‘Ave Atque Vale’

By Stefan Herlitz

(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)
(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

I first submitted a column to the Opinion and Editorial section of the Daily Collegian in the fall of my freshman year on a whim, and have now written (approximately) every other week for the past three years: my entire, condensed time here at the University of Massachusetts. Though this amounts to a veritable novel of text, arguments and comments, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been inside the physical Collegian offices. Despite my prolifically poor attendance at section meetings, the Collegian has nonetheless been an important part of my UMass experience, and even if I had the chance, I wouldn’t change it in the slightest.

On paper, I’m a dual-degree classics and political science student in the Commonwealth Honors College; but a more accurate description would be a major in student government with a minor in actual academia. Classics helped fuel my insatiable addiction to Latin and political science was a fun mental exercise. Both have greatly contributed to my writing abilities, but my experiences in the Student Government Association are what have truly shaped my time at UMass.

I’m headed to my top-choice law school in the fall, and give credit for this to my meandering path through the SGA. As a stereotypically bright-eyed freshman representing the Orchard Hill Residential Area in the SGA senate, I spent my year drawing up edits to the SGA bylaws, writing columns on an eclectic variety of topics for the Collegian and playing an absurd amount of video games. At the close of freshman year, I had the privilege of losing the SGA speaker election. Though at the time I didn’t know it, losing that election set me up to continue to work on the SGA bylaws and (after losing yet another election, this time for president) transition into work on University policy, which would ultimately lead me to decide to go to law school. I lost again and again, yet looking back on it I wouldn’t change a thing, because I’ve won. I’ve gotten more out of my time here than I ever could have dreamed as a freshman who initially thought of this wonderful place as just an inexpensive safety school. At UMass and in the SGA, I’ve gained a career, achieved my goals and found a family.

In the end, the Collegian for me has been a source of learning. Writing for the Op/Ed section has certainly helped hone my writing and research skills, but the main lesson I’ve learned from my time writing for this paper is not to take criticism personally and not to judge others too harshly. No one is infallible, everyone is wrong at least some of the time and sometimes, people feel incredibly offended when someone writes something they disagree with. Disagreement, criticism and the occasional hate-tweet are occupational hazards of having opinions and sharing them, and writing for the Collegian has constantly reminded me of the need to look past the noise, engage with others frankly and respectfully, admit when you’re wrong and understand where others are coming from.

Stefan Herlitz was a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]