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Words matter

It seems almost fitting that I applied for this column as a joke. After all, isn’t that what satire is? The joke that’s just a little too real, the one that makes people laugh uneasily and start looking for the exits. On the application, I wrote a short piece about Larry Moneta and Avengers: Infinity War, except this time it wasn’t the superheroes who dissolved into dust, but our beloved coffee shop Joe van Gogh. You know the meme. It wasn’t very serious work, but underneath the bad puns and stupid jokes it rang true. 

When I found out that I was going to be the next Monday Monday, I laughed out loud and then started to panic. Anyone who’s ever tried “doing comedy” knows that there’s a difference between joking with your friends at dinner and actually crafting something that an audience would laugh at. I’m not some kind of HumorBot, so I was worried about being able to produce comedy on demand.

But that’s not really the point, is it? Sure, comedy and satire are both about making people laugh, but good satire does something else. It makes you think. I applied for Monday Monday because I saw things happening at Duke that needed to be called out. When I became Monday Monday, I promised myself that I would use the platform to say what needed to be said, the things we’re all thinking about but sometimes struggle to express. Every two weeks, I tried to make good on that promise. 

In my columns, I addressed racism and hate on campus, the dizzying culture surrounding SLGs, the problems with Line Monitor attitudes and the administration of K-ville, and Duke’s (now-rescinded) plan to cancel student healthcare. It wasn’t all serious. Burger Shack, Duke’s win over Kentucky, and a few trips to West Union brought some good-feels to the bunch. 

In my role as Satirist-in-Chief, I hoped to bring your attention to issues at Duke that need to be discussed. It’s quite a list. In short: our social culture is a mess; our administrators are often out of touch with student life, although some have made more effort than others to connect with the community; our housing system is, at best, a patchwork of contradictory values and clashing desires, and at worst, a destructive element that leaves students feeling alone and disconnected from each other; and bigotry is not only alive on campus, but thriving, with no substantive action taken to reduce the spread of hate and violence.

A quick note on hatred at Duke, for those readers that might not understand yet. We have problems that no tour guide will explain to you. They aren’t reflected in the U.S. News College Rankings or written about in the Wall Street Journal’s profile on Duke or mentioned in press releases from university administration. No, the only time these issues are discussed are when it’s too late. Administration always waits until after the murals are defaced to confront the issue, and even then they offer only a templated platitude/apology that calls for hope and expresses sorrow in equal measure. The result feels focus-group tested and hollow, a packaged response that checks every box except sincerity. We’ve seen the emails so many times now that I’m certain any student could recite one from memory. 

What is hate? It’s a good question, one that bears considering as we move forward. Hate is a weed. It takes root in fear, watered by indifference, and spreads its roots until it’s almost impossible to get rid of. And yet, that is the task ahead of us. We stand at a difficult and dangerous crossroads in our history, as a nation and a university, when countless forces threaten to undo the progress we’ve made. Something needs to change. 

As a university, our current course is unacceptable. President Price, in your latest email you promised that your administration would do “whatever we can” to protect our safety. I hope you mean that, sir. So far, you’ve been weak when you should’ve been strong and noncommittal when you should’ve been decisive. We need to do better, and that starts with you.

Things look pretty bad right now. But despite it all, there’s a lot we can be thankful for. Across campus, hundreds of students and faculty members have lobbied administration for solutions to these problems. After threats to revoke their healthcare, students spoke up in outrage forced administration to apologize and back down. It’s not just them. Graduate students are fighting for a living wage. Students have fought to raise awareness of hunger and homelessness, reform our housing system, speak out against acts of hatred on campus, and so much more. Darkness rises, yes, but light rises to meet it. 

There are probably people out there who think that none of this matters: they’re wrong. Writing is a kind of speaking that travels farther than sound. It moves through the minds of the people that read it and, in doing so, can change everything about them. Our voices can and do make a difference, even now. Especially now. Fighting for justice and truth and equality matters, particularly when it seems like all three are under assault. 

I couldn’t have done this without support. To everyone who writes for the Chronicle, especially Editorial Page Editor Frances Beroset, who was the best editor anyone could ask for, thank you for doing the work that you do. It’s easy to take the free press for granted, but hard to imagine what our lives would be like without it. To my friends, thanks for listening (or pretending to listen) to me when I go on long rants about injustice on campus. To my family, thanks for being there for me through everything. And, of course, to my fellow Blue Devils. Keep fighting and keep writing.

I’m Will Brodner, and I’ve been your Monday Monday. Thanks for reading. 

Will Brodner is a Trinity sophomore.


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