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A Year of Growth at Baylor

I can honestly say this year, and particularly this past semester, has been one of the best of my college career–in terms of really establishing my faith, identity and beliefs, that is.

When I imagined my tenure as Lariat editor in chief, I didn’t prepare myself to lead the newspaper during a year of chaos, confusion and controversy on campus. Contrary to what some people may think, I didn’t tell myself I’d use the newspaper as a way to challenge the administration. I simply loved working for The Lariat and honestly wanted to have more responsibility.
Since my freshman year, I’ve had the opportunity to cover a presidential election, test my ability to handle pressure during my coverage of Sept. 11, explore the history of an event that affected my childhood in Waco–the Branch Davidian standoff–and lead the campus paper during one of the most rocky years in Baylor history.
And oh, what a rocky year it’s been. I knew it would difficult, but I couldn’t have imagined the extent of what this year would bring, especially for the members of the editorial board.
We won’t even touch on last semester’s editorial board vote announcing our lack in confidence in President Robert B. Sloan Jr. Instead, let’s skip ahead to the “famous” editorial this semester–the one agreeing with San Francisco’s lawsuit against California, claiming the state violated its equal protection under the law clause when it refused to allow for legal homosexual marriage.
Maybe part of me is still naive, but when we decided to tackle that subject, I didn’t think anything of it. Maybe because the way I was raised, issues like discrimination and prejudice are frowned upon. Maybe it’s that my parents taught me it’s never OK to judge someone else, treat them unfairly or disrespect them and their opinions. Maybe your parents taught you this, too, but with my dad’s irregularly large family of 14 siblings, you soon learn not to judge, because everyone in town knows you and your parents.
In my opinion, prohibiting homosexuals from receiving marriage licenses is a form of discrimination, plain and simple. I’m not saying I condone their lifestyle, but aren’t we taught everyone is equal, regardless of whether their race, sex, culture, socioeconomic status or lifestyle is different than our own?
This was a hot topic in the nation at the time, and many people of our generation had to, and will have to, make a decision about how they felt about allowing legal marriage for homosexuals. This fight against discrimination isn’t over.
I honestly believe the subject could turn into the civil rights movement of our generation. And, whether we disagree or agree with it, sooner or later, we’re going to have to take a stand on the issue. Our editorial simply opened the doors for that discussion at Baylor. It certainly helped mold my beliefs on the subject. Isn’t that what college is all about–exploring your pre-conceived ideas, notions and opinions and discerning whether you still believe in them?
In the media frenzy that followed the editorial, some people asked whether I felt like my freedom of speech and freedom of the press had been squelched by the administration’s ensuing statements condemning our decision.
All I can say is this: a large plaque hangs one hall over from the newsroom on the second floor of Castellaw. Its inscription–the First Amendment. In journalism classes, I’ve learned to love it, honor it and protect my rights to it.
I understand fully it’s different when your publisher happens to be the president of a large Baptist university. Still, I stand by our decision to address the issue, I stand by my vote on the issue and I stand by my right to hold that opinion.
Months later, the editorial is still brought up occasionally. People from Waco jokingly call me a “troublemaker,” and my parents just grin and pat me on the back. Although people joke about it now, I wouldn’t trade the stress, frustration, confusion, tears and anger I felt then for anything.
That experience, and the week that followed, taught me more about myself than I ever could have learned. Dealing with the worry of whether I would lose my scholarship and job and handling the guilt of knowing my choice as editor to address the topic could possibly put my fellow staff, and boss’, jobs in jeopardy, was extremely difficult.
I found out I’m stronger than I think and my friends and family support me completely. I discovered I’m extremely thankful for my background and for the lessons my parents taught me growing up. I discovered my education can go a long way. I saw my planned career was plagued with distrust and selfish motives, and I discovered my love of community service had blossomed into a desire to consistently strive for social change, leading me on a new career path.
This summer, I’m moving to New York City. There, I’ll be teaching inner-city, low-income middle schoolers as part of the Teach for America program, a program I almost didn’t apply for, but something in my heart urged me to reconsider. I don’t think I would have, or accepted the job, if not for my little bump in the road this semester.
So, thanks President Sloan. Because, if not for the editorial, and your statement disagreeing with our publication of it that followed, I don’t think my life would have been challenged nearly as much. I don’t think I’d be challenging myself to reach out for new experiences and I know I wouldn’t appreciate my background, my childhood and my life lessons as much as I do now.
In the future, no matter where I am or what the people there believe in, for the answers to the toughest decisions I’ll know to never forget where I came from.
Lacy Elwood, a graduating senior at Baylor University, was this year’s editor in chief of The Baylor Lariat. This editorial is used with permission.