Final Thoughts: A New Spectator for a New Generation
by Paul Lagarde '16, former Editor-in-Chief
On Parents’ Weekend 2013, a few rebellious sophomores distributed the first copies of a newly revived magazine of student thought and opinion. We started The Spectator partly as a reaction against the university administration’s push to require juniors to live in on-campus housing, a move General Lee would surely not support were he alive today. He believed, as do we, that W&L students should live as active members of the Lexington community during their time here, that isolating students in campus dorms for four years robs them of an invaluable learning opportunity, not an academic one, but a practical one.
In the years following the War Between the States, the nation was hurting. Lee knew that he had been responsible for some of it, and because of his position of leadership in the Confederacy, he saw it as a duty, a sacred obligation, to help heal the country. In his tenure as president of Washington College, Lee brought together young men from both North and South to teach them sciences and humanities, yes, but perhaps more importantly, to teach them about each other, to let them see that though they had their differences, they could live together in unity under the banner of honor. As a means of achieving this end, Lee encouraged older students to live in the local community as fully participating citizens, believing that a shared sense of place would foster much greater understanding between students and locals, fellow Americans, than the artificial nature of dorm life ever could.
Today, America is more divided than it has been in quite some time. Most of it can be attributed, I believe, to the self-segregation practiced by many. If you are conservative, you might watch only Fox News, read only the Wall Street Journal, and live in a neighborhood where those around you do the same. Ditto for liberals but with MSNBC and the New York Times. Some might go long stretches without coming across a friend who happens to disagree with them.
It is in response to this problem of self-segregation that, in part, led us to oppose the third-year housing mandate and in a larger sense, led us to start this magazine. There are many who disagree, sometimes vehemently, with opinions this magazine publishes. But though they might disagree with what we write, they cannot deny that it has created a significant amount of dialogue on campus over the last three years. Since starting from scratch Parents’ Weekend three years ago, we have amassed an online readership numbering in the thousands and are unquestionably W&L’s most read student publication. People talk about what we write, which has been, and always will be, the goal of this publication. People often ask why we print controversial stories. To this, I usually respond with two reasons: 1) Because we believe in our opinions and are not afraid to defend them, and 2) Because if everyone agreed with everything we wrote every time, we probably are not writing anything worth publishing. This is an opinion magazine after all.
I am incredibly thankful to all those who contributed to this magazine’s revival over the years, particularly Catherine Roach, Christian von Hassell, Marshall Woodward, Ty Mitchell, Andrew Fox, and Russell Schmidt, for without their help, none of this would be possible. I am confident that the current staff will carry the magazine forward with fearlessness and tenacity, as they have done this year over several excellent issues. Lastly, to those of you who have read this far, I would ask that if you have the means, please consider supporting The Spectator. If you value a conservative voice on campus, if you value a watchdog for the administration, if you value a tireless defender of the best traditions of this place, you will find no better one than this publication.