What this place really has to offer
As I write my last article as Opinion Editor after roughly three years with the gig, I felt I was set with the daunting task of summing it all up; the job, NDSU, Fargo, the whole deal. The not-so-eloquent answer I ended up with is that an experience at NDSU is not some perfect, idyllic, ivory tower institutional utopia, but for what it is and who is a part of it, in many ways it’s pretty damn great.
Forgive what is going to be a very indulgent farewell article, but if you’ve read anything of mine over the last few years, then you know my positive opinions on this school have been few and far between (and I dare say, not wholly without very good reason).
For those not keeping up, NDSU struggles with institutional racism, a student body president accused of harassing an increasing number of women and an administration that seems to value the wishes of its donors more than the well-being of its own students.
Not to mention money increasingly seeping from academics and professor salaries while new practice arenas are being built for the sports teams. We’re slowly becoming the Bison football team’s sidekick. So I’ll be the first to say that times here aren’t great.
But, and here’s the big BUT, there is much to value here. You have to give credit where credit is due, and many students at NDSU really, deeply care. In many ways, apathy is much easier than action, but when NDSU students see wrong, they often choose action.
Professors in many areas are being faced with budget cuts and staff reductions, all in the midst of a pandemic, and many are treating their students with more empathy, more care and are working harder despite it.
There are students inventing, creating, writing, 3-D printing and God knows what else, all while at a school known mostly for its agriculture program. And honestly, on that note too, I’m converted because I’ve seen how agriculture can be so important and we go to a school that values that.
At NDSU, I’ve seen some of the absolute worst of bureaucratic institutions, but I’ve also seen some of the best of human excellence and compassion. To discount all those individuals who work so hard and do so much is, in my opinion, a mistake. When I say NDSU is the best of the worst, I mean to say that individuals who are part of the community seem to make the best of the worst situations, again and again.
Looking back at this job, I can honestly say that it has taught me many things. It’s shown me how to respond when people send me threats or try to sue me (really). It’s shown me how to handle the angriest people with the least evidence for being so. But more than anything, it’s shown me the power of saying something hard for the right reasons.
If you care about something, you don’t watch it struggle, tarnish and waste away. Anything unfavorable I have said about NDSU has come from a desire to see this place with so many good people and so much potential be worthy.
I don’t know what the future of NDSU holds. It’s not so unlikely that its reputation and politically-interested donors will turn it into a vacuum of ideas where Nazi symbols will be even more accepted and filled with people who genuinely think Big Bird is government propaganda.
But, if the same people continue coming to NDSU that are here now — these deeply thoughtful students and faculty — then I won’t be worried at all. They care enough to work to improve this thing that matters to them and it matters to me too.