Some readers charge The Hoya and its writers with being aloof and elitist. That allegation is misguided, but I, for one, proudly wear the badge of idealism. Idealists, however, are not without flaws of their own.
I served on this newspaper’s editorial board for a year and worked alongside it as editor-in-chief for another. In the 100-plus board meetings I’ve attended, fear of an argument sounding “preachy” was raised at nearly every one. It’s a conflict that comes with being a fierce advocate for reform while also being fully immersed in the problem.
I’ve criticized our campus for widespread prejudice against homosexuality. Yet I recall a day this semester when an unfamiliar male student approached me to continue a passionate discussion after class. We walked and talked pleasantly for maybe 10 minutes, after which he had to leave, but said we should chat again sometime. I grew uncomfortable as thoughts crept into my head that maybe he had been hitting on me, and I raced to Facebook for any indication of whether he was gay. A search through dozens of photos suggested that he did in fact have a boyfriend. As the frenzy faded, I grew ashamed of my ignorance and bigotry.
I’ve criticized our campus for perpetuating the worst stereotypes of African-Americans. Yet I recall walking home through West Georgetown on a school night around 3 a.m. and noticing a black man not far behind me. I picked up my pace and made a quick and unnecessary right turn, glancing over my shoulder to see if he had followed. Of course, I would never have been so anxious had he been white. As I continued home, I felt sickened by my baseless racism.
I’ve criticized our campus for ignoring the thousands of homeless people who populate the streets of Washington, D.C., yet I gave my first dollar to a homeless person last month based on the guilt of having just written a column on the subject. I’ve criticized our campus for its inadequate response to rampant sexual assault, yet when one of my best friends told me she’d been groped by a stranger in a bar, my initial reaction was flippant. I’ve criticized our campus for political apathy, but I haven’t lifted a finger — except to tap at a keyboard — for a political cause during four years in Washington.
I don’t feel like a homophobe, or a racist or a sexist — these terms are too defining for flashes of wrongdoing followed by guilt — but I do routinely feel like a hypocrite. I feel the shame of armchair advocacy, which undermines credibility as a journalist and commentator. I wrote in a recent column, “As a writer, I discuss plenty of topics that confound me. Some columns are a pulpit to preach, others allow a cry for help” (“Justice With Journalism to Match,” The Hoya, A3, March 28, 2014). I stand by what I’ve said about the campus community, but I also acknowledge that I’m every bit a member of it.
I’ve grown to love The Hoya because it holds Georgetown to the highest standard. It demands leadership accountability, and it shines a light on the areas of campus life in desperate need of attention. But The Hoya also encourages its contributors to look inward and come to terms with their own imperfections. One of those areas of need is The Hoya itself, which has immense room for improvement. As editor, I wasn’t able to move the needle — for newsroom culture and newspaper content — as far as I might have. I have faith that our new leadership and those coming up the pipeline will be more successful in that regard.
“Calling My Shot” might sound like the column name of a writer who thinks he’s got everything figured out. Au contraire. For my final piece in The Hoya, it would be dishonest to leave on a delusional note about where the newspaper, the university and I stand today. If you’re gesturing toward the fences, it’s not enough to simply point others in the right direction. The ideal — the dream — is that we’ll continue steadfast on that path forward. Together.
Danny Funt is a senior in the College. He is former editor-in-chief of The Hoya. This is the final appearance of CALLING MY SHOT.