Dear class of 2021,

As you step through the gates at Broadway and 116th, you will notice two imposing figures flanking your entrance: Knowledge and Science. What you will be missing, however, is the graceful, intangible, ever-present figure stalking her way through campus, with her long multi-colored robes, and sharp tongue. She is the figure of Discourse, who at times snaps, or sulks, or gossips, or even—when the sun is bright and the clouds clear—converses intelligently, chewing over the many facets of an issue, and letting them marinate on Butler Plaza.

Get to know her—she will be with you throughout your time at Columbia. She will inform protest after protest on Low Steps, she will infiltrate your Literature Humanities discussions, and she will be present late at night over a bottle of wine in your cramped Quad room.

We know you’re just as passionate as the students that came before you, though you may be a little hesitant to jump in right away. That’s alright! We were too. So we’ll give you the SparkNotes to campus discourse and ways you can get involved—and we promise they’re more thorough than the ones you looked up for the Iliad.

Spectator features campus news on everything from large administrative scandals to the latest football game. And then there’s the place where all this news twists and turns to take form in the minds of readers—the opinion pages. This is where Discourse moves her invisible hand—where relevant arguments are read by students, faculty, alumni, and the surrounding Morningside community. This is the place for facts, but unlike traditional news, this is also the place for passion and partisanship.

Just this past year in the opinion section, Discourse has led us through campus conversations in which we’ve made urgent calls for empathy and appealed compassionately to improve our mental health culture after far too much tragedy; reckoned with Barnard President Debora Spar’s abrupt departure and conflicted legacy ; reacted to Donald Trump’s election ; engaged in heated debates about free speech on college campuses ; fought the University for graduate workers’ rights ; and stood up for ourselves , our peers , and our community .

Our content spans different forms , and it’s always changing , but here are the basics: First, we have op-eds. Op-eds are the lifeblood of campus Discourse—they are one of the easiest ways for students to engage with the discourse, and they put members of our community in conversation with one another. They will introduce you to opinions that you, perhaps, hadn’t even thought of before. They can show you viewpoints that you probably will agree with when hell freezes over. And that’s okay too. (As long as you write us a letter to the editor in response. We just might run it the morning after.)

With op-eds, we don’t expect you to have all the answers—and that’s exactly the point. If you email us at [email protected] , we’ll turn your ideas into an open conversation, check the facts, work through the arguments, and help you put together one hell of an op-ed. If you’re still unsure about what to do, we’ve put together a few directions . And once it’s published, odds are that kid in your 10:10 class has thoughts on the same topic and approaches you in Ferris about it after they see your byline. Opinion-sharing, be it beautifully written or hastily thought-out, goes far beyond our pages, and that’s why we’re here.

But there’s more to discourse than hard hitting administrative commentary. In case gossiping over Community brunch doesn’t do it for you, our Love, Actualized series runs every Thursday and highlights everything that our peers of all ages have learned while navigating the dating scene (or lack thereof) at Columbia. Life and love and college are messy, and Love, Actualized celebrates and commiserates these truths in equal turn.

Next up is columns , our hand-picked team of 12 to 14 students from Columbia College, SEAS, Barnard College, and General Studies who write biweekly on anything from The Common Core to Nussbaum & Wu , representing Columbia to being a New York City asshole . Columns are your chance to really delve into student life as seen through your eyes, as content is driven by the personal and political themes and ideas of each individual writer. As a result, columnists become more than just writers—they become campus personalities and a consistent voice of the opinion section over the course of a given semester. Every semester there’s a new application, but you can find the current one here.

And, of course, if you’re always in the know and want to guide Discourse on her journey across campus, you can work on the Opinion team—driving campus conversation, recruiting op-eds, working with columnists, keeping one ear to the ground and one finger to the campus pulse. Just show up to the Spectator Open House and give us a shout. Our only ask is that you’re ready to keep up with what issues everyone is talking about and be prepared to highlight the issues that everyone should be talking about.

Discourse is the beating heart of this campus—so whether you’re planning to dip a toe in the water or make a splash, keep an open and engaged mind whenever she comes around. Columbia has the advantage of being one of the best universities in the greatest city in the world, with an incredibly diverse student body—in all senses of the word. We argue, we discuss, we protest because we have the inexorable opportunity to be young, passionate, knowledgeable, and tenacious enough to make things happen.

So make things happen. We can’t wait to see what you can do.

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