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Friday, February 03, 2023

As the limbo of Summer semester comes round, I’m going to follow my predecessor in removing the opinions editor mask and speaking directly as myself. The opinions and experiences expressed here will be my own, and not those of the Alligator editorial board. I want to take the chance, as the end of the semester approaches and friends graduate, travel abroad, tackle internships and sit on their couches all summer, to reflect on the past semester.

I am the daughter of immigrants, both of whom come from countries with limited free speech. A few weeks ago, we ran an editorial about free speech, in which we used an example where a teenager was arrested for speaking out against the government in Singapore. This struck a chord with me. Singapore is where my mother is from, and where I have many family members. My father, on the other hand, grew up in former communist Yugoslavia. Though media restrictions were pretty lax by Soviet standards, they were still pretty stringent by Western standards.

We all get worked up when we see opinions online and in print that we don’t agree with, so much so that I think we forget the beauty in being able to express them in the first place. I can write “The President is a poop-head” in here, and no one’s going to arrest me — no secret police are going to come and get me.

Now, before you start sending me angry emails and Facebook comments, before you start branding us worse than fake news, I want you to take a moment and realize you have the right and ability to do that. You have the right to smash that “angry” react on the inevitable Facebook post that this will turn into. You have the right to retweet this angrily. You have the right to send us letters to the editor. Take a moment to just appreciate that.

The reason I got this position was because I did just that. A column ran that I did not agree with. I sent a letter. I got a regular column. Here I am.

I have edited columns I do not personally agree with. Contrary to what a lot may think from glancing at the opinions section on any particular day, we actually have a diverse group of columnists covering a wide range of political opinions. Sure, we have vocal liberals, but we also have conservative columnists. Most of them don’t even talk much about politics, and if they do touch political issues, they do it through their own, personal lens. They are all skilled writers, and I enjoy reading them all — the ones my personal opinions align with, the ones that make me smile or tear up, and yes, of course, the ones my personal thoughts don’t necessarily align with. Sometimes, I realize that something I initially disagreed with makes sense. Sometimes, the things I disagree with cement my own opinions further. Sometimes, I’ll read criticisms of my own arguments that make fair and valid points. I work to rectify the flaws in my own writing.

At the end of the day, everyone reading this, everyone writing these columns and these words, is the same — Greek, non-Greek, liberal, conservative. We have the right to voice our opinions, loudly and proudly. We also have the responsibility to listen, respect and admit that sometimes what we thought was wrong.

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