SENIOR COLUMN: A Different Education
By Tanveer Ali
Issue date: 4/30/07 Section: Opinion
Once, during my junior year, I was denied a paper extension."I'm rather confident that you can accomplish this, especially since you're a pro at writing on tight deadline from your work at the Spectator!" read the e-mail from my European History TA.
Thwarted by her optimistic response, I proceeded to complete the paper on time then decided to change my tactics for the future. Since then, I think I've had two family emergencies and one nasty fall. I once considered bringing one of my grandfathers "back to life" but that seemed too farfetched. He wasn't even dead.
Of course, I wouldn't have had to ask for these extensions if not for Spectator. When I sometimes worked more than 50 hours a week for an organization, my duties as a college student always came in second. The number 2875 (Broadway) just meant more to me than the number 209 (Butler).
I wasn't always like this though. In my first few semesters in Morningside Heights, when I was only tangentially involved with Spec, I often wrote multiple drafts, attended office hours, did all of my reading, and always finished my work on time. I was getting an "Ivy League education." Mom and dad were proud and I could have even impressed a grad school or two.
But though I enjoyed studying subaltern issues and the history of colonialism in South Asia, it was covering the surrounding neighborhoods that had more formative effects. As much as I've learned in the classroom-when I attend-and books-when I read-most of what I learned in college came through being where history happens. The residents of 3333 Broadway wondering if they could still afford to live in that building, the disorganized community board meetings, the briefings with Robert Kasdin. Everyone had a story to tell and I listened. These are the things I'll remember of my college education.
I've had ninety bylines in Spectator, and even with the ninetieth, I've continued to learn so much. Two weeks ago I went to the Community Board 9 general meeting, telling the writer originally assigned to the story I would like to cover it. She called it mere sentimentality, while I saw it as the last session of my last class.
And though I often say that these meetings are the greatest shows in our neighborhoods-sorry, Varsity Show-this month's edition was among the most memorable with issues of Latino representation coming to a head. I wrote that article cautiously, trying to avoid bungling a story with race and ethnicity at its focus, issues I've seen students on our campus feel so adamantly about so many times in the past four years. In the article I referred to the chair, Jordi Reyes-Montblanc, as a Latino, which was by all accounts factually true and accurate according to both Spec and Associated Press style. I received an e-mail the next day saying he was not a "Latino," but a "Cuban-born American." This may have been a minute detail to some, but he was correct, as I had no right to provide him with an identity that is convenient for me, but insufficient for him.
Every day at Spectator we strive for perfection and professionalism, both on our pages and in dealing with each other. Every day we fall short of these goals. Despite all the angry e-mails and phone calls I've fielded and anonymous Bwog comments these mistakes provoke, I've learned that these errors are all right. I've even come to treat them as a good thing, not because I dislike perfection, but because I could never learn from it.
Now pardon me. I have to come up with an excuse to get an extension on my swim test. If only I would've learned to ask for these things earlier.
was the city editor of the 130th managing board