The independent news organization of Duke University

Letting in the light

I fell in love with Duke’s architecture on my first visit to campus. It wasn’t the only reason I eventually applied Early Decision: I was drawn to the course offerings and a sense that Duke invested in its students. Still, almost six years after that first tour, the Gothic Wonderland hasn’t lost its wonder for me.

What I’ve become especially interested in is the way campus blends new and old types of architecture. Although we now associate it with brooding 19th-century novels, the medieval Gothic style was all about letting light into a structure, bringing a person standing in a cathedral closer to God. What better way to accomplish that in a more modern style than to build a giant glass box? Isn’t Von der Heyden Pavilion a sort of cathedral of metal and glass?

As I look back at four years on this campus built to let in sunlight, I’m aware of what a privilege it’s been to spend my time illuminating Duke and its community.

Student journalism sheds light on things people in power might rather keep in the dark. Chronicle reporters have written about workers’ struggle for pay and protection during the pandemic. They’ve investigated Louis DeJoy’s donations to Duke and Greek organizations’ donations to a political action committee.

It’s not all hard-nosed investigative journalism, though. The Chronicle puts a spotlight on cutting-edge research. We help guide the community through challenges. We capture the day-to-day experience of living here. And we highlight the people that make Duke what is is—athletic superstars and student activists, the dean of undergraduate admissions and a beloved dining worker.

Journalism gives members of a community the light by which they see each other, by which they can understand their history and the challenges they face in the future. I’m grateful to have been part of that at Duke. But I’m even more grateful for the ways The Chronicle has been a guiding light in my own college experience.

My Chronicle story began during O-Week. I liked to write, so I went to an info session figuring journalism might be a fun extracurricular in college. After my first story, about a student protest calling for the Carr Building to be renamed, I was hooked.

Since then I’ve explored Duke through the lens of The Chronicle. Student journalism has given me an excuse to be nosy about machine learning research, a museum exhibit and the history of the Chapel’s bells. It’s the reason I know more than anybody really needs to know about the inner workings of the Duke Student Government. A good conversation is one of my favorite things in the world, and journalism has been a license to talk to people I otherwise might never have met: a faculty-in-residence raising four children in a dorm; Duke’s Dreamers, who have spent years fighting to stay in the United States; students going about their day as a strange semester began during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Chronicle has given me some of my most fun memories at Duke. I’ll always remember end-of-year banquets and (so many) late nights goofing off in the office instead of doing work. I’ve made fast friends, and I’ve met members of staff whose perspectives have changed the way I see the world.

Finally, The Chronicle has been the light that kept me going in the hardest moments of the past four years.

There were times during my year as editor-in-chief when it all felt like too much. A pandemic was sweeping the globe and a protest movement was sweeping the country. The 2020 presidential election loomed. Here at Duke, new safety rules had upended campus life. I spent some nights crying, some days gripped by anxiety and self-doubt.

But I kept going. I got out of bed every day and got to work because if we didn’t publish the news, nobody at Duke would. The Chronicle was the light that kept me going when the rest of the world felt shrouded in darkness.

Day after day, the people I worked with made the same decision. They kept working, and in a hard year they did more than I ever could have asked of them.

So yeah, my time at Duke wasn’t always easy. But I wouldn’t choose to spend it any other way. 

Now that I’m graduating, I’m looking forward to seeing The Chronicle become a guiding light for new generations of student journalists. I’m excited to see what they’ll accomplish—in part because I know they’ll do an awesome job, and in part because the next few years will be important ones in Duke’s history.

After I was accepted Early Decision, I tacked up a poster above my bed. It’s a photo of the Chapel tower, with a caption that reads, “Other than the architecture, nothing here is set in stone.” My four years here have been proof of that statement. 

Coach K has retired. Dean Sue has left after four decades as a fixture in student life. There’s new Student Affairs leadership.

More profoundly, the QuadEx system will change residential life in the fall. Duke has announced programs designed to create an anti-racist University. These changes are an opportunity to build a stronger, more equitable community. They also demand that students, staff and faculty play an active role in deciding what that community should look like.

Independent journalism can help make that possible, and I’m confident that it will. Despite everything that’s changing at Duke, student journalists will continue to explain complex issues, hold power to account and document history as it unfolds. The Chronicle will be here to let in the light. 

Matthew Griffin is a Trinity senior who served as editor-in-chief of The Chronicle’s 116th volume. He doesn’t remember much from his classes that year, but he knows he’ll take his memories of The Chronicle with him for the rest of his life. He’d like to thank former editors Bre and Jake for their mentorship and friendship. He’d also like to thank Nathan, Chrissy and Mark, who gave him directions during the strange journey that is running a student news organization.

He’d like to thank Maria, Carter, Mona and Rose for doing an amazing job covering the news in a difficulty year; Simran and Cameron for finding ways to keep The Chronicle looking fresh as life moved online; Evan for never complaining about COVID’s impact on sports coverage and the men’s basketball team’s underwhelming season; and all the rest of the Vol. 116 masthead. He’d like to thank all of the above for making running The Chronicle so much fun. 

Finally, he’d like to thank Leah for her hard work as EIC and for making him proud to be part of The Chronicle this year, and he’s excited to see what Milla accomplishes next year. Long live student journalism. 

Matthew Griffin

Matthew Griffin was editor-in-chief of The Chronicle's 116th volume.


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