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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Editor’s Note: Our Finest Hour

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Dear reader,

If you are reading this article in print, you would be holding Volume X, Issue 10 of The Octant. It is, by all measures, a normal issue for you. For me, however, this will be the last issue where I sign off as Editor-in-Chief.

It has become customary that in their last issue, the outgoing Chief will pen an Editor’s Note to thank their teammates and readers for their support. They will reminisce about the highs and lows of the paper over the year, and probably put in a few good words for the incoming team.

That will come, later. First, I would like to use this opportunity to touch on something else.

The tale of our first sit-in protest has been told to death now, and I’m not about to repeat it. In the midst of the stress and anxiety of covering it, however, something else caught my attention. More and more, I found myself reading comments that seemed to suggest one point in particular: the protest and the issues behind it were a reflection how student institutions of representation — for example, the Student Government — had failed us.

There is some truth and logic to these comments. In theory, mass student representation should have addressed and helped prevent the issues that plagued our last few semesters. It should have recognized the rise of mental health worries, sexual assault cases, free speech concerns, and pressured the college administration into action long before things came to a boil.

But the basic fact that all of these comments seemed to miss is that every single student-led institution is staffed by students. Their very influence lies in the understanding that they represent the student body at-large; an influence that collapses once that understanding no longer holds.

Our institutions didn’t fail. We failed. We became complacent. Worse, we started believing that we didn’t need them; a popular belief at the time seemed to be that a small college like ours didn’t need “representation” — we could simply walk up to the relevant staff or faculty and address them directly.

As a result, we stopped participating in civic duty. And when troubles came along, we were all too happy to pin the blame on the very organizations we had come to neglect.

We need to do better.

And that’s not limited to participation. People have asked me about the most difficult part of being Editor-in-Chief, expecting a reply around workloads and deadlines. They are surprised when I reply, “Emails.” Over the past year, I’ve been on the receiving end of messages with tones of aggression, condescension, entitlement, and anger, from across all stratums in our community. Messages that treat us like a faceless bureaucracy, not an organization staffed by fellow students. They have left a toll, mentally and emotionally.

We need to do better. I believe we can do better.

All the thinking about institutions led me to wonder about The Octant’s own role in the college. I once read an article about the pranking tradition in Amherst College surrounding their Sabrina statue, involving many attempts by students over various class years to steal and hide it. In a 2008 attempt, an email was circulated among the graduating class body, claiming success in smuggling the statue. That email contained a photo of Sabrina — with a recent copy of The Amherst Student in her lap as proof.

I realized that there’s where I would like us to be. Not necessarily nestled in the wings of a stolen Halcyon statue, perhaps, but rather a prominent symbol of consistency and record, and an immediate and recognizable reference, always present in every important moment of Yale-NUS’ history.

I don’t think we’re quite there yet. Which is okay, because that’s also the beauty of it: The Octant still has so much space to grow.

With that said, we have already grown a lot in an amazingly short amount of time. We’ve published some of the toughest investigative articles Yale-NUS has seen in the last year alone. We’ve expanded into podcasting, putting out interesting episodes on the regular for more than a semester now. We’ve co-published with Diverge to bring even more diverse content to you. We’ve made senior-led Graduation Issues a tradition.

All of this is entirely to the credit of an amazingly dedicated and talented team. I cannot emphasize the sheer force of will that one requires, just to contribute week after week: be it as a layout designer staying up to the wee hours of Friday morning to iron out every little detail; a photographer running around campus gathering the right settings, props, and models for a single photo; a copy editor reading several thousand words, line by line; or a reporter, recording and sifting through hours of interviews just to get one or two choice quotes for a piece.

All of that, every week, while juggling the million and one other assignments and duties students already have. It is one of those things one has to live through to fully understand.

And so, to my dearest friends and teammates, I say this to you: this has been our finest hour. Be proud of yourselves, and never forget it.

It’s only going to get even better. I leave The Octant in the capable hands of our new Editor-in-Chief Alysha Chandra, along with Managing Editors Yoonju Julie Jung and Harrison Linder. They have stood by the paper through its toughest times, and their capabilities are excellent beyond question. I am confident that they will take this organization to even greater heights than what we have been able to accomplish.

It is impossible for me not to mention Jie Ying, who will also be signing off along with me, having been Managing Editor for the past year. She has worked tirelessly, overseeing and holding together the hundred and one different parts of the paper, while being a reliable sounding board for our most difficult decisions. Her dedication has made all of this possible.

This role has been, quite frankly, one of the toughest things I’ve ever taken on. One of our previous Chiefs, Dave Chappell, once quipped that he spent more time on The Octant than he ever did on his capstone. I’m thankfully still a semester away from my own capstone, but I’m sure I will agree — I spent more time on The Octant than anything else, period, in the past year.

But it has also been one of the best things I’ve ever taken on. It has been exciting, stressful, motivating, energizing, terrifying, exhausting, and fulfilling. Given a chance to repeat the whole thing, I would have taken a very deep breath — and jumped right back in.

I am humbled and honored. Thank you for reading.

For the last time,
Terence Anthony Wang

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