I became an Opinion columnist at The Cavalier Daily in the summer of 2020. The pandemic was at its peak, and the section was seeking to bring on new writers prior to its fall recruitment. Though on the more introverted side, I, of course, held many beliefs, political or otherwise. Becoming a columnist felt oddly natural. I had never had an outlet like this paper — a post on Instagram did not have quite the same reach. Here, I felt I could actually influence something, maybe even someone. This is an idea I believe the Opinion section runs on. My editor for that first year and a half, Hailey Yowell, always helped me get my thoughts out there, and she is one of the main reasons this paper has been such a big part of my time at the University. People like her remind me that we, as students, have our biggest supporters in each other.
During the two years and then some that I spent at The Cavalier Daily, I wrote 30 articles. My first article criticized the University for its then recent tuition increases, which had grown more burdensome at the start of the pandemic. As a first-generation student, I was still learning the ins and outs of going to college. A big part of that learning process was discovering that the college you go to is not always an agreeable place. The feeling that you have made it somewhere big and life-changing, while not untrue, is often a precursor to realizing that somewhere big is also somewhere frustrating. From calling for more lenient grading policies during the pandemic to critiquing bizarre student parking policies to begrudging the constant construction on Grounds, holding the University accountable has been a routine part of my time as a student. In my first article, I wrote that the University’s financial practices prioritized itself. I again reiterate my point above — students are students’ biggest supporters.
Unfortunately, fellow students can also disappoint. One of my most controversial articles related to the University Programs Council, a student-run organization dedicated to planning events for students. I noted UPC’s exclusionary history in planning arguably the University’s biggest event each semester — the Welcome Week concert in the fall and the Springfest concert in the spring. The artists that UPC has invited over the past decade have been almost exclusively male, and I simply desired greater diversity. UPC did not take kindly to my article, and someone in it messaged me privately on Instagram with their opposition to the piece, refusing to consider my argument’s validity. This spring, UPC announced over Instagram a series of artists performing at Springfest. The first post announced rapper NLE Choppa, but the comments were full of students criticizing the selection of yet another male performer. UPC implied more artists would be announced that week but stated nothing concretely. Two days later, UPC announced rapper Baby Tate would also perform. This marked the first solo woman act since 2013.
In that second post, UPC took to mocking students calling it out, including a meme about someone jumping to conclusions too quickly. While I understand UPC’s account is often playful and casual, and rightfully so, I was repulsed to see the organization mock students who had approached it with serious demands. UPC further attacked me personally, reposting both my comments beneath its post and my article from the prior semester to its Instagram story. In my original article, I had recommended they invite Baby Tate. This semester, they laughed off my critique of their mockery of us in their announcement of Tate. This is an organization that spends tens of thousands of our dollars, yet it occasionally treats the students it is supposed to serve with blatant disrespect. While I appreciate the private apology that I received from UPC Executive Chair, my point remains. Your voice is important. Do not let anyone else tell you otherwise, even if it is a fellow student abusing their position of power. Student self-governance requires holding student leaders accountable.
I end with some thank you notes. Some of my biggest supporters have been my professors in the University’s English Department. The writer they have helped me become has helped me at The Cavalier Daily too. Thank you to Jenn Brice and Eva Surovell, the editors-in-chiefs of The Cavalier Daily during my time on the Editorial Board, as well as executive editor during 2021, Zack Pasciak. I served as Opinion editor for the paper’s 133rd term, and my final year at this paper would be nothing without the talent from the writers in our section. I must thank my fellow editors, Evelyn Duross and Jessica Moore, and those most incredible writers who now lead the section, Nathan Onibudo, Grace Duregger and Shaleah Tolliver.
Bryce Wyles was an Opinion Columnist for the 131st, 132nd and 133rd terms and an Opinion Editor for the 133rd term of The Cavalier Daily.