and hilarious friends. Supposedly it's rare for a string of big-headed EICs to get along. Perhaps we do because they knew that the last important job of a leader is to find and train a strong successor. Either that or it's our common fondness for bathroom humor. G., I especially appreciate your poignant (and unprintable) motivational expressions.

The paper's successes this year - especially "going digital" - were built on the hard work of last year's 111th Managing Board. Tom, Lindsay, Brian, and Michael, I appreciate being around for the closing act of some of the CD's finest. Lindsay, your commitment to the profession is compelling.

I wish the best for the new 113th Managing Board and staff as well. You're going to bring ideas and ways of doing things that the paper has never seen. Brandon Almond, my successor and friend, your honest, kind, and outgoing personality are going to be very good for The Cavalier Daily and the University alike. Don't forget to shake things up while you're around.

Margaret Chipowsky hardly needs a thank you or a description. She knows how fondly I regard her. I think most readers already know her too. For the record: Chipper is one of the most caring, outgoing, expressive and intelligent people I know.

Like a well mixed drink, Ed Hock balances tradition with open-mindedness, intellect with humility, and good fun with good sense. Ample generosity and a dog named Bob add some down-home kick.

Rakesh Gopalan and Katie Dalton: Thanks for rounding out the "Core Four" and making that first year as associates an awfully fun time. Thanks for making sure I wasn't working all of the time since.

There's nothing worse than mediocre ambition except maybe a bland personality. Erin Perucci and Christa Dierkshiede have neither of these. Fun loving, outgoing and full of passion for the newspaper and their careers, I was so glad they were located near my desk at the office.

Portman Wills really has no time or reason to be a constant friend to the editor. Yet for three years and three EICs, that's exactly what he's been. Thanks for the meals, tips, and the silly politicking.

Prof. Larry J. Sabato has appeared in these "Parting Shots" since his undergrad days when he single-handedly built Clemons Library. A man of unending patience, advice and encouragement for our staff, he deserves a small monument in our basement office. Plus, I always appreciate someone who can rile me up about this great injustice or that.

There's a St. Anthony's Hall and St. Elmo's Hall. I hereby propose a St. Francis equivalent. Really, the fraternity system has no truer friend than Dean F. Aaron Laushway. As a proponent of old school student self-governance, I do fear he dwells in a lion's den of growing rules, regulations and bureaucracy. The man deserves to be canonized.

Mr. Ben Warthen, one of the University's Board of Visitors members, also deserves thanks. For years Mr. Warthen has served as a friendly and unassuming liaison to the CD. I've enjoyed chatting with him regarding everything from race relations to media practices to certain over-ambitious politicos.

A nod goes to David Horowitz for his inflammatory ad criticizing reparations for slavery. After we didn't run it, he called me a 'communist censor' in the national media. I still like the guy for giving me one of those fun challenges that no editor could ever foresee. The publicity was fun too - after all he's the one that got me on Fox News, ABC radio and kept associating the CD with those at Harvard and Columbia.

Abby Fifer, Thomas Hall, Paul Gigante and countless other student leaders win my reluctant thanks. These fourth-years have manned the University's governing institutions with more class, professionalism and common sense than I've ever seen. As a result, this muckraker had a lot fewer stories.

In every one of these it is essential to thank our receptionist, Sharon Bradley. Why? Because she is essential to the paper. Thanks for the reminders and advice that has kept the paper - and our personal lives - from falling apart.

It's always risky to list names. Damages can be mitigated by saying, "I'm sure I've left someone out." Nonetheless, extra thanks go to Doug, D. Payne, Carr, Shmee, Kristin, Freise, McArdle, Rachel, Maria, Stephanie, Sean, Nicola, Bilby, Tim Wheeler, and Wayne and Pat.

And now, thanks to my "Dream Team:"

I could not have imagined a better co-pilot than Jen Schaum. She oversaw a strong Opinion department and translated the incoherent banter of Managing Board meetings into strong, graceful editorials that really spoke to the University. I'm especially grateful for the nights she stepped in to cover for a beaten down EIC.

Sam Le, you've been a friend, a roommate and a great managing editor in the four years I've known you. I admire your passion for the paper and the heart that drives you. Most of all, I appreciate you taking care of all the things I dislike: You know, like finding people internships, recruiting, organizing social events and just being a nice guy in general!

Jon Erdman, it was a pleasure to warm up that lucrative CFO seat for you. You did a fine job overseeing ads and taking care of all that boring administrative work. Thanks for bringing some technical expertise into MB meetings - that probably prevented a disaster or two.

Young Adam Blumenkrantz's redesign - thanks in no part to my constant nit-picking - helped kick the paper of its unsightly design habits. His unparalleled hard work and commitment frankly allowed me to slack off on late nights. Really, my only complaints are that he's still underage and he talks too fast.

A shout out goes to fellow two-timer, Eric Hutchins. Eric defined class at the CD by putting in endless hard work and never breathing a complaint or ill word about it.

Thank you readers. Thanks for giving us a purpose. Thanks for calling and writing in to keep us grounded. Thanks to the two guys playing Frisbee who were debating a column. Thanks to the University bigwigs who remember our lead edits better than I do. Thanks to those who just do the crossword (hey, our advertisers don't care if you really read us!) Thanks and thanks again.

Finally, Mom, thanks for supporting my academic work all these years and giving me and for giving me so much independence. Thanks for shouldering most of the weight at home these few years - I am amazed by your strength and wish I had been around more. Thanks for putting up with too few phone calls. Oh, and thanks for the genes - they say most of your IQ comes from your mother's side. Love ya.

One More Thank You

THERE'S one person whom I owe more thanks than any other. He lent me a tough, driven conviction to do hard work in hopes of maybe making the world a slightly better place. He also taught me patience, compassion and faith when the world seemed ignore the hard work and just toss back a whole lot of difficulty. Astonishingly, he did this for nearly three years after an operating room misstep took what he was always most proud of - his mind and intellect.

I'm fairly certain that the most influential figure in a young man's life is his father. When I was younger, I held Dad in equal parts awe, admiration and, to be true, resentment. His stories and trinkets collected over two decades of naval service gleamed with civic virtue and work ethic. A decision to go to law school in his forties exemplified the intrinsic values of lifelong education. He never knew an exception to telling the truth. Unfortunately - and he would be the first to admit them - a list of vices also provided plenty of lessons. No man is perfect, but a stubbornness, excess, and fatalism common among many Southerners of his generation certainly did nothing to lengthen his life.

The most profound insight into my father's character - and maybe the fundamental nature of all men - came when a stroke leveled his ability to take care of himself, remember the past, or reason with the present. Suddenly the powerful mind that searched for pressing problems - or settled for those of its redheaded, junior counterpart - had trouble merely getting the neural networks to click out complete sentences. But where confusion garbled intellect, the outward language of the heart - affection, ease, good will and most remarkably, good humor - spoke more clearly than I had ever seen from old Dad. As I watched my father's decline, I rarely saw him express anything but a want for peace and good company.

It's tempting to curse Dad's bad habits or the doctors' overconfidence or even God for the last few years of difficulty. But that really does no good. Instead, I try to remember advice Dad once gave me. He said you can be happy two ways: By getting everything you like, or by liking everything you get.

So, let me give it a shot -

Dad, thanks for sticking around a few extra years. Thanks for praying with me. Thanks for showing me that just having a good heart means having a lot.

Finally, because I never said it enough while you were around, let me have it printed 10,000 times: I love ya Dad.